Adam Grant (Should) Think Again: How & Why to Rethink

This is the first of four blog posts.

Intelligence may be overrated. The ability to rethink and unlearn may be more important than cognitive skills. These notions, if true, have staggering implications for leaders and their businesses.

Organizational psychologist Adam Grant’s most recent book is Think Again[:] The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know (New York, NY: Penguin Random House, 2021). Despite straw man arguments, generalizations and disconnected concepts tied together under a broad rubric, the book has enough gems to make it a worthwhile read. 

He does surprising things like take potshots at Daniel Goleman and Jordan Peterson as psychologists who apparently are not that good. It makes him look like a wannabe, gazing longingly at the victors on the podium. In other cases, he has notable omissions such as not referencing the work of Angela Duckworth on grit and passion.

Grant opines that Intelligence may not be as important as people think: ”…in a turbulent world, there’s another set of cognitive skills that might matter more: the ability to rethink and unlearn.” [2] “Think Again” is like “re-think,” which many people do—but they can be encouraged to do more.

Grant gives examples of fire fighting and being in space when rethinking would have been helpful—and, indeed, saved lives. He cites examples where established protocol and procedures, along with a structured environment, did not facilitate valuable rethinking. A challenge to institutional systems is not always welcomed.

Grant provides tips to guard against tunnel vision and rigidity. There is a very interesting section on helping people to rethink related to resistance to vaccinations in Quebec. More people accepted vaccinations when their concerns and fears were addressed and when the benefits of the process were fully explained. 

The book has some interesting comments on innovation and entrepreneurship and learning culture (covered in a subsequent post). There is a section on career planning and the value of thinking again in that context.

What is the core thrust of Think Again? “This book is about the value of rethinking. It’s about adopting the kind of mental flexibility that saved Wagner Dodge’s life [a firefighter who survived while a number of his colleagues did not]. It’s also about succeeding where he failed: encouraging that same agility in others.” [8]

Grant states that “My aim in this book is to explore how rethinking happens.” [10] He doesn’t cover rethinking with a specific application, but rather a buckshot in all directions from life planning to firefighting to outer space.

Of course, his admonition is to think again—but what if we already are? Then it is thinking again about your thinking again. His sequel is on decisiveness.