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Summary of Think Again 

Short summary

Adam Grant is a psychology professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. In “Think Again,” he invites us to anchor our sense of self in flexibility rather than consistency to position ourselves for success at work and happiness in life. Grant walks readers through the process of how rethinking happens so that we can begin to open our minds. He teaches how we can encourage others to rethink what they know and create lifelong learners’ communities. Most of us think based on assumptions, habits, and instincts that have formed our sense of self. Questioning these beliefs is difficult for many people because it feels like we are shedding a part of our identities. The development path requires that we amend our mental constitutions to allow open-mindedness. “Thinking again can help you generate new solutions to old problems and revisit old solutions to new problems. A hallmark of wisdom is knowing when it's time to abandon some of your most treasured tools — and some of the most cherished parts of your identity.” ~ Adam Grant

Key points


Intelligence is the ability to think and learn, but a turbulent world demands an ability to rethink and unlearn

The first instinct fallacy is when one gets an answer wrong at the first attempt. Out of 1500 students tested in Illinois, 50% changed their answers from wrong to right while only 25% changed from right to wrong. People who rethink their solutions generally improve their scores.
People’s problem is not about rethinking their answers but hesitation to rethink.
Cognitive Laziness causes the first instinct fallacy. We'd instead stick with an old perspective than grapple with a new one. Our desire for predictability makes us resist rethinking. To prevent our identities from being threatened, we avoid reconsidering things we believe deeply. Such reconsideration makes us feel like we're losing a part of ourselves.

We embrace rethinking when it concerns our possessions. We buy new clothes, renovate our houses, and change our mobile phones. Why can't we apply the same principle to our thought patterns? Psychologists call this tendency “seizing and freezing.” We prefer comments that make us feel good over ideas that force us to think hard. Like a frog in lukewarm water that is gradually heated, we often fail to rethink situations until it is too late. You won't use Windows 95 but will stick to ideas you formed in 1995.

Guess what? The frog story is not valid, but we believe it to be true. A frog dropped in hot water will not leap out of it because it will be badly burned immediately. It is a frog in lukewarm water that has the likelihood of escape when the water begins to become uncomfortable. So, it is not the frog that cannot rethink. We are the ones who often fail to question these stories.
Most acts of rethinking don’t require any special skill or ingenuity. ~ Adam Grant
The value of rethinking cannot be overemphasized. Mental flexibility is vital to success in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We must learn to encourage others to flex their mental muscles. These can be things we know, assumptions we make, or opinions we hold. Together, they form a part of our sense of self.
Assumptions, instincts, and habits are the tools we use to interpret life.
We must include “having an open mind” in the toolkit because it can spell the difference between life and death in our personal and professional lives.

Rethinking is both a skillset and a mindset

In a stable world, staying true to our knowledge and expertise makes sense. But we live in a rapidly changing world where we need to do as much rethinking as we do thinking. As of 2009, BlackBerry accounted for almost 50% of the US smartphone market. 5 years later, it had dropped to less than 1%. Mike Lazaridis, the smart device creator, struggled with rethinking, and that spelled the extinction of his phenomenal invention.
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Rethinking is an increasingly important habit in life


The rethinking cycle starts with intellectual humility


Recognize your cognitive blindspots and revise your thoughts accordingly


Attachment prevents us from rethinking but detachment helps us unlearn, relearn, and discover new things


Task conflicts improve performance while relationship conflicts can be destructive


To get others to rethink their opinions, a collaborative approach works better than an adversarial approach


Thinking again must happen from the inside out



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