Last Updated on October 6, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 870
Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, first published by Viking Books on February 2, 2021, is Adam Grant’s fourth book of nonfiction. His first three—Give and Take, Originals, and Option B—center on topics such as the key to workplace success, the science of innovation, and our unlimited capacity for resilience. Although their approaches and loci are significantly varied, all of Grant’s works are aligned toward better workplace satisfaction, more fulfilling interpersonal relationships, and personal happiness. Much like his previous works, Think Again advocates for an out-of-the-box paradigm shift that radicalizes on both an individual and collective level—the conscious and continuous practice of rethinking.
Aided by his specialization in organizational psychology, Grant illustrates a wide variety of evidence-based research, ranging from the Dunning-Kruger effect to the binary bias. His teaching bent—as he is the youngest tenured professor at the Wharton School of Business—is also apparent in the book. In fact, he dedicates one whole chapter to incorporating rethinking in teaching practices, placing active learning above traditional lecture-based models. Throughout the book, Grant places a particular emphasis on our accelerated production of knowledge and how rethinking is central to keeping up with new discoveries, scientific findings, and technologies. The education system, he asserts, must prioritize creating lifelong learners with the tools to navigate a modern age that is fraught with disinformation, misinformation, and groupthink.
True to the book’s central thesis, every chapter of Think Again is structured along a central anecdote or case sample that Grant rethinks through various lenses. The first chapter begins with the case of BlackBerry founder Mike Lazaridis, whose company failed to adapt to the needs of the smartphone market despite its initial wild success. In the succeeding sections, Grant cites the Dunning-Kruger effect and then his own findings on rethinking versus overconfidence cycles, reexamining the Lazaridis case in light of these data. By taking into account multiple perspectives, he is able to give significant insight on different angles of the issue. Grant does the same for other chapters, with case studies on notable people such as the Unabomber, Wilbur and Orville Wright, and NASA astronaut Luca Parmitano.
Although Grant frequently extols the benefits of thinking like a scientist, he doesn’t stop at the scientist’s tools of facts and research data; he also stresses the importance of effective persuasion. Throughout several chapters, he illustrates that simply making logically sound arguments does not convince people to rethink, as we are often subconsciously resistant to what we might perceive to be lectures, scare tactics, or manipulation. Instead, one has to employ tactics such as establishing common ground, posing open-ended questions, and motivational interviewing. While these tactics vary, the values underlying them remain the same: curiosity, doubt, and humility—the same values that Grant asserts are prerequisites to engaging in rethinking cycles.
While Think Again is marketed under categories such as self-development, personal transformation, and motivation, its scope goes beyond the individual level. In fact, a significant portion of the book is dedicated to exploring rethinking on an interpersonal and collective scale. Apart from illustrating cases of industry success, Grant also touches on hot-button social issues such as climate change, racism, abortion, and gun laws. Instead of aligning himself with certain stances, however, Grant approaches the issues from a scientist’s perspective. In an interview with Financial Times journalist Andrew Hill, he states:
I just didn’t want to write a book that was going to be seen as having a political agenda, because I don’t have a political agenda, I have a social science agenda.
In another interview with the online magazine Behavioral Scientist, Grant expounds on what he dubs the polarization problem: our tendency to split contentious issues into two extreme opposing sides, thus erasing nuance and empathy from the conversation. To him, this problem grew more pressing in 2020, as the Democrat-Republican divide widened due to the pandemic and various social protests. Grant asserts that the practice of rethinking helps us to avoid polarization and instead see issues as a prism containing multitudes of complex, often-intersecting perspectives.
As someone who has pledged to engage in continuous rethinking, Grant applies the same standards in Think Again to himself. In fact, he admits to rethinking and correcting the “strong opinions, weakly held” argument that he had laid down in his 2016 book Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. Grant also commits to rethinking in his teaching life, as seen in his June 2020 blog post on anti-racism:
For my first few years of teaching, I didn’t bring up questions of race in the classroom because I felt it wasn’t my place to talk about them. I lacked what’s called psychological standing—the sense that it’s legitimate for us to act.
Due to the wave of racial unrest in the United States, Grant was able to rethink his involvement in social movements concerning the oppression of marginalized groups. In Think Again, he is forthcoming with his personal experiences with rethinking—and how painful or difficult it can be at times. He concludes the epilogue of the book with open-ended questions posed to the unconvinced reader, signaling that rethinking is, by nature, a conscious and ongoing dialogue.