By Engr. Carlos V. Cornejo
Adam Grant, the famous author of the best-selling book, “Originals: How Non-Conformists Rule the World”, came up with a new book entitled, “Think Again” which is all about having an open mind and to always stand for the truth which means to be ready to be corrected on one’s beliefs. The author says, “When was the last time you changed your mind? The more willing you are to change your mind (after careful reasoning, and not peer pressure), the faster you will rise to the top of your field.” He lists down examples of people who’ve changed their minds and came out a winner: Established forecasters of weather, stocks, market trends, etc. change their mind twice as much as other forecasters before making a final prediction. College students who reconsider their answers before handing in an exam and have more eraser marks on their exam score higher than students who do not rethink their first answer. The highest‐ranked U.S. presidents in history (according to historians) displayed more intellectual curiosity and revised more of their original policies.
The pitfalls for failing to “rethink” our beliefs and opinions often happens under the 3P’s of Preaching, Prosecuting, and Politicking. When stuck in any of these three modes, feeling right
becomes more important than being right, and we stop learning.
Mode 1: Preaching
When preaching our beliefs, we pretend to be 100% certain to be more persuasive. The more we preach, the more we believe our false sense of certainty and think our beliefs are bulletproof. The more someone preaches about a single type of investment, like Bitcoin, the more likely they are to dismiss concerning data that could make that investment vulnerable to an attack and lead to a catastrophic loss. I myself do a lot of preaching since teaching is my profession. My principle in rethinking is that in things that concerns principles such as values or virtues these are non-negotiables because what is morally wrong can never be morally right. But outside of that, things that are a matter of opinion such as politics, sports, even science we need to be accepting of corrections.
Mode 2: Prosecuting
When prosecuting someone’s belief, we rarely give that someone credit for a good idea. If someone is bashing Bitcoin and searching for reasons why Bitcoin is a bad investment to score points in a Twitter battle, they will discount pro‐Bitcoin facts and may miss an opportunity to diversify their portfolio and protect their savings. When we are in a debate with someone about ideas and beliefs, when something goes counter to our ideas that we are defending that seems convincing and needs further thinking then we should simply acknowledge we will think further of their suggestion because it seems convincing. In that way, we project to others that we are willing to learn and hopefully will elicit the same attitude towards our debate opponent.
Mode 3: Politicking
When we politick, we adopt people’s beliefs because we want to be liked and accepted by them. Politicians adopt popular opinions to get votes and have little incentive to question those opinions. Adam Grant says (paraphrased), “When we become so wrapped up in preaching that we’re right, prosecuting others who are wrong, and politicking for support, we don’t bother to rethink our own views and get trapped in an overconfidence cycle.” This is something we all can learn from since we all have certain political views or root for a certain political party. I myself am not loyal to a certain a Philippine political party, but to the Constitution and loyal to what is morally right. Political parties are composed of persons that are fallible and often malleable to what is popular that sometimes they would sacrifice their principles and values. The Constitution of our country I believe is a more stable reference to what is right in politics than to political parties or personalities that are pulled and pushed by all sorts of party and personal interests. Loyalty to the Philippine Constitution therefore is a good principle to follow because it disposes us to criticize or correct our politicians when they don’t follow the Constitution regardless of whether we voted for that them or not. Our loyalty would no longer be to persons but to what is right.
To avoid these belief traps author Adam Grant advises to take a scientist’s stance with these modes. When Adam Grant asked world‐renowned scientist Daniel Kahneman what he does when people find flaws in his research, Danny’s eyes lit up, and he said, “It’s wonderful, I get a chance to be less wrong!” Great scientists see ideas and beliefs as hunches and hypotheses that need to be tested with data. When a scientist encounters data which casts doubt on a hypothesis, they see it as an opportunity to develop a better hypothesis and better
understanding of reality. Start thinking like a scientist then by actively seeking out disconfirming information and getting curious when you experience doubt. When doubt turns to curiosity, you have an opportunity to discover new ideas and experience the joy of learning.