Think Again – Adam Grant.

How many times have you been convinced you know what to do, then things don’t work out how you expected?
Apparently, the smarter we are, the more we struggle to update our beliefs.
Time to read “Think Again” by Adam Grant.

Think Again Cat

Why read Adam Grant?  4x NYT best-selling author, one of the world’s most-cited researchers in business, Wharton’s top-rated Professor. And his Work/Life TED podcast is one of only 3 I’ll find time to listen to.

When you should read this book: when you’re feeling maybe too confident or when you’re not feeling confident at all.

What you’ll get out of it: Awareness of how certain we can be when we shouldn’t, what to do about it and how to put yourself in the sweet spot between overconfidence and imposter syndrome.


Think Again by Adam Grant  – A Short Synopsis

We are smart enough to realise there are huge amounts we don’t know. However, with our natural human biases, we are convinced that we do know some things we don’t.

We need to learn how not to default to prejudices, insufficient information or the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion and learn how to Rethink..

This ability to Think Again can be life-saving, it can be career saving. It comes down to questioning your biases and helping other people to question their’s.


The 3 mindsets we default to and the ‘Think Again’ mindset we’d do well to adopt instead:

Preacher: we’ll give sermons to defend our ideas when we feel our beliefs or values are at stake.

Prosecutor: we bomb other people with facts and arguments when we can see a flaw in their thinking.

Politician: we can focus on agreeableness and approval when we want to win people over.

…and Scientst: we accept we don’t know much we form hypotheses, test them and constantly rethink our understanding of the world and others.

Personally, as someone who was trained as a scientist, I was shocked when I heard him cite one flimsy study as proof of the value of being a scientist!

TAKE OUT: Listen for when I’m slipping into Preacher mode (especially about the untapped power of a simple change in brand tone of voice). It won’t persuade anyone.
ow can you use conversation to understand another person’s point of view better?  (See Motivational Listening below).



Death to the H.I.P.P.O. (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion)

We think that because we’re experienced, we’re experts.
We’re often better at the start when we know that we don’t know:

“Competence and confidence don’t progress at the same rate”

Something we’ll all be able to mention apparently with great insight is the Dunning-Kruger effect: we’re most likely to be overconfident about our abilities in the domains where we lack knowledge.

What maintains us in the curse of knowledge?
The totalitarian ego = I must stay right.
The most successful U.S. Presidents were those who read widely and were eager to learn about developments in a wide range of subjects.
How do other successful people overcome that?

  • separating our past self from our present self
  • having ‘no unconditional love’ for our ideas:
  • invest in what you value, not what you believe…

TAKE OUT: Have no ‘unconditional love’ for our own ideas…
QUESTION 1: can you look back on yourself a year ago and say, Wow! I was soooo stupid!!


Task Conflict produces results, Relationship Conflict doesn’t.

I feel I’ve known this for a while…but what was interesting here was the idea of a ‘Challenge Network’ – sometimes we lean on our partners to do this, sometimes though we could have more formalised arrangements, (Blue Team, Red Team).

Adam Grant talked about the team of ‘pirates’ that made The Incredibles at Pixel…this was interesting, especially as I reflected on my own career: I was fired at my first agency, but highly celebrated for exactly the same actions at the agency I moved to (which was far more successful)…

QUESTION: How do you build the culture where you as the boss feel ok to be challenged? How do you train people to stay in the task conflict, not the personal conflict…which advertising had a lot of!!!



thinking inside the box

Good negotiation is a dance, where you give up a lot of space

This I found more practical. He looks at how

-1/3 of the more successful negotiator’s time is spent working through a series of give and takes, rather than ‘how I’ll destroy his objections with facts’

– they open by acknowledging common ground – the STEEL MAN tactic

– they confine their persuasion to fewer (stronger)arguments…I should stop there!

– in the ‘dance’, they express sincere curiosity in the other’s opinion, asking questions

– when they get push back, they maintain that interest, even saying “So, you don’t see any merit in this proposal at all?”

– they importantly admit that nothing is black and white, and they acknowledge this is complex, with shades of grey.

TAKE OUT: When I’m negotiating…which is hourly really (suppliers, clients, children, partner), then I should ask more questions…and develop sincere curiosity.
QUESTION: Does his ‘fewer arguments’ idea work for our email campaigns?


The power of Motivational Interviewing rather than persuading
G*d give me the skills and patience to do this….!

The section in the book which talked about the anti-vax mother was sensationally interesting. Here for me was the highest form of langauge: being able to change another’s mind, and it’s why I got into advertising in the first place.!

The key techniques are (thinking like a bespoke, personal guide to a destination, not a Tour Bus driver):

  • Ask open ended questions
  • Engage in reflective listening
  • Do not try to knock down their values,
  • Spot the ‘change talk’ and affirm the person’s desire to change
  • Always, always, always, be prepared to leave the decision to them…because you have to!

TAKE OUT: We can all engage in this every day.
QUESTION: Should we do it in a hierarchical organisation…doesn’t it take all day? When we’re tired, hungry, stretched, distracted, behind schedule, worried, basically, not fucking Buddha, then how do we do this?

Chris West

My Personal Take Out from Think Again by Adam Grant

As always, there were other interesting chapters, such as Group Polarization and how our views become more polarized when we spend time with people who share our views. Also, how education could be so much better, the danger or crystallising our view of our self and our future too early, and perhaps most of all, how do you encourage people to speak up when they disagree with where things are going? The thing that will stick with me…

One thing I’ll remember in 1 year about Think Again by Adam Grant: KEEP ASKING GENUINE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE OTHER PERSON’S POSITION.

Final questions as always:

What would you take from Think Again by Adam Grant and what would you use?
And did you enjoy the book?

Questions? Want to talk about the book? Or about whether you could experiment better with your brand language?
Drop me a line and let’s see if we can find 20 minutes to talk.

Chris West tone of voice guru


About Verbal Identity

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