Book Review: Think Again

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There are two powerful reasons to read this book. One: You’ll learn a lot. Two: This book will be mentioned in articles and discussions. It will make the short list of books every manager should read.

I bought Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant because I’ve learned a lot from his books, blogs, and articles. I expected the same level of lucid writing and penetrating insight that I got from Originals and Give and Take. For me, this was the best book yet.

Think Again is the best book Grant has written for business leaders. That VUCA world we keep hearing about requires flexibility and unlearning. Most of the books I’ve seen on the kind of learning you need for today’s world focus on corporate cultures, on creating “learning institutions.” Think Again is different. It’s about the learning culture between your ears. Here’s how Grant states the purpose of the book.

“This book is an invitation to let go of knowledge and opinions that are no longer serving you well, and to anchor your sense of self in flexibility rather than consistency. If you can master the art of rethinking, I believe you’ll be better positioned for success at work and happiness in life. Thinking again can help you generate new solutions to old problems and revisit old solutions to new problems. It’s a path to learning more from the people around you and living with fewer regrets. A hallmark of wisdom is knowing when it’s time to abandon some of your most treasured tools—and some of the most cherished parts of your identity.”

The first section of the book is about opening your mind. It’s about what “thinking again” really means. The second part of the book looks at ways to encourage others to think again or to think along with you. The third section is about creating communities of lifelong learners.

A key to getting the most from this book is the different mindsets that Philip Tetlock discovered. Here’s Grant’s brief description from Think Again.

“Two decades ago my colleague Phil Tetlock discovered something peculiar. As we think and talk, we often slip into the mindsets of three different professions: preachers, prosecutors, and politicians. In each of these modes, we take on a particular identity and use a distinct set of tools. We go into preacher mode when our sacred beliefs are in jeopardy: we deliver sermons to protect and promote our ideals. We enter prosecutor mode when we recognize flaws in other people’s reasoning: we marshal arguments to prove them wrong and win our case. We shift into politician mode when we’re seeking to win over an audience: we campaign and lobby for the approval of our constituents. The risk is that we become so wrapped up in preaching that we’re right, prosecuting others who are wrong, and politicking for support that we don’t bother to rethink our own views.”

Grant uses Tetlock’s terms for the different mindsets. I found digging around on the web and in the scholarly literature for more on the mindsets helped me squeeze even more value from this book.

This is not a book where you can skip around and get much value. The description of thinking in the first section sets up later lessons and insights. The second section builds on the first and applies the lessons to debate and persuasion. The third section builds on the first two. It extends the basic mindset idea to groups.

Suggestion. As a warmup for Think Again, take a minute to read a Farnam Street blog post: “Jeff Bezos on Why People that Are Often Right Change Their Minds Often.”

In A Nutshell

Think Again is an excellent book that will give you techniques you can use to think more effectively at work and everywhere else. You’ll get more from the book if you do a little bit of homework. Learn about Tetlock’s mindsets and the general idea of changing your mind as a way of thinking.

My Reviews of Adam Grant’s Earlier Books

My review of Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World

My review of Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success

You can check out some of my highlights and notes from this book on GoodReads.


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