Think Again

“I believe that the most meaningful way to succeed is to help others succeed.”  

-Adam Grant

I’ve always been fascinated with how we learn and ways that we can improve our individual and organizational effectiveness in a constantly changing world. In a previous blog, I shared that I pursued multiple interests in college across philosophy, psychology, and economics, and then later marketing and consumer behavior in business school. Over the past 25 years since my MBA, I’ve continued to enjoy life-long learning across a range of disciplines and how to integrate them together. In consulting, I’ve also valued the chance to work in diverse teams and with great clients, continuing to learn together and help clients achieve their goals. 

Insights are most valuable if you are open to change based on the ongoing feedback you generate along your journey. In his earlier works Give and Take and Originals, Grant explored how our mindsets and behaviors can make us better leaders and innovators. In his latest work, he shows how your ability to rethink and unlearn can be powerful tools to identify when change is needed and help engage and persuade others to act together.

In Think Again, Grant argues that reconsideration - the ability to reconsider your views – is more valuable than knowledge or loyalty to your beliefs. He makes a persuasive case that limited openness to reexamine your views limits your potential. Of course, it’s not that building and tapping into others' expertise is bad. Rather, practicing the skill of reconsideration opens doors of self-awareness and learning that generate cumulative gains over time much as the scientific method leads to amazing gains for society over time.

Encouraging behaviors in your culture that encourage reconsideration provides several key benefits. First, it helps improve collaboration and avoids echo chambers. Second, it helps you to become more self-aware of your biases and assumptions, and makes you more open to a strategic pivot (see my reviews for The Lean Startup and The Infinite Game for more on the importance of pivoting). Third, it makes you more open to new ideas and embracing being wrong. Indeed, Grant shows how being humbler and celebrating when you are wrong, whether individually or as a team, is key to building a culture of experimentation.

Grant also lays out several reasons why individuals and organizations fail to embrace and develop their reconsideration muscles. One is self-righteousness, where you rigidly believe that your position is always right. Another is being argumentative, believing that anyone that doesn’t agree with you can’t have the facts. Finally, if you listen to others with the intent of “winning” the argument vs. building a better shared understanding together, you won’t listen very well and will generate less new insights together. Rather than view these as faulty character traits, I think it’s more helpful to look for positive behaviors you’d like to encourage in your culture, which tends to result in getting less of the negative behaviors as you and others adopt the positive behaviors more consistently.

Beyond the linkages to culture evolution and building a learning organization, Think Again also has several important implications for customer and employee listening best practices. Your listening approach needs to be flexible to ensure that you are open to reconsideration. In addition, the types of data signals you gather should evolve from a reliance of more rigid, structured data (i.e., surveys) to more flexible approaches that mine the broadest set of unstructured data signals together. This allows you to listen more closely to the actual conversation, and to evolve your analytical model over time so that your AI and text analytics models evolve as you build your organization’s reconsideration muscle.

To read some of my own articles on related topics, head over to this page on our website.

If you'd like to return to the list of book reviews, click here.

If you’d like to connect directly to discuss this book or sign up to join an online group discussion, please let us know using the "Start A Book Discussion" form below.