Organisational psychologist Adam Grant’s book Think Again is an excellent read. It explains how to overcome our own unjustified overconfidence by developing the habits of mind that force us to challenge our own beliefs and, when necessary, to change them. It is well researched and referenced with compelling examples of flawed thinking and suggestions as to how to overcome those flaws.
“As we question our current understanding, we become curious about what information we’re missing. That search leads us to new discoveries, which in turn maintain our humility by reinforcing how much we still have to learn. If knowledge is power, knowing what we don’t know is wisdom.”
The habits into which we slip are like those of preachers, prosecutors and politicians who try to convert, discredit or persuade. Trapped in the prison cell of our own dogma, we don’t set out to learn anything or update our own beliefs.
Grant argues the answer lies in thinking in a more detached scientific way and revisiting even our most cherished assumptions and decisions. He concludes the book with a summary of Actions for Impact. Here is a selection.
- Think like a scientist. When you start forming an opinion, resist the temptation to preach, prosecute, or politick. Treat your emerging view as a hunch or a hypothesis and test it with data.
- Don’t confuse confidence with competence.
- Harness the benefits of doubt. When you find yourself doubting your ability, reframe the situation as an opportunity for growth.
- Build a challenge network, not just a support network. It’s helpful to have cheerleaders encouraging you, but you also need critics to challenge you.
- Practice the art of persuasive listening.
- Question how rather than why. When people describe why they hold extreme views, they often intensify their commitment and double down.
- Have a conversation about the conversation. If emotions are running hot, try redirecting the discussion to the process.
- Instead of treating polarizing issues like two sides of a coin, look at them through the many lenses of a prism.
- Establish psychological safety. In learning cultures, people feel confident that they can question and challenge the status quo without being punished.
This is a worthwhile read. It’s not all new and many examples benefit from hindsight but maybe that’s the point!
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