The way we think affects not just our ability to succeed in a dynamic, fast-changing world; it also affects how we make sense of things around us. This book by Adam Grant is about improving your mental agility and the ability to rethink. This can increase your problem-solving capacity and your levels of success and happiness in life. In this Think Again summary, you’ll learn useful strategies that you can use for rethinking at individual, interpersonal and collective levels. Do check out our book summary bundle in pdf/mp3 infographic, text and audio formats!
Why we should all think again
All human beings desire a sense of security. We prefer the path of least resistance and tell ourselves that we know how the world works (rather than struggle with the unknowns and uncertainty). Yet, to succeed in a complex, dynamic world, you must be able to unlearn, rethink and relearn.
That’s especially since many of our first instincts and widely-held “truths” are actually wrong. Over the years, Adam Grant studied many thought leaders and conducted his own experiments to test different ways to rethink more effectively. The book presents specific strategies for improving mental agility at 3 levels:
- Individual rethinking: how to open our own minds;
- Interpersonal rethinking: how to encourage others to rethink; and
- Collective rethinking: how to build lifelong learning communities.
How to build mental agility at 3 levels
Here’s visual overview of the rethinking strategies at an individual, interpersonal and collective level. For each strategy, you can get more research background, examples and actionable tips from our complete book summary bundle (including a 16-page pdf summary, an infographic and an audio summary).
BE ACTIVELY OPEN-MINDED: Think like a Scientist
Flawed perspectives are perpetuated by 2 types of psychological biases:
- Confirmation bias: We see what we expect to see; and
- Desirability bias: We see what we want to see.
These biases lead us to believe that our views are the right ones, and to validate them in a vicious cycle of overconfidence.
To break the cycle, you need to switch your mindset: be humble and curious, assume that you may be wrong, and deliberately seek out alternative views and approaches.
• In a study, entrepreneurs who adopted a scientific approach earned 40x more than those who didn’t. They tested their assumptions, learned what worked or didn’t work, and rapidly pivoted to arrive at more effective solutions.
• Grant found that successful election forecasters updated their predictions about twice as often as average forecasters. They actively gathered new information and used it to update their beliefs and assumptions.
Think like a scientist, not a preacher, prosecutor or politician
When you’re considering an opinion or viewpoint, resist the urge to preach, prosecute or politick.
• Don’t think in preacher mode, i.e. stick to 1 “right” viewpoint and act from faith/belief instead of hard facts or evidence.
• Don’t think in prosecutor mode, i.e. attack others’ arguments and refuse to admit mistakes.
• Don’t think in politician mode, i.e. change your view or position to suit the circumstances.
• Do think like a scientist, i.e. be actively open-minded, intentionally challenge your assumptions, knowledge, instincts and habits (instead of clinging to them).
Ways to think like a scientist
• Treat your opinion as a hunch or hypothesis, and test it using real-world data or experiments. Look for ways in which you can be proven wrong.
• Seek out conflicting information that challenges your views or assumptions. Follow and interact with people who stimulate your thinking, even if you disagree with their views.
• Use experiments to test different ideas and methods, to continually refine/sharpen your views and approach.
OTHER RETHINKING STRATEGIES
The above is just one example of Adam Grant’s strategies. In our full 16-page Think Again summary, you can learn much more about the remaining rethinking strategies. These include strategies to:
• Achieve confident humility–that sweet spot of confidence where you’re confident of attaining a goal in the future, but are humble about your existing tools/methods.
• Embrace mistakes, such that errors and mistakes become a helpful part of your learning and discovery process.
• Leverage constructive conflict, whereby you seek out constructive conflict and invite others to challenge your thinking.
• Keep rethinking your future, where you avoid identity foreclosure, use regular “life checkups” to adjust your path, and find happiness without actively seeking it.
• Treat debates as dances, not battles. Persuasion is like dancing: you need to choreograph steps and adjust to your partner so both sides can move in sync. Learn the strategies that separate expert negotiators from average ones, and apply them to influence others more effectively.
• Reduce predudices with counterfactual thinking. Biases and prejudices can present real obstacles to communication, rethinking and change. Reduce prejudice and stereotypes to open people’s minds to alternatives.
• Motivate change with better questions and listening skills. People may resist an idea not because they disagree with it, but because they resent your attempt to influence or change them. So, you must learn the listening and questioning skills to help them arrive at theri own conclusions and decisions.
• Highlight nuances and complexities. Help others to shift away from binary black-or-white, either-or perspectives. Recognize the full spectrum of options and perspectives with varying shades of grey, including the emotional complexity in yourself and others.
• Teach children to think and rethink. Use a range of strategies to cultivate mental agility from young.
• Build learning cultures and learning organizations. Learn to incorporate 2 core ingredients—psychological safety and accountability —so people feel safe to experiment, challenge one another and seek excellence.
Getting More from “Think Again”
Obviously, it takes time, effort and skills to cultivate the mental agility, continually update your thinking and shape learning cultures. The strategies above will equip you to do so at a personal, interpersonal and community level. To get the key concepts, research basis, and specific tips for each of these strategies, do check out the full book summary bundle of the Think Again summary. This includes an infographic, 16-page text summary, and a 27-minute audio summary.
In the book, Adam Grant uses many stories, case studies and diagrams to explain the key concepts and insights outlined in our summary. Feel free to get a copy of the book or visit adamgrant.net for more resources.
Improve your mental agility and rethinking capacity to increase success and happiness!