Curated Resource ( ? )

Thinking becoming about thinking to harness the power of knowing what you don’t know (YANSS)

Thinking becoming about thinking to harness the power of knowing what you don’t know (YANSS)

my notes ( ? )

A YANSS interview with Adam Grant, author of Think Again: The Power of Knowing What you Don’t Know. Generally an "extensive exploration of how to rethink your own thinking", including his WorkLife podcast interview of Margaret Atwood on procrastination.

(When annotating a podcast I really like a transcript, but there was none for this episode so I uploaded it to two speech-to-text engines as part of a larger experiment. Blog to follow soon.)


Most people think "procrastination is laziness ... struggling with time management [or] motivation ... it's actually ... an emotion regulation problem". The task in front of you triggers unpleasant emotions - boredom, fear, confusion, frustration - so you put it off rather than confront them.

Step 1: figure out what they are. Margaret Atwood procrastinated the Handmaid's Tale for 3 years because of fear that it was "batty". Her solutions include:

  • "the wastepaper basket is your friend... so go ahead and say something it may be the wrong thing but you can throw that out and no one will ever read your dumb thing... just keep making things until you zero in on the thing that's not dumb "
  • she has Peggy, an alter-ego, who does all the boring things. They live quite separate lives: "when Peggy's doing the laundry Margaret is thinking about ... what to write ... deciding when to write is sometimes a tug of war".

"Think like a scientist"

Group identity & polarisation

In a (unethical) study, students prepared for a debate only to be destroyed by an opposition spectacularly better informed and prepared. And then they had to watch a film of them squirming and flailing. Many "said it was devastating ... one of the participants ... became the Unabomber".

"But some ... enjoyed the challenge of dismantling their worldviews and try to figure out which of their values were valid and which [weren't] ... I thought what can we learn from those people and how could we build a culture where that is the norm"?

We can all be open or closed. It depends if our "strongly held or weakly held beliefs are being challenged... anger [is] a signal that something that matters deeply to you as is under threat". Blood flows in the brain are different: if you're core beliefs are under attack, the blood flow looks like someone being attached by a bear.

So why react like that when discussing policy issues? "it's not like we're talking about my face... these things are outside of me but they've somehow been grafted onto my identity... embedded within me". How?

Group identity:

  • In our culture, "bringing your ideas into your identity is part of how you gain status and standing...
  • people think that our identities drive our behaviors - very often it's the reverse". Example: you don't want to join a political a party but you want to vote in the primary so you join. But you send a signal not just to the world, "but also yourself.... I am one of these people... you look back and say .... I must be a member of the group that I registered for".
  • Now you're a group member, but the people most respected "best exemplify the group's core values and identity [so] ... I have to be more extreme" - result: polarisation
  • Then you're told to go see people on the Other Side, but "if there's only two sides what am I going to find palatable?... [polarisation] is reinforced".

Anchor your identity on values, not beliefs

"I don't think that our beliefs should actually become part of our identities, I think your identity should be anchored on values. Who you are is not what you believe is true, it's what you believe is important"

One really good belief about yourself to have is: "you are a person who values The Pursuit Of Truth ... a lifelong learner ... a curious human being ... that allows you to keep growing and evolving [instead of] trapping myself in a cognitive prison of my own making".

Preacher, prosecutor or politician? Think again

Phil Tetlock: People tend to adopt one of three mental models, depending on the circumstance:

  • preacher: proselytise your own views
  • prosecutor: attack other people's views - aka "I will correct you"
  • politician: you only listen to people who agree with you

Most online comments fall into one of these modes and it rarely ends well - the commenter has already decided they're right, and you're wrong.

[[idea]] a "3P" labelling system linking back to an explanation?

A fourth mode is better: think like a scientist:

  • "You have the humility to know what you don't know...
  • Curiosity to seek out new knowledge...
  • You're motivated to look for reasons why you might be wrong...
  • you have to listen to ideas that make you think hard, not just the ones that make you feel good...
  • surround yourself with people who challenge your thought process.

That's how you get closer to the truth."

When someone attacks you: "you seem to be very invested in preaching your view and prosecuting mine. What evidence would change your mind?... Now I can ... at least try to persuade on his terms".

Relationship vs. Task Conflict

  • relationship conflict: "personal, emotional, I don't like you, and I wish I never had to talk to you again"
  • task conflict: "intellectual debate... disagree on ideas visions strategies decisions"

"Great minds do not think alike. They challenge each other to think differently... [without] task conflict in a relationship ... you can't learn from each other."

Raises the question: "how do we create institutions where that's more likely?... make the internet more like that?"

Charla Neff, Berkeley: "if a group has a majority opinion... unearth a devil's advocate... who genuinely disagrees ... surface their opinion:... [it's] good for the group's ultimate decision making accuracy and creativity... divergent opinions stimulate... more thorough processing... widen our field of vision".

To avoid the debate having "a winner and a loser... [make] it to look more like a dance".

Individually, on social media

"Don't follow people because you agree [but] because you respect the intellectual integrity they bring to their questions... you don't learn by affirming your beliefs". Follow people who are "rigorous in their analyses... look for the best evidence... challenge their own thinking". ie avoid groupthink-driven echo chambers.

"increase your ratio of questions to statements... toggle back and forth between... asserting an opinion and [asking] Do you see any gaps in my logic?... what should I rethink?... communicates openness ... brings openness out in other people."

Rethink and unlearn

While the ability to think and learn has always been important, "the ability to rethink and unlearn" might be more important: a metacognitive skill of overriding the "knee jerk reaction to stress ... and uncertainty... the reaction to default to what we already know well".

In a rapdly changing world "your best practices were created for an environment that just does not exist anymore... BlackBerry, Blockbuster Kodak... [were not] victims of digital disruption ...[they were] decent at thinking, but too slow when it came to rethinking".

Moreover. research shows that "the smarter you are:

  • harder to recognise your own limitations...
  • better at rationalising... whatever it is you already think...
  • more likely to believe [you're] unbiased... if you can't see your own biases, you can't correct for them".

Why? One possible reason: the more time you spend in education, the more time you've been "affirmed ... for being ... right.... you probably haven't built the muscle around recognising that you're wrong".

Avoid Mount Stupid

"my favourite drawing of the Dunning Kruger effect... when you go from beginner to novice... your confidence climbs faster than your competence... tranded on the summit of Mount stupid... you don't try to improve your skills, because you already think you've climbed the mountain of expertise.

The benefits of imposter syndrome

Truly debilitating imposter syndrome is rare. But "everyday imposter thoughts... 'I wonder if other people are overestimating me. Maybe I'm not qualified?'... are actually beneficial.... you work longer... listen more carefully and treat other people more respectfully".

Moreover, there's a contradiction in imposter syndrome: "if you're not competent, then you can't judge your own competence... if multiple people believe in you, they're more objective than you are... [so] believe in yourself."

Confident humility

Where nurses have "to rotate who gets to be in charge ... the nurses ... most hesitant about assuming that role, tend to be the most effective leaders." A little reluctance means you avoid being overconfident or complacent - cf Plato and Douglas Adams: "the only leader I would want is the one who's not sure they want the job."

Wider context

Ten years ago, as more people learnt about cognitive biases, the prevailing idea was that humans are irredeemably irrational, stupid, etc. This new book is part of "another wave ... more nuanced, more nourishing... more human ... more heart to it".

Read the Full Post

The above notes were curated from the full post

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See also: Communication Strategy , Content Strategy , Social Media Strategy , Surveillance Capitalism, Social media and Polarisation (Overview) , Communications Tactics , Psychology , Social Web , Media , Politics , Communications Strategy , Science&Technology

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