Book Review: Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know

Posted by Kristin Arnold on July 6, 2021

I’ve always been fascinated with understanding how people make decisions individually and collectively (including me!  I’m my own little lab petri dish of thoughts!).  So I was intrigued with Adam Grant’s latest book: Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know as less-than-stellar decisions occur because of this “blind spot” – especially in this volatile and uncertain world.

Although Grant is an academic (teaches at Wharton), the book is easy to read – but a little harder to digest.  Written in a conversational tone, the ideas are presented in a clear manner with examples, research, experiments, and stories.  The harder part is to do the work and look in the mirror to see if and when we are on “Mount Stupid.”  (Although he doesn’t really challenge you until hardback page 250 with a summary of ‘Actions for Impact’.)

So what are some of the ideas that resonated with me?

  • The Dunning-Kruger Effect.  It’s when we lack competence that we’re most likely to be brimming with overconfidence.  Unless you’re a complete novice, you’ll overrate your abilities.
  • Mount Stupid is the point where you have just enough information to feel self-assured about making pronouncements and passing judgment (I have been there many times…).
  • Do What Forecasters Do.  When forecasters form an opinion, they ask what would have to happen to prove it false?  They then keep track of their views so they can see when they were right, wrong, and how their thinking has evolved.
  • The Value of a Challenge Network.  “Across a range of networks, when employees received tough feedback from colleagues, their default response was to avoid those coworkers or drop them from their networks altogether – and their performance suffered over the following year.” Counter this tendency by creating a safe space to get feedback.
  • Debate vs Dispute.  “Simply framing a dispute as a debate rather than as a disagreement signals that you’re receptive to considering dissenting opinions and changing your mind, which in turn motivates the other person to share more information with you.
  • Be a Fact-Checker. “(1) Interrogate information instead of simply consuming it. (2) Reject rank and popularity as a proxy for reliability and (3) Understand that the sender of information is often not its source.”
  • How to Question the Expert. To question them in a way that is not embarrassing to them or makes them look like a fool, ask these questions with a sense of curiosity:  “What leads you to that assumption?  Why do you think that is correct?  What might happen if it’s wrong?  What are the uncertainties in your analysis? I understand the advantages of your recommendation.  What are the disadvantages?

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!  So much great information, I am going to go back through the book with Actions for Impact in hand!

 

KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CPF | Master, CSP is a high-stakes meeting facilitator and professional panel moderator.  She’s been facilitating teams of executives and managers in making better decisions and achieving greater results for over 27 years.  She is the author of the award-winning book, Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve and Inspire Audiences to Action.  Her latest book, 123 Ways to Add Pizazz to a Panel Discussion was published in January 2021.

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