Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know Book Summary
Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant.
Do you know anyone who is narrow-minded or has tunnel vision? Do you think that they know they are narrow-minded and have tunnel vision? It makes us question what possibly be our blind spots. Do you have views in your life that are no longer serving you? Do you internalize and believe everything you are thinking? Does truth take a back seat to a tendency towards being right or defending your beliefs, or do you catch yourself people-pleasing? I know I tend to stick to my guns, so to speak, as it offers me a degree of psychological comfort. (This is just how it is thinking some might say stubborn)
Every individual possesses cognitive tools and accumulated knowledge that they regularly rely upon. But we rarely question or consider this knowledge which includes beliefs, assumptions, opinions, and prejudices. Have you heard about mental blindspots, cognitive biases, and thinking errors? Unfortunately, adherence to these tools can result in poor outcomes: inflexible overconfidence, bad decision-making, avoidable errors, and failures to learn and grow. In his book Think Again, Grant teaches us how to rethink!
How do we know what we know, and how do we know if we’re right? Grant’s solution is an idea he calls “rethinking.” Rethinking is the process of doubting what you know, being curious about what you don’t know, and updating your thinking based on new evidence (in other words, what he calls the scientific method).
Think Again reveals that we don’t have to believe everything we think or internalize everything we feel. It’s an invitation to let go of views that are no longer serving us well and prize mental flexibility, humility, and curiosity over foolish consistency. If knowledge is power, knowing what we don’t know is wisdom.
Everyone carries cognitive tools that are regularly used and seldom questioned or subject to reflection or scrutiny. These include beliefs, assumptions, opinions, and more. Adam Grant emphasizes the importance of curiosity, open-mindedness, flexible thinking and empathy.
When we dedicate ourselves to a plan, and it doesn’t go as we hoped, our first instinct isn’t usually to rethink it. Instead, we tend to double down and sink more resources into the plan. Grit is essential for motivation (passion and perseverance), but it can also blind us to rethinking.
Our identities are open systems, and so are our lives. We don’t have to stay tethered to old images of where we want to go or who we want to be. The simplest way to start rethinking our options is to question what we do daily.
Mistaken assumptions vs Flexible thinking: Questioning ourselves makes the world more unpredictable. It requires us to admit that the facts may have changed, that what was once right may now be wrong. Intelligence: Conventional view: intelligence is the ability to think and learn. Alternative view: intelligence is the ability to rethink and unlearn, i.e. flexible thinking.
Walk Into Your Mind- It’s easy to notice when others need to change their opinions, but it is difficult for us to develop the same habit. Phil Tetlock’s (political scientist) mindset model: Preachers: We promote our ideas (sometimes to defend our ideas from attack). Prosecutors: We attack the opinions of others, often to win an argument. Politicians: We try to win the support of others, optimizing for approval and agreement.
Scientist Mindset: Rethinking is fundamental to scientific thinking. 1. You’re expected to doubt what you know, be curious about what you don’t know, and update your views based on new data. 2. Search for truth through testing hypotheses, running experiments, and uncovering new truths. 3. Changing your mind is a sign of intellectual integrity and a response to evidence. BOTTOM LINE: Hypotheses have as much of a place in our lives as they do in the lab. Experiments can inform our daily decisions. Encouraging us to pivot.
HOW DO YOU THINK ADOPTING A SCIENTIFIC MINDSET WOULD HELP YOU?
Tunnel Vision Terms: Cognitive bias: Seeing what we want to see. Desirability bias: The tendency to act in a manner that enhances your acceptance or approval from others. Instead of searching for reasons why we are right, search for explanations for why we are wrong. Binary bias: The human tendency to seek clarity by reducing a spectrum of categories to two opposites. Black or white thinking promotes hostility and stereotyping. WHERE ARE YOU BLACK AND WHITE THINKING?
Competence and Confidence: In theory, confidence and competence go hand in hand. In practice, they often diverge. Armchair quarterback syndrome: Phenomenon where confidence exceeds competence and Imposter syndrome: Phenomenon where competence exceeds confidence. The Dunning-Kruger effect- We often feel more confident about a skill or topic than we really should.
WHEN HAVE YOU OVERESTIMATED YOUR COMPETENCE? WHEN HAVE YOU HAD IMPOSTER SYNDROME?
The rethinking cycle:
Humility => Doubt => Curiosity => Discovery and The overconfidence cycle: Pride => Conviction => Confirmation and Desirability Biases => Validation
Humility is often misunderstood. It’s not a matter of having low self-confidence. One of the Latin roots of humility means ‘from the earth.’ It’s about being grounded—recognizing that we’re flawed and fallible. Confident humility: An ideal wherein the individual has faith in their abilities but retains sufficient doubt and flexibility to realize they could be wrong. Because of this, they remain curious and flexible, always seeking the truth. A mark of lifelong learners recognizes that they can learn something from everyone they meet. PRACTICE SAYING “I COULD BE WRONG”
The Joy of Being Wrong: View being wrong as a good thing, an opportunity to learn something new. Isaac Asimov: “Great discoveries often begin not with ‘Eureka!’ but with ‘That’s funny...’” Decouple your identity from your beliefs. Make your identity one in which you actively seek truth and knowledge—this opens you up to curiosity and rethinking. TIPS: Detaching your present from your past, detaching your opinions from your identity. Who you are should be a question of what you value, not what you believe. Values retain the flexibility that opinions do not. Values are core principles like excellence, generosity, freedom, fairness, integrity, etc. Perspective-seeking is more valuable than perspective-taking. Rather than try to see things from someone else’s point of view, talk to those people and learn directly from them.
WHAT ARE YOUR OPINIONS? WHAT DO YOU VALUE?
The Good Fight Club: Wilbur Wright: “Honest argument is merely a process of mutually picking the beams and motes out of each other’s eyes so both can see clearly.” Challenge network: A trusted group of peers to point out blind spots and errors in our thinking. The illusion of explanatory depth: We think we know more about things than we do. Example: How does a bicycle, piano or appliance work? Exploring these questions reveals the limits of our knowledge. When pressed to explain how something works, our understanding breaks down.
TIDBITS: Group polarization: The phenomenon where we interact with people like us. The result is more extreme beliefs. The overview effect: Astronauts who experience space travel gain a unique understanding of humanity. After seeing Earth from above, their perspective changes, and they see the commonality of our existence. Counterfactual thinking: considering alternative realities, imagining different circumstances and outcomes. Motivational interviewing: The best approach to changing someone’s mind is to help that person make the change on their own. 1. Ask open-ended questions. 2. Engage in reflective listening 3. Affirm the person’s desire and ability to change. Gentle recommendations that allow the other person to maintain agency are offered like: “Here are a few things that have helped me—do you think any of them might work for you?”
Three steps to thinking more critically:1. Three steps to thinking more critically 2. Rank and popularity are not proxies for reliability. 3. The sender of information is often not its source—Foster rethinking. Good teachers introduce new thoughts, but great teachers introduce new ways of thinking.
Action for Impact: Escaping Tunnel Vision
Be confident in your ability to learn more than in your knowledge (which is malleable). Actively seek out reasons why you might be wrong. Even a single idea can curb overconfidence. Instead of searching for reasons why we are right, search for explanations for why we are wrong.
Who you are should be a question of what you value, not what you believe. What do you value?
Set up a Challenge Network. A trusted group of peers to point out blind spots and errors in our thinking. When pressed to explain how something works, our understanding breaks down.
Skepticism is foundational to the scientific method, whereas denial is the a priori rejection of ideas without objective consideration. How do you know?” is an important question to ask both of ourselves and others.
Grant recommends twice a year personal checkups: opportunities to reassess your current pursuits, whether your current desires still align with your plans, and whether it’s time to pivot.
EXERCISE: think about a time when things didn’t go as well as they could have. Let’s “rethink” that event. 1. Doubt what you know, 2. Be curious about what you don’t know, and 3. Update your thinking based on new evidence.
Unconventional Book Club
MindMeister: Online Mind Mapping and Brainstorming (link)
Live Life Happy Podcast
Live Life Happy- Andrea Seydel on Apple Podcasts (link)