Think Again

by Adam Grant


2021 Nov 12


Intelligence is usually seen as the ability to think and learn, but in a rapidly changing world, there’s another set of cognitive skills that might matter more: the ability to rethink and unlearn. In our daily lives, too many of us favor the comfort of conviction over the discomfort of doubt. We listen to opinions that make us feel good, instead of ideas that make us think hard. We see disagreement as a threat to our egos, rather than an opportunity to learn. We surround ourselves with people who agree with our conclusions, when we should be gravitating toward those who challenge our thought process. The result is that our beliefs get brittle long before our bones. We think too much like preachers defending our sacred beliefs, prosecutors proving the other side wrong, and politicians campaigning for approval - and too little like scientists searching for truth. 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.

Organizational psychologist Adam Grant is an expert on opening other people’s minds - and our own. As Wharton’s top-rated professor and the bestselling author of Originals and Give and Take, he makes it one of his guiding principles to argue like he’s right but listen like he’s wrong. With bold ideas and rigorous evidence, he investigates how we can embrace the joy of being wrong, bring nuance to charged conversations, and build schools, workplaces, and communities of lifelong learners. You’ll learn how an international debate champion wins arguments, a Black musician persuades white supremacists to abandon hate, a vaccine whisperer convinces concerned parents to immunize their children, and Adam has coaxed Yankees fans to root for the Red Sox. Think Again reveals that we don’t have to believe everything we think or internalize everything we feel. It’s an invitation to let go of views that are no longer serving us well and prize mental flexibility over foolish consistency. If knowledge is power, knowing what we don’t know is wisdom.

Notes & Highlights

Chapter 3: The Joy of Being Wrong

What forecasters do in tournaments is good practice in life. When you form an opinion, ask yourself what would have to happen to prove it false. Then keep track of your views so you can see when you were right, when you were wrong, and how your thinking has evolved. “I started out just wanting to prove myself,” Jean-Pierre says. “Now I want to improve myself—to see how good I can get.”

Psychologists find that admitting we were wrong doesn’t make us look less competent. It’s a display of honesty and a willingness to learn. Although scientists believe it will damage their reputation to admit that their studies failed to replicate, the reverse is true: they’re judged more favorably if they acknowledge the new data rather than deny them. After all, it doesn’t matter “whose fault it is that something is broken if it’s your responsibility to fix it,” actor Will Smith has said. “Taking responsibility is taking your power back.”

Chapter 5: Dances with Foes

Taken together, these techniques increase the odds that during a disagreement, other people will abandon an overconfidence cycle and engage in a rethinking cycle. When we point out that there are areas where we agree and acknowledge that they have some valid points, we model confident humility and encourage them to follow suit. When we support our argument with a small number of cohesive, compelling reasons, we encourage them to start doubting their own opinion. And when we ask genuine questions, we leave them intrigued to learn more. We don’t have to convince them that we’re right—we just need to open their minds to the possibility that they might be wrong. Their natural curiosity might do the rest.

Chapter 10: That’s Not the Way We’ve Always Done It

How do you know? It’s a question we need to ask more often, both of ourselves and of others. The power lies in its frankness. It’s nonjudgmental—a straightforward expression of doubt and curiosity that doesn’t put people on the defensive.

Chapter 11: Escaping Tunnel Vision

My advice to students is to take a cue from health-care professions. Just as they make appointments with the doctor and the dentist even when nothing is wrong, they should schedule checkups on their careers. I encourage them to put a reminder in their calendars to ask some key questions twice a year. When did you form the aspirations you’re currently pursuing, and how have you changed since then? Have you reached a learning plateau in your role or your workplace, and is it time to consider a pivot? Answering these career checkup questions is a way to periodically activate rethinking cycles.

Careers, relationships, and communities are examples of what scientists call open systems—they’re constantly in flux because they’re not closed off from the environments around them. We know that open systems are governed by at least two key principles: there are always multiple paths to the same end (equifinality), and the same starting point can be a path to many different ends (multifinality). We should be careful to avoid getting too attached to a particular route or even a particular destination. There isn’t one definition of success or one track to happiness


When reading fiction, my favorite part has always been the conclusion. As long as I can remember, whether I was devouring sci-fi like Ender’s Game or mystery like The Westing Game, the twist at the end wasn’t just the highlight of the story. It transformed the story, making me rethink everything I’d read before.

About the Author

How well we take criticism can depend as much on our relationship with the messenger as it does on the message. In one experiment, people were at least 40 percent more receptive to criticism after they were told “I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them.” It’s surprisingly easy to hear a hard truth when it comes from someone who believes in your potential and cares about your success.

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Think Again by Adam Grant