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Ch. 1: Think Again by Adam Grant

#177: Aug. - Oct. 2021 (Non-Fiction)
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Robert Tulip

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Re: Ch. 1: Think Again by Adam Grant

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Page 10 makes the astute observation that “calcified ideologies are tearing American culture apart”. Black Lives Matter has forced white Americans to confront systemic racism. Rethinking divisive attitudes can draw on the capacity of the US Constitution for amendment by looking to amend our own mental constitutions where political stances destroy relationships.
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Robert Tulip

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Re: Ch. 1: Think Again by Adam Grant

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Pages 11 and 12 conclude the Prologue with an overview of the book, and a final statement that the point of the book is to help us let go of views that are not serving us well, and to anchor our sense of self in flexibility rather than consistency.

In the case of the Montana firefighters, science already knew that such fires should not be fought, that to do so was dangerous and harmful. The death of a dozen fireys shows the danger, but the harm requires understanding of ecology – fires are part of the natural cycle, enabling new growth and opening up a forest.

The immediate reactive view that all fires must be put out immediately has caused immense damage, allowing build up of fuel load so when the fire eventually comes it burns far hotter and kills the trees and animals. Achieving a mosaic burning pattern would require mental flexibility that seems to be beyond our institutions.
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Re: Ch. 1: Think Again by Adam Grant

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Pages 15 and 16 introduce Mike Lazaridis, who invented the Blackberry. From half the US smartphone market in 2009, Blackberry collapsed to less than 1% by 2014. Mike was an electronics wizard, but he failed to rethink to adapt to a rapidly changing world. Rethinking is both a skill set and a mindset.
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Re: Ch. 1: Think Again by Adam Grant

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Page 17 is about the need to abandon outdated facts. This is not easy, as we prefer to stick with the familiar. We now all consume far more information than people used to in the past, and the creation of new knowledge is accelerating. Perversely, a common response to such rapid change is to entrench our beliefs, rather than rethink our assumptions. It is hard to imagine dinosaurs with feathers, so we ignore new scientific findings.
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DWill

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Re: Ch. 1: Think Again by Adam Grant

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Robert Tulip wrote:Pages 15 and 16 introduce Mike Lazaridis, who invented the Blackberry. From half the US smartphone market in 2009, Blackberry collapsed to less than 1% by 2014. Mike was an electronics wizard, but he failed to rethink to adapt to a rapidly changing world. Rethinking is both a skill set and a mindset.
If we look at development of technology as an evolution, Lazaridis was a big part of that, so I can't see that his company's collapse is really such a failure, big-picture-wise. He was on top for a good while. The skillset/mindset question is interesting. I'm seeing the mindset part as more significant, and even Grant says that intelligence doesn't make one a better rethinker. Grant recommends a dispassionate, science-like approach to evaluating change. That may be fine, but it's still very hard to get around our biases and self-interest and and ignore our personal values. And although science can give us all the information we need to go into action (climate change), sometimes it won't matter because of overriding interests and emotions, part of mindset.

We don't note the times when not changing a course turned out to be best, at least in the short-term. We're only going to notice the instances when someone missed the boat.
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Re: Ch. 1: Think Again by Adam Grant

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Pages 18 and 19 describe how to be a scientist rather than a preacher, a politician or a prosecutor. Good thinking is scientific, relying on evidence rather than feelings, taking a calm and detached approach to decisions. Stephen Greenspan was just finishing writing a book about gullibility when he invested and lost his life savings with Bernie Madoff in a crazy Ponzi scheme. Greenspan approached this bad decision with all the emotion of a preacher, a politician and a prosecutor, roles which led him to feel it was the right thing to do. Grant says any of us could have fallen into these traps.
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Re: Ch. 1: Think Again by Adam Grant

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DWill wrote:it's still very hard to get around our biases and self-interest and ignore our personal values. And although science can give us all the information we need to go into action (climate change), sometimes it won't matter because of overriding interests and emotions, part of mindset.
Climate change is a perfect example of how personal values shape our opinions in quite an intractable way, and how rethinking based on evidence is essential.

Emission reduction and carbon removal are too small and slow to affect extreme weather this decade. The drivers for the next few years are already in place, from the committed warming of past emissions. If we actually want to reduce the impact of hurricanes, droughts, fires, floods, etc in the 2020s, and also reduce the clear and present danger of massive global tipping points like the Gulf Stream stopping, the Arctic melting, the Amazon burning, large scale methane release and sea level rise, the only practical strategy is to brighten the planet, increasing the reflection of heat to space.

Regrettably, this policy suffers under a religious fatwa from the climate change activist community, condemned as heretical anathema, supping with the devil, giving succour to the enemy, committing treason against The Cause, without regard to any factual analysis. The reason they give for this ban is that it would mean the world would have more time for the transition from fossil fuels to renewables, whereas the activist insist on a crash course of immediate economic transformation regardless of any cost-benefit analysis.

If we do want to invest public funds wisely to slow down climate change, the obvious way to measure any specific action should be its effect on global warming. That involves a concept called radiative forcing, for which there is a simple calculation of watts per square metre. But no, such a simple measure is not allowed. Action to brighten the planet is a far cheaper way to cut radiative forcing than the solutions advocated by the IPCC, which mainly focus on the energy transition to renewables.

The psychology of politics mean people are less focused on what will bring results than on what touches their emotional buttons. Attacking the fossil fuel industry is popular among activists, but extremely unpopular among voters when it produces higher fuel prices. Going vegetarian or buying an electric car are great examples of virtue signalling, individual actions targeted at personal footprint that do almost nothing to affect the climate. They then clutch at imaginary straws to condemn policies they feel hostile to, such as the totally stupid argument that brightening the planet does not prevent ocean acidification.

On the other side, people who deny climate science have a profoundly traumatised psychology that is equally grounded in fantasy. They see climate action through the lens of political polarisation, arguing that the left are not to be trusted on other social policies so should not be trusted on climate. Given that the left want to shut down the traditional energy sector as fast as possible, those suspicions are justified. Once that broad values perspective is in play, facts don’t matter.

Solving climate change requires radical rethinking, a Nixon in China type of approach that involves conservatives seeing geoengineering as the first step toward a gradual plan to mine carbon from the air and sea at larger scale than total emissions, while emissions slow down on the basis of market forces such as the price of coal versus solar and wind.
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Re: Ch. 1: Think Again by Adam Grant

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Pages 20-22 continue on the scientific frame of mind, defined as searching for truth.

Grant then gives an example directly relevant to me. Yesterday I was accepted into a workshop on turning ideas into impact, about creating business customers for innovative ideas. The example in the book is an entrepreneurship course in Italy, where half the cohort was trained to use scientific method of theory, hypothesis and experiment, and the other half were a control, for whom the scientific thinking component was left out.

The result in first year revenue was quite startling, a superiority of 4000% for the scientific group, and double the rate of pivoting to a new approach. This backed up observation that the best strategists are slow and unsure, not decisive. The rigidity of dogma is a great danger to business success.
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Robert Tulip

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Pages 23-4 continue the Lazaridis Blackberry story. After reverse engineering the iPhone and finding they had put a computer in it, he staunchly insisted on his original business strategy of excluding search and app functionality, because he could not imagine how it would work. He also ignored the pitch of encrypted text that became WhatsApp. His engineering genius turned into a curse when he thought he was the smartest guy in the room and failed to rethink business strategy and Blackberry tanked. It reminds me of so many examples – Kodak suppressing digital cameras, and newspaper classified advertisements ignoring the threat of online selling. It is all about nimble strategic business thinking with an eye to markets and goals.
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Robert Tulip

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Re: Ch. 1: Think Again by Adam Grant

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Pages 24-27 explains that confirmation bias and desirability bias – seeing what we expect and want to see - contort our intelligence into a weapon against the truth. This is a vivid and remarkable finding of psychological research – brains improve pattern recognition which means smart people see stereotypes, so thinking capacity reduces rethinking capacity. Smart people apparently find it harder to change their beliefs, and wrongly insist they are not biased. This lack of self-awareness is a real problem, because the scientific method is totally opposed to ideology, and yet even actual scientists do not always think scientifically. Instead, flawed human beings rely on intuition rather than evidence.

From my own perspective, an acute example comes from climate science – scientists such as Michael Mann and Bill McKibben and Elizabeth Kolbert insist that “the science” proves that speeding up decarbonisation of the economy is the only way to address global warming. This is blatantly wrong, because decarbonisation is too small and slow to prevent dangerous warming, a result that can only be achieved by geoengineering. These scientists allow their intuitive bias against geoengineering to completely distort their perceptions into a rigid ideology that is impervious to evidence.

(edited to emphasise that 2nd para is my personal view)
Last edited by Robert Tulip on Sun Aug 22, 2021 11:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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