Book Review: Think Again by Adam Grant

As soon as I finished Think Again by Adam Grant, I texted a friend of mine who I get together with every few months to talk about books.  It’s our version of a book club.  I wanted to know if she had read it so we could discuss it.  It is a very rare thing for me to say that I loved a non-fiction book, but I said that about this one.  It is so well written and interesting.  I also think that it is a book that anyone could say after they finished reading it that they learned something that they could use in their personal and/or professional lives.

On a personal level I was hooked with the prologue of this book.  Grant tells the story of the Mann Gulch fire of 1949 in which only 3 of the 14 smokejumpers who set out to fight the fire survived.  My dad was a smokejumper, and I grew up listening to my father tell the story of the Mann Gulch fire and how the innovative thinking of one of the survivors revolutionized the way fire fighters fought wildfires. Unfortunately, it was such new thinking at the time, that 11 of the men refused to listen to him and died in that fire.  

The subtitle of this book is “The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know”.  The main premise of the book is that to continue to learn and be good communicators, we need to constantly be rethinking our opinions and we need to be willing to change our opinions when necessary.  

The book is divided into three sections.  The first section is about Individual Rethinking.  The first thing that Grant talks about is people tend to view things as a preacher, a politician, or a prosecutor.  When what we should be doing is viewing our opinions like a scientist.  We need to test our hypothesis with data and make changes as necessary.  Grant points out that it is easier to do this when we define our identities in terms of values and not opinions.  If you value curiosity and learning, it is easier to change your opinions when presented with new facts.  In this section Grant also talks about embracing the joy of being wrong.  Too often we don’t seek out new information because we don’t want to find out that we are wrong.  It is better to laugh at our mistakes and learn from them.  Grant ends this section by reminding us that we can learn something from everyone we meet, and disagreements don’t have to turn into arguments.  

The second section of the book focuses on Interpersonal Rethinking.  He discusses the art of winning debates by using persuasive listening and questioning “how” instead of “why”.  One key thing that he describes in this section is how stereotypes influence our opinions and ways we can learn to rethink them.  What I found the most helpful in this section is the idea that you can accomplish more with listening than with talking.  If you are a sports fan his section on trying to understand why Red Sox fans hate Yankees fans is quite entertaining.

The third section of the book is on Collective Rethinking.  This section discusses education and how rethinking tools can be used in the workplace.  He ends with a section on how practical ways to rethink your future.  

I found Grant to be a good storyteller.  The stories that he includes in the book make it more relatable and he writes in a way that makes the information easy to grasp.  Although he doesn’t talk about the fixed or growth mindset, in the book, I found myself making the comparison to what Grant is saying in this book to that of someone who has a growth mindset.  Someone who is willing to try new things, make mistakes and learn from those mistakes.  The bonus of this book is how he describes interacting with other people who may have different opinions and how you can often find common ground to agree on in every situation.  He does end the book with an overview section that sums up the highlights of the book.  Often when I get to that section of a non-fiction book, I find myself thinking “well I could have just read this and not bothered with the book”.  I did not say that with this book.  

Overall, I found this book very enjoyable and practical.  I feel like people have forgotten how to have conversations with people they might not agree with, and this book helps the reader see the importance of those conversations. It also has great ideas on how to rethink your business practices or life choices.  Because I read a lot of non-fiction books of this type, I get a lot of “books or authors you might like” suggestions that pop up on my Amazon and Goodreads accounts.  Grant is one of those authors and has been on my “need to read” list for quite some time.  When I was trying to choose one of his 4 books to read, I went with this one because it was his most recent book. I think it would be safe to say that I will be reading more of his books in the future.

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