People used to give me a hard time about changing my mind. And you know, I felt like maybe something was wrong with me because I was always questioning beliefs, ideas, and approaches. Maybe that’s why the divisiveness of our country right now bothers me so much. It turns out, research has validated my questioning approach and proven un-learning to be just as important to our personal and professional growth as learning. Challenging our own thinking is a good thing! Let’s explore what Adam Grant has to say about this in this book review of Think Again.
I know what you might be thinking. It isn’t bad enough that we are supposed to be continually learning but now we also have to worry about unlearning what we’ve learned previously. Yep. Sure Nuff. It’s true.
Unfortunately, we’ve all received some bad information at some point in our lives that we’ve clung to for some reason. You know, like the world is flat, Columbus discovered America, and other beliefs we’ve had to unlearn.
It probably won’t take you long to see this in action with others. We see it every day – the person that digs their heels into an idea or concept because they just know or because they heard it on some podcast or that’s what they were taught in school 30 years ago or Joe the neighbor told them or that’s just the way we do things. They don’t bother to challenge or research or question. It’s easy to see in others, right?
It may not be quite as obvious to see it in yourself but believe me, it’s there. It might be as simple as being taught Columbus discovered America (this has been proven false) or more of a personal belief you were taught by a well-meaning adult when you were 8.
The thing is, we live in a world that is ever-evolving and ever-changing. Things that were “true and accurate” 20 years ago have been proven to be false and inaccurate. I mean, turns out the world isn’t flat after all.
Related Article: How to Fact Check
The way we approach thinking becomes a habit. And the longer we have the habit, the more convicted we become. It’s uncomfortable to question our beliefs because then we run the risk of uh oh, being wrong (say it isn’t so!). We are more polarized as a nation than we ever have been and the conviction with which we hold our beliefs makes us inflexible to unlearning. It’s uncomfortable and feels unsettling.
If I have to change my belief about something that has defined me as a person, then who am I really?
It’s time we give as much attention to unlearning or re-thinking as we do learning new information.
First, let me give credit where credit is due. I learn constantly from others. In this case, the book that shaped my thoughts, which I highly recommend, is Think Again, by Adam Grant.
The Value of Changing Perspective
While there is so much great information in this book, I want to focus this article on the value of approaching thoughts, ideas, and beliefs differently. Whether you need to personally change a belief or help someone else view things from a different perspective, you can become a better problem solver, be open to unlearning, and challenge your own thoughts and beliefs by taking this one action.
What if you approach all ideas, thoughts, and beliefs like a scientist (i.e. apply the scientific method to problem-solving as well as ideas and beliefs)?
What if you encouraged others to ask questions instead of asserting beliefs with statements?
Utilizing the Scientific Method
What if we approached everything with questions first and then apply the scientific method to determine the best solutions.
Just in case it’s been a minute since you thought about the scientific method, it goes something like this.
- Ask a question. The first step in the scientific method is asking a question that you want to answer.
- Perform research
- Establish your hypothesis
- Test your hypothesis
- Make an observation
- Analyze the results and draw a conclusion
- Present the findings
Questions to Ponder
I even took the liberty to create a few questions to ponder.
What other perspective might we consider?
How could we determine the best way to X?
What are all the potential options for this (belief, problem, obstacle)?
What other information might we need to gather to make a good decision?
How can we validate the information we have?
Is it possible our current belief is incorrect?
Where do we have common ground? What do we agree on?
Instead of blaming, stating beliefs or ideas as facts, and attaching emotion to our beliefs, we can remove ourselves from them and begin by asking questions.
“How did you come to that decision?
What data do we have to support this?”
Related Article: Problem Solving: Asking Better Questions
You have an amazing opportunity to unlearn beliefs and ideas that are not serving you well. And you have the added opportunity to begin to help this world become less divisive by asking questions about your own beliefs as well as encouraging others to do the same.
We can be the change we want to see in the world . . . one conversation at a time.
As far as the book goes, I learned so much in this book, there will no doubt be a few more articles regarding how to apply the concepts presented.