Adam Grant (organisational psychologist at Wharton University – https://www.adamgrant.net/) has recently publish a book which I consider an important resource for anyone interested in understanding how we develop and maintain our beliefs, thoughts and identities. As the title suggests, the aim of the book is to help us to reconsider, rethink, re-evaluate and reimagine these things, and get to the core of why we believe what we do, why it is so important to us, and why we hold on to them, often so passionately.
The ideas expressed throughout the book are learnable skills and can be implemented anywhere, not least when we are trying to improve the quality and safety of the services we provide. It teaches us to stop digging our heels in, and to consider other people’s points of view so that we may grow our own. In the book, Grant builds on the work of Prof Philip Tetlock (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12088240/) and supplements the three elements contained in his ‘Social functionalist frameworks for judgment and choice’ by adding the ‘scientist’. A simple explanation is set out below:
- Preacher: We’re convinced we’re right. This is the style we use when we’re trying to persuade others to our way of thinking.
- Prosecutor: We’re trying to prove someone else wrong.
- Politician: We’re trying to win the approval of our audience.
- Scientist: We favour humility over pride and curiosity over conviction – we look for reasons why we might be wrong, not just reasons why we must be right.
How often do we find ourselves thinking like preachers, prosecutors, and politicians? Grant suggests as an alternative, that we should “treat our strategy as a hypothesis and our product as an experiment”. This way of thinking values humility over pride, questioning over conviction and openness, and curiosity over closure. Instead of starting with the answers, lead with questions, and see where the inquiry leads. Inevitably, some of the key concepts being explored in the book, e.g., humility and curiosity, lead me to think of Carol Dweck’s work on ‘open and closed minds’, cf. https://www.ted.com/speakers/carol_dweck), and that’s never a bad thing.
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