knowledge project

Adam Grant: Rethinking Your Position | The Knowledge Project with Shane Parrish

Key Takeaways

  • Learning begins with intellectual humility
    • Setting aside your ego and admitting that you are ignorant on matters, while easy to say, is challenging to actively practice 
  • Good outcomes can come from bad processes and vice versa
  • Many of our representatives are elected for their charisma, not their ability to manage a government
    • “I think it’s hard for that person to get elected because as we face crises and we grapple with uncertainty, we’re drawn to people who we feel like are going to figure it out” – Adam Grant
    • The vast majority do not have the time to educate themselves on all political matters so we often go by emotion and rationalize our beliefs after the fact
  • People think they understand things much more than they actually do, but if you ask them to explain their reasoning then many will be unable to 
  • You’re entitled to your opinion if you keep it to yourself, but if you publicize it then you have a responsibility to change your opinions based on better reasoning

Intro

  • Adam Grant (@AdamMGrant) is a psychologist and author who is currently a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania specializing in organizational psychology
  • Host: Shane Parrish (@ShaneAParrish)

Why People Fear Change

  • Oftentimes, people are unwilling to alter their worldview because it requires a change in their understanding of themselves 
    • The world is inherently chaotic and turbulent. Your perception of yourself is an anchor in this turbulent world.  
  • Fear of change is especially prevalent in big business because the consequences of a wrong move are daunting considering the amount of money large corporations handle
    • Of course, not changing results in a performance like Blockbuster, Kodak, and Sears

Power

  • The vast majority of power that people have comes from an authoritative position like in a company hierarchy for example
    • This is in contrast to referent power (power from respect and admiration) 
    • The problem is that this power isn’t innate to one’s self which can lead to many insecurities when this authoritative position comes to define your identity
    • A working relationship is a relationship nonetheless, and all relationships require degrees of trust and respect
  • Knowing your weak points is a strength
  • The feeling of psychological safety comes from the capacity to take risks without too high of a cost

Learning

  • Learning begins with intellectual humility
    • Setting aside your ego and admitting that you are ignorant on matters, while easy to say, is challenging to actively practice 
    • “I know that I know nothing” – Socrates
  • “No matter how much of an expert you are in a given field or topic, you have a long list of things that you’re clueless about” – Adam Grant
    • “I think we can all be more open in criticizing ourselves”

Processes & Results

  • Good outcomes can come from bad processes and vice versa
  • Solely basing the feasibility of a process on the outcome can be misleading
    • For example, the American education system basing reform on standardized test scores led to many failures
    • Rather, thorough and rigorous testing of different success metrics throughout the process leads to fewer failures in the long run 
      • A practical application of testing metrics throughout the process, in hiring, for example, is when businesses consider criteria for selection before considering candidates 
  • One problem of testing an idea solely by its outcomes is that the results you seek to measure often take a long time to materialize

Elected Leadership

  • Many of our representatives are elected for their charisma, not their ability to manage a government
    • This is one of the criticisms that Plato levies against democratic governments in The Republic
  • In Adams view, the man most suited for office doesn’t win elections most of the time
    • “I think it’s hard for that person to get elected because as we face crises and we grapple with uncertainty, we’re drawn to people who we feel like are going to figure it out” – Adam Grant
    • The vast majority do not have the time to educate themselves on all political matters so we often go by emotion and rationalize our beliefs after the fact
  • “If somebody hedges too much or shows too much humility, I think we mistake that as a sign of ignorance” – Adam Grant
    • “We should stop confusing confidence for competence”
  • “There’s something really intoxicating about following someone who believes they already know the way” – Adam Grant
    • “It’s a way of letting other people do your thinking for you”
    • “This is why political parties have always been such a mystery to me. When people ask me what my politics are, I reply that I think for myself.”

Convincing Others

  • You must be open to changing your beliefs as the opposing argument is presented
    • Being obstinate in your beliefs while expecting someone else to change is arrogant
  • Rather than focusing on differences, the most effective negotiation involves establishing common ground as the primary focus
  • Probing questions, which are not confrontational, are oftentimes more successful than providing an argument
    • People think they understand things much more than they actually do, but if you ask them to explain their reasoning then many will be unable to 
    • Einstein always maintained that the true sign of understanding is the ability to succinctly explain your beliefs
  • You’re entitled to your opinion if you keep it to yourself, but if you publicize it then you have a responsibility to change your opinions based on better reasoning
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