Adam Grant: Rethinking Your Position [The Knowledge Project Ep. #112]

Celebrated organizational psychologist and author Adam Grant provides compelling insight into why we should spend time not just thinking, but rethinking. In this episode we cover how to change our own views, how to change the views of others, hiring processes, psychological safety, tribes and group identity, feigned knowledge, binary bias, and so much more.

Grant is a Professor of Psychology at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the author of five books, including his most recent release, the New York Times bestseller Think Again. He also serves as the host of WorkLife, a TED original podcast.

Check out Adam’s last appearance on The Knowledge Project Ep. #22

Here are a few highlights from the conversation:

For me, identity is not about what you believe, it’s about what you value. And so I want to have a set of principles. For me, my highest values are generosity, excellence, integrity, and freedom. I am completely flexible on the best ways to live those values. So you might come tomorrow and tell me, “You know what, the randomized controlled experiments that you do, the longitudinal studies you do, there’s a fatal flaw in them and there’s a better way to be helpful and excellent at your job.” I would be skeptical because I believe in science, but I would be open to hearing the idea.

The rethinking cycle…for me, with intellectual humility, which is about knowing what you don’t know. No matter how much of an expert you are in a given field or a given topic, you have a long list of things that you’re clueless about. And being aware of what your ignorance is leaves you to doubt your convictions. It makes you curious about what you don’t know, and that opens your mind to new discoveries.

In too many organizations, people are counted as successful if they get a good result and as having failed if they get a bad result. And the problem is, it often takes years to find out what the results were. It’s very easy for people to persist with a failing project for a long time and convince themselves and everyone else around them that they’re on the right path.

We got curious about alternative approaches that might have a more lasting effect on psychological safety. And the one way we tried out that worked effectively was, instead of just asking for feedback, we had leaders criticize themselves out loud.

Think about how much time you spend in your life preaching. You’ve already found the truth and your job is to proselytize it. Prosecuting—you find somebody who you think is wrong and your job is to prove it and win your case or come out ahead in the argument. And politicking, where you think, “Okay, I’ve got a base of people who I’m trying to curry favor with, and so I’ve got to campaign for their approval and support.”

Just because somebody is sure of an opinion does not mean they know what they’re talking about. And in fact, anybody who’s familiar with the Dunning-Kruger effect will know that the more sure people of their opinions, the more hesitant we should be to listen to them. But there’s something very intoxicating about following someone who believes they’ve already found the way. I think it gives us a sense of coherence, it can give us a sense of purpose, it’s easy to put our trust in people who have a clear vision

And so much more. It’s time to listen and learn.


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