The best minds are those that are willing to rethink their assumptions and change their opinions--those who are willing to admit that they might be wrong. That insight comes from Wharton organizational psychologist and bestselling author Adam Grant, whose latest book, Think Again, invites readers to rethink their assumptions about just about everything.
In a series of New Year's Day tweets, Grant presented a fascinating hierarchy of thinking styles that put those who are willing to change their viewpoints and keep learning forever squarely at the top. He followed that up with a list of 21 earlier tweets about things he'd rethought in 2021. Most of them may upend your usual beliefs and practices about how to be a good leader, a persuasive speaker, or even a good friend. And they're all great things to think about as we head into the new year.
You can find the full list here. These are the most useful, and most thought-provoking, for any business leader.
How much do you value experience? When you're hiring someone for a key position, do you look for the person who has lots of experience doing this job before. After all, if someone has a proven track record, you can be sure they'll be able to do whatever it is you need.
Grant would like you to rethink that belief, because if you look at the data, it will tell you that it's wrong. He cited a meta-analysis of 81 studies that compared the previous experience of job candidates with their performance once they got a job. "Overall, the present findings suggest that the types of pre‐hire experience measures organizations currently use to screen job applicants generally are poor predictors of future performance and turnover," the researchers wrote--and they cautioned employers to stop using these criteria to select job candidates "unless more positive evidence emerges."
Instead, Grant advised, hire learners. "It's how well people can learn to do a job, not how long they've already done it."
When do you take time to rest? In unhealthy cultures, Grant wrote, "people see rest as taking your foot off the gas pedal." You go for as long as you can doing as much as you can and when you're too tired to do any more, then you rest.
Instead, Grant suggested, think of rest as the fuel that allows the gas pedal to work. "You take regular breaks to maintain energy and avoid burnout." In other words, even if you don't think you're tired--which most of us are bad at recognizing anyhow--you should take a break now to have more energy later on.
There's a growing audience of Inc.com readers who receive a daily text from me with a self-care or motivational micro-challenge or idea. Often they text me back and we wind up in a conversation. (Interested in joining? You can learn more here.) Many of them have told me how a little bit of rest at the right time can supercharge their energy and productivity.
Why do you write? Most likely, because you have something to say. Whether it's a memo to your team, a blog post, an opinion piece, or even a book, the reason you take the time to write something is so that you can share your ideas, insights, experiences, and learnings with others.
That's an excellent reason to write, but Grant wants you to consider a different one: It's a great way to think through and understand your own thoughts and ideas. "Writing exposes gaps in your knowledge and logic. It pushes you to articulate assumptions and consider counterarguments," he noted. "One of the best paths to sharper thinking is frequent writing."
4. Opening other people's minds
How do you get others to rethink their own assumptions? You know they're wrong, but how do you get them to recognize that they're wrong?
This is where many of us bring on the data--we show the other person the facts and figures we've collected. We share anecdotes and personal experiences that bolster our points. Or we use the force of our arguments to try to persuade them.
Grant wants you to set those tactics aside because they aren't very effective. Instead, in a New York Times essay drawn from his book, Grant described his own efforts to get a vaccine-rejecting friend to change his mind. After doing some research, he decided to try motivational interviewing on his friend. That's an approach in which you ask someone open-ended questions, almost as if you're interviewing them, about their beliefs and opinions. Rather than present his friend with the science, Grant asked his friend for his views on how to deal with the pandemic. In the end, both opened their minds, at least a little. The friend allowed that vaccines might make sense in some circumstances. And Grant changed his own mind about the value of convincing others of his opinions.
"The clearest sign of intellectual chemistry isn't agreeing with someone. It's enjoying your disagreements with them," Grant tweeted.
So rather than spending your time with people who share your views and your vision, satisfying as that can be, can you spend some time with those who disagree with you--but whose minds you still respect? When you find someone who doesn't share your beliefs, but you enjoy discussing your ideas with them and listening to what they have to say, that's someone you should try to keep in your inner circle. They will keep your thinking sharp--and maybe they'll broaden it as well. Maybe they'll even help you do some more rethinking of your own.