Think Again Summary
Think Again is a 2021 nonfiction book by organizational psychologist Adam Grant about the importance of rethinking opinions and decisions.
- Grant writes that people often adopt one of four different mindsets when dealing with problems—prosecutor, preacher, politician, or scientist—and encourages readers to think like a scientist.
- Complexity, uncertainty, and emotion, Grant argues, can be beneficial to the rethinking process and to communicating with others.
- Grant suggests incorporating the practice of rethinking on both an individual and societal level, including in school and the workplace.
Last Updated on October 6, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 781
In Think Again, organizational psychologist Adam Grant challenges readers to learn the critical skill of taking a second look at and changing their own learned concepts and behaviors. He explores the various obstacles and benefits people encounter when they try to bring rethinking into their personal lives, into their interpersonal interactions, and into collective thinking spaces. He also makes recommendations about steps readers can take to help facilitate this practice.
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Grant enumerates four different professions whose mindsets we typically utilize when dealing with problems: prosecutors, preachers, politicians, and scientists. Adopting the mindset of a scientist means that we see our views as provisional and our decisions as experimental. This positions us to become more responsive to new data and allows us to alter and adjust our views with less hesitation. In conjunction, we ought to be careful about becoming overconfident. We should try to check whether we have actual hard evidence of our own competency. If we have the opposite problem of doubting ourselves, we should use it as a learning opportunity as well and look for specific things we could improve upon. Much like how scientists rely on their peers to review their work, we should not shy away from or reject people who challenge us professionally. We should try to incorporate them into some sort of task-oriented challenge network and see whether there are productive differences.
If we are trying to change other people’s minds, we would also benefit from trying to encourage others to think like scientists. This means asking for the fundamental details about the practical applications and consequences of their position and asking them how they came to those conclusions in the first place, as well as what their standards for evidence are and what it would take to change their views. In order to keep others from automatically becoming defensive, we must focus on listening instead of persuasion and criticism. Moreover, in order to better understand where they’re coming from, we must emphasize common ground to prove that we are open to collaboration and negotiation over domination. Finally, we must show respect for their intellectual autonomy so that they don’t become threatened by the feeling that we are telling them what to think.
Grant has determined that we also shouldn’t shy away from complexity, uncertainty, and emotion—things that we’ve grown to assume only hinder our ability to effectively communicate with others. Complexifying an issue prevents people from falling into a false dichotomy, or the “us versus them” mentality. It helps them see that issues comprise many moving parts that people can have opinions about. Acknowledging limits and uncertainties doesn’t undermine our own credibility; it actually makes discussions more sophisticated and engaging. Furthermore, emotions aren’t necessarily a hindrance to our ability to think rationally, as long as we practice being emotionally responsive, meaning we give our emotions the flexibility to change based on what we encounter.
If we want to incorporate rethinking into our larger culture, the best places to start are at home, at school, and in the workplace. One can make rethinking part of a regular routine by challenging people into round-table discussions that correct common misconceptions. Teachers can ask their students to make multiple versions and drafts of their work in order to establish that improvement and changes can be part of the work process. They can also tell students that their career paths will likely be configured the same way: as a work in progress. They don’t always have to stick to their first choice. In the workplace, to produce a sense of psychological safety, leaders should model the qualities of openness, curiosity, and humility. They should invite constructive criticism so that employees can understand that they can speak their minds and make mistakes without necessarily being punished. Rather than emphasizing results, leaders should examine the decision-making processes of teams. Otherwise, people are much more likely to hide their mistakes and take shortcuts.
Finally, the best thing we can do to make rethinking a part of our lives is simply to make time for it. We can, for example, take a day at the end of the week where we focus on and evaluate what we’ve done and what we can do better. At work, we can stop to reevaluate every half a year whether our current job is still in line with our values and goals; in relationships, we can evaluate whether the people involved have similar commitment levels or are in incompatible emotional places. By learning to take a second look at what we have, we learn to become more effective participants in the world and in our own lives.