Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant

Part III – Collective Rethinking – Creating Communities of Lifelong Learners

8. Charged Conversations: Depolarizing Our Divided Discussions

  • By adding complexity to the discussion of an issue, you will be more likely to find more agreement. Once you get away from binary extremes, people are more likely to think again. Adding complexity increases the probability that you will find some common ground. If you want to be more argument literate, resist the impulse to simplify. When experts express doubt they become more persuasive. This surprises people and they end up paying more attention to the substance of the argument. Unfortunately, complexity doesn’t make for good sound bites. This can lead to the media being more divisive.
  • Scientists are known for pointing out limitations of their work. When news reports include these caveats they succeed in capturing readers’ interest and keeping their minds open. Acknowledging complexity makes speakers more credible. Embracing paradoxes and contradictions can generate more creative ideas and solutions. Embracing complexity reminds us that no behavior is always effective and that all cures have unintended consequences.

9. Rewriting the Textbook: Teaching Students to Question Knowledge

  • Research shows that active learning is more effective than lecturing even if many students would rather take notes during a lecture. Lectures aren’t designed to accommodate dialogue or disagreement. Students are passive receivers rather than active thinkers. Unfortunately, American university professors spend a lot of time lecturing as do many high school teachers. His own teaching features a lot of group work and problem-solving. Since there are no correct answers he finds that the straight-A students tend to struggle more. Old ways of thinking might produce A’s, but new ways of thinking are more valuable in the modern world of work.
  • In his typical three-hour class Adam spends no more than thirty minutes lecturing. He also has students give pitches for what they should do with some of the class time. As the best way to learn is to teach he lets his students teach each other and himself. He has students do a passion talk as a way of introducing themselves. Group work is more likely to include confusion than lectures, which is good as an open mind responds to confusion with curiosity and interest. He wants his students to embrace confusion. We meet an elementary teacher who insists that his students revise their work multiple times. He also has students critique each other’s work in a kind way that offers statements like “have you thought of?” rather than “that’s not good.”

10. THat’s Not the Way We’ve Always Done It: Building Cultures of Learning at Work

  • A culture that features psychological safety allows people to safely admit their errors and question supervisors. It’s hard to change the culture of an entire organization but more feasible to change a team’s culture. The bosses need to share stories about when they benefited from constructive criticism and to identify areas where they are working to improve. By admitting your imperfections out loud you normalize vulnerability. This results in more useful feedback. By admitting you are a “work in progress” you show that you care more about improving yourself more than proving yourself.
  • The term best practice implies that you have reached an endpoint and that things can’t get better. Everyone should be on the lookout for better practices. If psychological safety exists without accountability, people tend to stay in their comfort zone. When there is accountability without safety people stay silent in an anxiety zone. By combining accountability and safety you will have a learning zone. Run experiments when decisions are relatively inconsequential or reversible.
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