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Every individual possesses cognitive tools and accumulated knowledge that they regularly rely upon. But we rarely question or consider this knowledge which includes beliefs, assumptions, opinions, and prejudices. One of the solutions to this is what Adam Grant tells in this book as "rethinking". Rethinking is the process of doubting what you know, being curious about what you don’t know, and updating your thinking based on new evidence.
Conventional view: intelligence is the ability to think and learn.
Alternative view: intelligence is the ability to rethink and unlearn.
Grant argues these cognitive skills are essential in a turbulent and changing world.
“Questioning ourselves makes the world more unpredictable. It requires us to admit that the facts may have changed, that what was once right may now be wrong.”
Phil Tetlock’s (political scientist) mindset model: Preachers, prosecutors, and politicians.
Preachers: We pontificate and promote our ideas. Changing your mind is a sign of moral weakness.
Prosecutors: We attack the ideas of others, often to win an argument. Being persuaded is defeat.
Politicians: We try to win the support of others, optimizing for approval and agreement (over personal conviction). We change our opinion opportunistically.
Rethinking is fundamental to scientific thinking.
“You’re expected to doubt what you know, be curious about what you don’t know, and update your views based on new data.”
Changing your mind is a sign of intellectual integrity and a response to evidence.
Cognitive bias: Seeing what we want to see.
Desirability bias: The tendency to act in a manner that enhances your acceptance or approval from others.
Instead of searching for reasons why we are right, search for reasons why we are wrong.
The rethinking cycle: Humility-Doubt -Curiosity-Discovery
The overconfidence cycle: Pride- Conviction - Confirmation and Desirability Biases-Validation
“In theory, confidence and competence go hand in hand. In practice, they often diverge.”
Anton’s syndrome is a condition whereby an individual is oblivious to a physical disability due to damage to the occipital lobe of the brain.
Armchair quarterback syndrome: Phenomenon where confidence exceeds competence.
Imposter syndrome: Phenomenon where competence exceeds confidence.
The Dunning-Kruger effect: Identifies the disconnect between competence and confidence. The most confident are often the least competent.
“The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is that you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.”
Totalitarian ego: Psychological term for the mental gatekeeper that keeps threatening information out of our heads. Our mini internal dictator.
Two types of detachment:
Detaching your present from your past.
Detaching your opinions from your identity.
“Who you are should be a question of what you value, not what you believe.”
Values are core principles like excellence, generosity, freedom, fairness, integrity, etc. Values retain the flexibility that opinions do not.
“People who are right a lot listen a lot, and they change their mind a lot. If you don’t change your mind frequently, you’re going to be wrong a lot.”
“Honest argument is merely a process of mutually picking the beams and motes out of each other’s eyes so both can see clearly.”
Relationship conflict: Personal feuds and arguments
Task conflict: Arguments over specific ideas and opinions
Task conflict can be beneficial and generate better outcomes.
Challenge network: A trusted group of peers to point out blind spots and errors in our thinking.
The illusion of explanatory depth: We think we know more about things than we really do.
Example: How does a bicycle, piano, or appliance work? Exploring these questions reveals the limits of our knowledge.
Adversarial approach: Common tendency to go into preacher or prosecutor mode without listening to the other party.
Collaborative approach: Leads with humility and curiosity. Invites the other party to think like scientists.
Logic bully: Someone who overwhelms others with rational arguments. The others might not agree with those arguments, but they are left defenseless and bitter.
“We won’t have much luck changing other people’s minds if we refuse to change ours. We can demonstrate openness by acknowledging where we agree with our critics and even what we’ve learned from them.”
“The person most likely to persuade you to change your mind is you. You get to pick the reasons you find most compelling, and you come away with a real sense of ownership over them.”
Stop trying to convince others about the right answer. Open their mind to the possibility they might be wrong and let them work their way to the solution.
“A rivalry exists whenever we reserve special animosity for a group we see as competing with us for resources or threatening our identities.”
We identify with our group or tribe. We distinguish ourselves from our adversaries—they are everything we are not.
We preach the virtues of our side.
We prosecute the vices of our rivals.
As social beings, we are motivated to seek belonging and status. Group identification helps us achieve these goals.
Group polarization: The phenomenon where we interact with people like us. This results in more extreme beliefs.
The overview effect: Astronauts who experience space travel gain a unique understanding of humanity. After seeing Earth from above, their perspective changes and they see the commonality of our existence.
Counterfactual thinking: considering alternative realities, imagining different circumstances and outcomes.
The best approach to changing someone’s mind is to help that person make the change on their own.
Three key techniques are used:
“Many communicators try to make themselves look smart. Great listeners are more interested in making their audiences feel smart.”
Binary bias: The human tendency to seek clarity by reducing a spectrum of categories to two opposites.
Presumes the world is divided into two sides: believers and non-believers. Only one side can be right because there is only one truth.
The antidote is to “complexify” by showing the range of views for a given topic.
“Psychologists find that people will ignore or even deny the existence of a problem if they’re not fond of the solution.”
Three steps to thinking more critically:
Psychological safety: The ability to take risks without fear of punishment or reprisal.
In environments with psychological safety, teams will report more problems and errors. Psychologically unsafe settings hide errors to avoid penalties.
“Psychological safety is not a matter of relaxing standards...it’s fostering a climate of respect, trust, and openness...it’s the foundation of a learning culture.”
Performance accountability evaluates projects, individuals and teams based on outcomes. Good outcomes aren’t always the result of good decisions.
“Focusing on results might be good for short-term performance, but it can be an obstacle to long-term learning.”
Process accountability evaluates projects, individuals and teams based on the decision-making process.
The author recommends twice-a-year personal checkups: opportunities to reassess your current pursuits, whether your current desires still align with your plans, and whether it’s time to pivot.
“Our identities are open systems, and so are our lives. We don’t have to stay tethered to old images of where we want to go or who we want to be. The simplest way to start rethinking our options is to question what we do daily.”
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