20 Quotes from Think Again by Adam Grant

Adam Grant argues that too often we do not rightly question are opinions and biases and instead he argues that, as the title says, we need to think again. Rethinking is a skill that must be developed, it does not come naturally to many of us. As a leader, it is important that we seek feedback and challenge our assumptions. Leaders cannot do it alone and need a honest feedback, data to drive decisions, and the ability to admit we are wrong.

Below are 20 quotes that were particularly insightful in this helpful book:

  1. A hallmark of wisdom is knowing when it’s time to abandon some of your most treasured tools—and some of the most cherished parts of your identity (12).
  2. Rethinking is a skill set, but it’s also a mindset (16).
  3. As we think and talk, we often slip into the mindsets of three different professions: preachers, prosecutors, and politicians. In each of these modes, we take on a particular identity and use a distinct set of tools. We go into preacher mode when our sacred beliefs are in jeopardy: we deliver sermons to protect and promote our ideals. We enter prosecutor mode when we recognize flaws in other people’s reasoning: we marshal arguments to prove them wrong and win our case. We shift into politician mode when we’re seeking to win over an audience: we campaign and lobby for the approval of our constituents. The risk is that we become so wrapped up in preaching that we’re right, prosecuting others who are wrong, and politicking for support that we don’t bother to rethink our own views (18).
  4. My favorite bias is the I’m not biased” bias, in which people believe they’re more objective than others. It turns out that smart people are more likely to fall into this trap. The brighter you are, the harder it can be to see your own limitations. Being good at thinking can make you worse at rethinking (25).
  5. If knowledge is power, knowing what we don’t know is wisdom (28).
  6. Our convictions can lock us in prisons of our own making. The solution is not to decelerate our thinking—it’s to accelerate our rethinking (29).
  7. The curse of knowledge is that it closes our minds to what we don’t know. Good judgment depends on having the skill—and the will—to open our minds (31).
  8. If we’re certain that we know something, we have no reason to look for gaps and flaws in our knowledge—let alone fill or correct them (42).
  9. 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 (46).
  10. You can be confident in your ability to achieve a goal in the future while maintaining the humility to question whether you have the right tools in the present. That’s the sweet spot of confidence.
  11. Uncertainty primes us to ask questions and absorb new ideas (53).
  12. The goal is not to be wrong more often. It’s to recognize that we’re all wrong more often than we’d like to admit, and the more we deny it, the deeper the hole we dig for ourselves (57).
  13. Who you are should be a question of what you value, not what you believe. Values are your core principles in life—they might be excellence and generosity, freedom and fairness, or security and integrity. Basing your identity on these kinds of principles enables you to remain open-minded about the best ways to advance them (64).
  14. A key step is getting them to do some counterfactual thinking: helping them consider what they’d believe if they were living in an alternative reality (136).
  15. When we try to convince people to think again, our first instinct is usually to start talking. Yet the most effective way to help others open their minds is often to listen (151).
  16. Many communicators try to make themselves look smart. Great listeners are more interested in making their audiences feel smart (158).
  17. Psychologists find that people will ignore or even deny the existence of a problem if they’re not fond of the solution (175).
  18. I believe that good teachers introduce new thoughts, but great teachers introduce new ways of thinking. Collecting a teacher’s knowledge may help us solve the challenges of the day, but understanding how a teacher thinks can help us navigate the challenges of a lifetime. Ultimately, education is more than the information we accumulate in our heads. It’s the habits we develop as we keep revising our drafts and the skills we build to keep learning (203).
  19. Rethinking is more likely to happen in a learning culture, where growth is the core value and rethinking cycles are routine. In learning cultures, the norm is for people to know what they don’t know, doubt their existing practices, and stay curious about new routines to try out. Evidence shows that in learning cultures, organizations innovate more and make fewer mistakes (208).
  20. I feel for people who get stuck in analysis paralysis. I worry about people who don’t do the analysis in the first place. I’d rather see you embrace the discomfort of doubt than live with the regret of foolish conviction. For me, the difference between reflection and rumination is whether you’re still learning. If you’re pondering a familiar problem without gaining fresh insights, it’s time to seek new information or reach out to your challenge network (248).

One additional insight that dovetails nicely with Annie Dukes, Thinking in Bets, is this quote:

Don’t evaluate decisions based only on the results; track how thoroughly different options are considered in the process. A bad process with a good outcome is luck. A good process with a bad outcome might be a smart experiment.

Good results are not necessarily the product of smart decisions. Evaluate the process, not the result.

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