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  • Writer's pictureLars Christensen

Think Again by Adam Grant

I finished this book in April 2024. I recommend this book 10/10.

Why you should read this book:

This book will make you realize that you have to make room for rethinking if you want to progress and succeeded. When you went to school you probably might have learned that Pluto is a planet, or the importance of reading a map. You would not insist that would be important for your kids to learn today. You really need to start thinking like a scientist, so you easily can adjust. This book will teach you the importance of that.

Get your copy here.

🚀 The book in three sentences

  1. Think like a scientist, don't get stuck with your opinion.

  2. Remember, old history books are full of mistakes—Pluto was a planet and Columbus found America.

  3. Rethinking need to be part of our process if we want to progress.

✍️ My favorite quotes

  • George Bernard Shaw said " Progress is impossible without change; and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."

📝 My notes and thoughts

  • P15. George Bernard Shaw said " Progress is impossible without change; and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."

  • P22. Just as you don't have to be a professional scientist to reason like one, being a professional scientist doesn't guarantee that someone will use the tools of their training. Scientist morph into preachers when they present their pet theories as gospel and treat thoughtful critiques as sacrilege. They veer in to politician terrain when they allow their views to be swayed by popularity rather than accuracy. They enter prosecutor mode when they're heel-bent on debunking and discrediting rather than discovering. After upending physics with his theories of relativity, Einstein opposed the quantum Revolution: "To punish me for my contempt of authority. Fate has made me an authority myself." Sometimes even great scientists needs to think more like a scientist.

  • P25. When we're in scientist mode, we refuse to let our ideas become ideologies. we don't start with answers or solutions; we lead with questions and puzzles. We don't preach from intuition; we teach from evidence. We don't just have healthy skepticism about other people's arguments; we dare to disagree with our own arguments. Thinking like a scientist involves more than just reacting with an open mind. It means being actively open-minded. It requires searching for reasons why we might be wrong—not for reasons why we must be right—and revising our views based on what we learn. That rarely happens in the other mental modes. In preacher mode, changing our minds is a mark of moral weakness; in scientist mode, it's a sign of intellectual integrity. In prosecutor mode, allowing ourselves to be persuaded is admitting defeat; in scientist mode, it's a step toward the truth. In politician mode, we flip-flop in response to carrots and sticks; in scientist mode, we shift in the face of sharper logic and stronger data.

  • P28. Recognizing our shortcomings opens the door to doubt. As we  question our current understanding, we become curious about what information we're missing. That search leads us to new discoveries, which in turn maintain our humility by reinforcing how much we still have to learn. If knowledge is power, knowing what we don't know is wisdom.

  • P32. Blackberry got stuck on the device. Apple did not wanted to make a smart phone, but changed their mind.

  • P54. Great thinkers don'r harbor doubts because they're imposters. They maintain doubts because they know we're all partially blind and they're committed to improving their sight. They don't boast about how much they know; they marvel at how little they understand. They're aware that each answer raises new questions, and the quest for knowledge is never finished. A mark of lifelong learners is recognizing that they can learn something from every they meet. Arrogance leaves us blind to our weakness. Humility is a reflection lens: it helps us see them clearly. Confident humility is a correction lens: it enables us to overcome those weaknesses.

  • P57. I found a Nobel Prize-winning scientist and two of the world's top election forecasters. They aren't just comfortable being wrong; they actually seem to be thrilled by it. I think they can teach us something about how to be more graceful and accepting in moments when we discover that our beliefs might not be true. 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.

  • P63. My past self was Mr. Facts—I was too fixated on knowing. Now I'm more interested in finding out what I don't know. As Bridgewater found Ray Dalio told me, "If you don't look back at yourself and think, 'Wow, how stuopid I was a year ago,' then you must not have learned much in the last year."

  • P67. A key question here is how much rethinking is necessary. Although the sweet spot will always vary from one person and situation to the next, the averages can give us a clue. A few years into their tournaments, typical competitors updated their predictions about twice per questions. The super forecasters updated their predictions more than four times per question. Think about how manageable that is. Better judgement doesn't necessarily require hundreds or even dozens of updates. Just a few more efforts at rethinking can move the needle. It's also worth noting, though, how unusual that level of rethinking is. How many of us can even remember the last time we admitted being wrong and revised our opinions accordingly? As journalist Kathryn Schultz observes, "Although small amounts of evidence are sufficient to make us draw conclusions, they are seldom sufficient to make us revise them." That's where the best forecasters excelled: they were eager to think again. They saw their opinions more as hunches than as truths—as possibilities to entertain rather facts to embrace. They questioned ideas before accepting them, and they were willing to keep questioning them even after accepting them. There were constantly seeking new information and better evidence—especially disconfirming evidence. On Seinfeld, George Costanza famously said, "It's not a lie if you believe it." I might add that it doesn't become the truth just because you believe it. It's a sign of wisdom to avoid believing every thought that enters your mind. It's a mark of emotional intelligence to avoid internalizing every feeling that enters your heart.

  • P69. When I asked Kjirste what made her so good at forecasting, she replied, "There's no benefit to me for being wrong for longer. It's much better if I change my beliefs sooner, and it's good feeling to have that sense of a discovery, that surprise—I would think people would enjoy that." (It reminds me about not having an opinion about things.)

  • P72. Jean-Pierre Beugoms has a favorite trick for catching himself when he's wrong. When he makes a forecast, he also makes a list of the conditions in which it should hold true—as well as the condition under which he would change his mind. He explains that this keeps him honest, preventing him from getting attached to a bad prediction.

  • P80. Although productive disagreement is a critical life skill, it's one that many of us never fully develop. The problem starts early: parents disagree behind closed doors, fearing that conflict will make children anxious or somehow damage their character. Yet research shows that how often parents argue has no bearing on their children's academic, social, or emotional development. What matters is how respectfully parents argue, not how frequently. Kids whose parents clash constructively feel more emotionally safe in elementary school, and over the next few years they actually demonstrate more helpfulness and compassion toward their classmates.

  • P94. Tell people, "I'm going to give you critical feedback because I care about you..."

  • P107. 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. Then, when we ask what views they might be willing to revise, we're not hypocrites.

  • P115. This is a fifth move that expert negotiators made more often than average negotiators. They were more likely to comment on their feelings about the process and test their understanding of the other side's feelings. I'm disappointed in the way this discussion has unfolded—are you frustrated with it? I was hoping you'd see this proposal as fair—Do I understand correctly that you don't see any merit in this approach at all? Honestly, I'm a little confused by your reaction to my data—if you don't value the kind of work I do, why did you hire me? In a heated argument, you can always stop and ask, "What evidence would change your mind?" If the answer is "nothing" then there's no point in continuing the debate. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it think.

  • P132. In ancient Greece, Plutach wrote of a wooden ship that Theseus sailed from Crete to Athens. To preserve the ship, as its old planks decayed, Athenians would replace them with new wood. Eventually all the planks had been replaced. It looked like the same ship, bit none of its parts was the same. Was it still the same ship? Later, philosophers added a wrinkle: if you collected all the original planks and fashioned them into a ship, would that be the same ship?

  • P151. 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.

  • P165. A dose of complexity can disrupt overconfidence cycles and spur rethinking cycles. It gives us more humility about our knowledge and more doubts about our opinions, and it can make us curious enough to discover information we were lacking. In Peter's experiment, all it took was framing gun control not as an issue with only two extreme positions but rather as one involving many interrelated dilemmas. As journalist Amanda Ripley describes it, the gun control article "read less like a lawyer's opening statement and more like an anthropologist's field notes."

  • P177. In the area of health, idea cults defend detox diets and cleanses long after they've been exposed as snake oil. In education, there are idea cults around learning styles—the notion that instruction should be tailored to each student's preference for learning through auditory, visual, or kinesthetic modes. Some teachers are determined to tailor their instruction accordingly despite decades of evidence that although students might enjoy listening, reading, or doing, they don't actually learn better that way. In psychology, I've inadvertently offended members of idea cults when I've shared evidence that meditation isn't the only way to prevent stress or promote mindfulness; that when it comes to reliability and validity. The Myers-Briggs personality tool falls somewhere between a horoscope and a heart monitor: and that being more authentic can sometimes makes us less successful. If you find yourself saying—is always good or—is never bad, you may be a member of an idea cult. Appreciating complexity reminds us that no behavior is always effective and that all cures have unintended consequences.

  • P186. But Erin had assigned that particular reading intentionally. She collects old history books because she enjoys seeing how the stories we tell change over time, an she decided to give her students part of a textbook from 1940. Some of them just accepted the information it presented at face value. Through years of education, they had come to take it for granted that textbooks told the truth. Others were shocked by errors and omissions. It was ingrained in their minds that their readings were filled with incontrovertible facts. The lesson led them to start thinking like scientists and questioning what they were learning: whose story was included, whose was excluded, and what ere they missing if only one or two perspectives were shared?

  • P190. At our family dinner table, we sometimes hold myth-busting discussions. My wife and I have shared how we learned in school that Pluto was a planet (not true anymore) and Columbus discovered America (never true). Our kids have taught us that King Tut probably didn't die in a chariot accident and gleefully explained that when sloths do their version of a fart, the gas comes not from their behinds but from their mouths. Rethinking needs to become a regular habit. Unfortunately, traditional methods of education don't always allow students to form that habit.

  • P193. In North America universities, more than half of STEM professors spend at least 80 percent of their time lecturing, just over a quarter incorporate bits of interactivity, and fewer than a fifth use truly student-centered methods that involve active learning. In high schools it seems that half of teachers lecture most or all of the time. Lectures are not always the best method of learning, and they are not enough to develop students into lifelong learners. If you spend all of your school years being fed information and are never given the opportunity to question it, you wont develop the tools for rethinking that you need in life.

  • P195. Building an influential career demands new ways of thinking. In a classic study of highly accomplished architects, the most creative ones graduated with a B average. Their straight A counterparts were so determined to be right that they often failed to take the risk of rethinking the orthodoxy. A similar pattern emerged in a study of students who graduated at the top of their class. "Valedictorians aren't likely to be the future visionaries," education researcher Karen Arnold explains. "They typically settle into the system instead of shaking it up." That's what I saw with my straight A students: they were terrified of being wrong.

  • P199. Ron wasn't content to deliver sessions that erased confusion. He wanted students to embrace confusion. His version was for them to become leaders of their own learning, much like they would in "do it yourself" (DYI) craft projects. He started encouraging students to think like young scientist: they would identify problems, develop hypotheses, and desing their own experiments to test them.

  • P209. Over the past few years, psychological safety has become a buzzword in many workplaces. Although leaders might understand its significance, they often misunderstand exactly what it is and how to create it. Edmondson is quick to point out that psychological safety is not a matter of relaxing standards, making people comfortable, being nice and agreeable, or giving unconditional praise. It's fostering a climate of respect, trust, and openness in which people can raise concerns and suggestions without fear of reprisal. It's the foundation of a learning culture.

  • P218. One of the most effective steps toward process accountability that I've seen is at Amazon, where important decisions aren't made based on a simple PowerPoint presentations. They're informed by a six-page memo that lays out a problem, the different approaches that have been considered in the past, and how the proposed solutions serve the customer. At the start of the meeting, to avoid groupthink, everyone reads the memo silently. This isn't practical in every situation, but it's paramount when choices are both consequential and irreversible. Long before the results of the decision are known, the quality of the process can be evaluated based on the rigor and creativity of the author's thinking in the memo and in the thoroughness of the discussions that ensues in the meeting. In learning cultures, people don't stop keeping score. They expand the scorecard to consider processes as well as outcomes. Even if the outcome of a decision is positive, it doesn't necessarily qualify as a success. If the process was shallow, you were lucky. If the decision process was deep, you can count it as an improvement: you've discovered a better practice. If the outcome is negative, it's a failure only if the decision process was shallow. If the results was negative but you evaluated the decision thoroughly, you've run a smart experiment.

  • P239. When we pursue happiness, we often start by changing our surroundings. We expect to find bliss in a warmer climate or a friendlier dorm, but any joy that those choices bring about is typically temporary. In a series of studies, students who changed their environments by adjusting their living arrangements or course of schedules quickly returned to their baseline levels of happiness. As Ernest Hemingway wrote, "You can't get away from yourself by moving from one place to another." Meanwhile, students who changed their actions by joining a new club, adjusting their study habit, or starting a new project experienced lasting gains in happiness. Our happiness often depends on what we do than were we are. It's our actions—not our surroundings—that bring us meaning and belonging.

  • P253. Actions for Impact:

  • Think like a scientist

  • Define your identity in terms of values, not opinions

  • Seek out information that goes against your views

  • Beware of getting stranded at the summit of Mount Stupid

  • Harness the benefits of doubt

  • Embrace the joy of being wrong

  • Learn something new from each person you meet

  • Build a challenge network, not just a support network

  • Don't shy away from constructive conflict

  • Practice the art of persuasive listening

  • Question how rather than why

  • Ask "What evidence would change your mind?"

  • Ask how people originally formed an opinion

  • Acknowledge common ground

  • Remember that less is often more.

  • Reinforce freedom of choice

  • Have a conversation about the conversation

  • Complexify contentious topics (There is more than two sides to every story)

  • Don't shy away from caveats and contingencies

  • Expand your emotional range

  • Have weekly myth-buster discussion at dinner

  • Invite kids to do multiple drafts and seek feedback from others

  • Stop asking kids what they want to be when they grow up

  • Abandon best practices (Rethink)

  • Establish psychological safety

  • Keep a rethinking scorecard (Re-evaluate)

  • Throw out the ten-year plan

  • Rethink your actions, not just your surroundings

  • Schedule life checkup

  • Make time to think again

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