Summary and Impressions on “Think Again book by Adam Grant “

“The Power of Knowing

What You Don’t Know”

During my school days we learnt this as “ Katradhu kai mannalavu, Kallaladhu ulagu alavu “ by great poet Avvaiyar

( What you know is handful of sand, what you don’t know is size of world).

I had always had the assumption that this book was release long time ago, as this was suggested by many people. Little did I realise that this book was release only in Feb 2021(just one year back). That too, when there some specifics about Covid-19!. A great example to “ Rethink “.

Chapter 1:

Mike Lazarists- Co founder of blackberry. Did not rethink and that made the company plummet drastically. Mike was middle school prodigy. Blackberry success was because Mike’s thinking like Scientist! He has applied the rethinking in the devices , but not for rethink the market and lost opportunities like creating instant messaging , WhatsApp.


First time , a perspective of a politician was changed by Author. He called the politician as Scientist. Specifically about US president. It’s their curiosity across different fields , willingness to hear new views have had them in their positions.

Nothing short of surprises. Although read the Book “Steve Jobs” in 2014, the current book has given more insight in the rethinking exercise done by apple employees to convince Steve Jobs. It took 6 months for them to make Steve jobs to rethink and given an ok to experiment further on iPOD converting to phone or a Mac to be put on phone.

Chapter 2:

Blind spots to our own Weakness and Strength was discussed in detail.

The ignorance of Arrogance. What’s a great concept of “ Dunning-Kruger” effect. – “when we lack competence that we are most likely to be brimming with overconfidence”. Again, we have seen many people like this in our work places. We know 100% that that person (he/she) doesn’t know the stuff. BUT, they exuberate such a over confidence, that you will start doubting yourself!. There’s always a chance that other person view you in the same way also. You know the truth.

What’s required for all is the “Confident Humility”. Confident in your strategies , but also questioning whether you have right tools or not. Keep improving the tools. Confident Humility is Secure on “Believe in yourself”, yet uncertain on “Belief in your tools”. It’s also “Corrective lens”.

A throwback on the life of our parents, shows that they were very confident in themselves, unsure of the way they wanted to achieve/drive their future. But they kept learning new tools and techniques to lead a satisfied life for now. In fact, they are still learning from their grandchildren on the tips/tricks on mobile.

Total Beginners do not fall into Dunning-Kruger effect, there by they question the assumptions and everything taken for granted.

Chapter 3: The joy of being wrong

Even Adam Grant says , “ His past self was Mr facts. Now he is interested in knowing what he doesn’t know”.

“Taking responsibility is taking your power back”. Will Smith said “ it doesn’t matter whose fault it is that something is broken if it’s your responsibility to fix it “.

Chapter 4: The good fight club

One research team concluded : “ The absence of conflict is not harmony , it’s apathy “.

Grant re-emphasise that “Relational conflict is destructive as it stands in the way of re-thinking”. Why ? You become a preacher in emotional conflict

Whereas in task conflict, is constructive. Helps us to move toward target. Also, bring in great parenting advise with data. It’s not how many time parents argue will impact the child, it’s how respectfully they argue impacts the child. More respect between parents means child feels emotionally safe.

Great example of rethinking happened with Brad Bird in Pixar when he created “the Incredibles” in 2004, taking an Oscar with him. He recruited the rebels, challenged them and got the work done more effectively with less budget.

Grant reiterated that “ avoiding an argument is bad manner. You are simply not respecting the view you have “. Great example of task conflict were Wright Brothers.

When conflict happens, it’ takes flight and will not pull you down.

Converting a disagreement to a debate, helps to discuss the subject in detail. Instead of why , ask how do they support the idea or not support the idea. That will bring clarity on how much we/they know about the subject.

Part II: Interpersonal rethinking

Chapter 5 : Dances with Foes

Another inspiring example about The debater – Harish Natarajan who debated with Debra. It was made like a real story of debating and ending with the major breakthrough that Debra is “Project Debayor” developed by IBM. It was machine vs Harish. Garish won at the end, due to the nature of questions he had asked that made audience to rethink.

An example of Michele applying for Product management job with confident humility had infact impressed the interviewers and finally got the job also. He thrived.

See the argument not as War, but as Dance. You will find the rhythm.

Chapter 6: Bad Blood on the diamond

Key concept : Diminishing Prejudice by destabilising stereotypes.

Many examples on the stereotype covered about discrimination.

Motivational Interviewing : You can rarely motivate someone else to change. We Are Better Off helping them find their own motivation to Change

1 asking open ended questions

2 engaging in reflective listening

3 affirming the persons desire and ability to change.

In my view , A Coach is using the Motivational interviewing to get the clients rethink on their assumptions, abilities etc. Coach acts like Mirror. Bring the client into Scientific mindset .

Part III – Collective Rethinking

Chapter 8: Charged Conversations

The author travels across the spectrum of examples to reiterate the main point about charged conversations. They ask for nuance. The complexity of reality can seem like inconvenient truth (Al Gore). In scientist mode, it’s invigorating truth.

Chapter 9: Rewriting the textbook

Rethinking needs to become a regular habit.

Ron Berger : well known name for Rethinking. He says that “Craftsmanship is the foundation for his classroom philosophy “

One of the best lesson from this chapter is that education actually teaches you how to learn for life. Not just knowing things of last.

Teachers knowledge is good to know about the past. But how the teacher learn everyday is the process which the student should learn. At the same time, teaches should help students to rethink and introduce new ways of thinking. A simple example is to make the student do multiple drafts ! Revise, take feedback, improvise and finalize one.

Chapter 10: That’s not the way we have done it .

Psychological safety. Easier said than done. How do you know? It is the powerful question with curiosity.

Best example where rethink had not happen is NASA. Astronaut’s helmet leak resulted in danger in space. Challenger space shuttle O ring ! Columbia space shuttle foam. There are many examples.

GATES: Bill & Melinda example on how they opened gates to all the employees about their natural course of not knowing everything before the meeting starts. Honest video on the feedback from employees helped everyone to understand the leaders better.

Great deal of information provided about NASA!

Part IV – Conclusion

Chapter 11- Escaping Tunnel vision.

Our first instinct is always not to rethink it. Instead, we double down. This is called “escalation of commitment “. EoC is Manjit factor for preventable failures.

Identify for closure: deciding upfront what to become like kids say I want to become engineer, doctor etc when the adult asks. The question is adult asking this question is meaningless now.

Identify foreclosure is a band aid. It covers up an identity crisis, but fails to cure it.

Chasing Happiness: nailed it. Everyone we know chases for this at some point in time of their life or most of their time in life… the famous “ when I go to work, I will be happy” never happens.

Family quote from E L Doctorow, about writing out a plan for like “is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way”. So plan for year or two. Keep rethinking.

In the entire book, Dr Adam Grant has been so open, honest and transparent in many examples he had quoted. On how he could have acted better, how he could have thought better in certain situations. This drives home the message of rethinking.

Top 30 Practical tips for rethinking

  1. Define your identity in terms of values, not opinions
  2. Seek out information that goes against your views
  3. Beware of getting stranded at summit of Mount Stupid.
  4. Harness the benefits of doubt
  5. Embrace the joy of being wrong
  6. Learn sometime new from each person you meet
  7. Build a challenge network, not just a support network
  8. Don’t shy away from constructive conflicts
  9. Practice the art of persuasive listening
  10. Question How rather than why
  11. Ask “ what evident would change your mind ?”
  12. Ask how people originally formed an opinion
  13. Acknowledge common ground
  14. Remember that less is often more
  15. Reinforce freedom of choice
  16. Have a conversation about the conversation
  17. Complexify contentious topics
  18. Don’t shy away from caveats and contingencies
  19. Expand your emotional range
  20. Have a weekly myth busting discussion at dinner
  21. Invite kids to multiple drafts and seek feedback from others
  22. Stop asking kid what they want to be when they grow up
  23. Abandon best practices
  24. Establish psychological safety
  25. Keep a rethinking scorecard
  26. Throw our the ten year plan
  27. Rethink your actions , not just your surroundings
  28. Schedule a life check up
  29. Make time to think again

Thank you . Read through my other summaries and artciles



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Gurusubramanian Swaminathan

Gurusubramanian Swaminathan

Life Coach, Vivid Writer on Reflections, Life Journey