Notes on the book Think Different by Adam Grant.
- The ability to rethink and unlearn may be more important than the ability to think and learn.
- Students are often encouraged to “trust their gut” and stick with their initial answer on standardized tests. Scientific data shows that advice to be incorrect.
- Once we believe something to be true, we resist any attempts to change our minds, even when they’re backed by hard facts. This is because rethinking means “admitting failure and shedding part of your identity.”
- “Our ways of thinking become habits that can weigh us down.” Inertia takes over.
- “This book is an invitation to let go of knowledge and opinions that are no longer serving you well.”
Wildland firefighters who resisted dropping their tools while escaping a blaze get blamed for “cling[ing] to a set of tools even though letting go might save their lives.” I’m not sure this criticism is totally warranted. What if the firefighters dropped their tools and made it to temporary safety, only to find they needed something left behind to continue their survival?
COVID-19 was an interesting example. Grant calls out world leaders that were slow to respond to the virus, but he didn’t recognize the flip side of the coin: world leaders that held onto restrictions for too long. In both cases, politicians felt pressure to “stick to their guns” and resist change. It seems they are afraid of being labeled as flip-floppers and abandoned by their supporter base.
Grant points to the U.S. Constitution as an example of a document that is meant to be changed by amendments. However, in many ways, it seems like our political system is designed to resist change. After a lengthy proposal process, amendments require ratification by three-fourths of the states. The last amendment was passed more than thirty years ago.
- Preacher, Prosecutor, Politician, and Scientist
- In a stable world, “we get rewarded for having conviction in our ideas.” The problem is that our world is changing rapidly.
- We recognize when others need to think again, but we have a blind spot when it comes to ourselves.
- Most people would rather feel right than be right.
- Startups are more successful when they pivot early and often.
- “Being good at thinking can make you worse at rethinking.”
- Being actively open minded means looking hard for ways you might be wrong.
- “Visions for change are more compelling when they incldue visions of continuity. Although our strategy might evolve, our identity will endure.”
Mike Lazaridis gets praised for the invention of the BlackBerry but criticized for missing the touchscreen and web-connected advances of the iPhone. I suspect that time and resource constraints played a role in his unwillingness to explore alternative hypotheses. He was trying to focus and prioritize his efforts on perfecting the existing BlackBerry experience. Perhaps it is too much to ask for Mike to continue to ride the top of the smartphone wave. Maybe we should just congratulate him for the revolutionary advancements he made with BlackBerry.
Most projects are run against a hard commitment to scope, schedule, and budget. An actively open mindset would take a more agile approach.
I find it amusing that someone can write a book about how important it is to have humility and question what we think we know. Publishing a book sure seems like planting a flag for what you know to be true, right?
Grant’s “Rethinking Cycle” is great as long as you don’t get stuck in a loop from Doubt to Humility and back to Doubt again. How do we overcome a lack of confidence to get to the point of Curiosity?
What are the signs that it’s time to rethink an idea? It is easy in retrospect, but at the time it is hard to tell whether it’s time to pivot or persevere.