Author: Adam Grant
Review by: Soumaya Khalifa, president, Khalifa Consulting and founder of the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta
We’ve all heard it over and over: “We are living in unprecedented times.” Between COVID, massive changes in how we work and political and social rifts, the world doesn’t look all that familiar anymore. We have to admit that there is a lot we don’t know.
One of the unexpected gifts of social distancing is more time to read. Published this year, Adam Grant’s “Think Again” is chock-full of useful principles, guidelines and tools to help us navigate a rapidly changing world where the old way of doing things does not work. It was exactly the book I needed.
According to Grant, we have to be able to unlearn and rethink. But in our daily lives, we favor the comfort of certainty over the discomfort of not knowing. We tend to live in bubbles, surrounded by either colleagues, family or friends who think like us and share our values. In our social media circles – we find opinions (or they find us) that make us feel good and reinforce our own belief systems. We intentionally stay away from ideas and opinions that differ from our own or might challenge our world-view. Too often, we see a disagreement as a threat, rather than an opportunity to listen and learn.
The public debate on COVID vaccinations is a prime example. We approach the topic like a high school debate team or the legal system’s adversarial model. Winner takes all. It is very hard for us to accept that the truth may lie somewhere between winner and loser. As Grant writes, “Intelligence is no cure, and it can even be a curse: being good at thinking can make us worse at rethinking. The brighter we are, the blinder to our own limitations we can become.” Grant asks us to commit to scientific methods that support questioning, listening and testing hypotheses (some of which may fail). What if we look at it from another angle?
Grant encourages us to recognize our blinders and to try and see beyond them. It is one of his guiding principles to argue like he’s right but listen like he’s wrong. In his easy to read, conversational style, Grant uses his abilities as an organizational psychologist to help us open ourselves to new ideas and investigate “how we can embrace the joy of being wrong.”
After reading “Think Again,” I am more committed to changing my frame of mind, realizing that there is always nuance, adopting some of the scientific methods and really listening. As Grant writes, “If knowledge is power, knowing what we don’t know is wisdom.”
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Each year, Global Atlanta asks influential readers and community leaders to review the most impactful book they read during the course of the year. This endeavor has continued annually since 2010.
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