Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know

Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know

Think Again


ISBN: 1984878107

We laugh at people who still use Windows 95, yet we still cling to opinions that we formed in 1995.

  • “ The smarter you are, the more complex the problems you can solve—and the faster you can solve them. Intelligence is traditionally viewed as the ability to think and learn. Yet in a turbulent world, there’s another set of cognitive skills that might matter more: the ability to rethink and unlearn.”
  • “When a trio of psychologists conducted a comprehensive review of thirty-three studies, they found that in every one, the majority of answer revisions were from wrong to right. This phenomenon is known as the first-instinct fallacy.”
  • “Part of the problem is cognitive laziness. Some psychologists point out that we’re mental misers: we often prefer the ease of hanging on to old views over the difficulty of grappling with new ones.”

Stop listening to views that make us feel good! Listen to ones that make us think hard.

  • “We favor the comfort of conviction over the discomfort of doubt, and we let our beliefs get brittle long before our bones. We laugh at people who still use Windows 95, yet we still cling to opinions that we formed in 1995. We listen to views that make us feel good, instead of ideas that make us think hard.”
  • “With advances in access to information and technology, knowledge isn’t just increasing. It’s increasing at an increasing rate. In 2011, you consumed about five times as much information per day as you would have just a quarter century earlier. As of 1950, it took about fifty years for knowledge in medicine to double. By 1980, medical knowledge was doubling every seven years, and by 2010, it was doubling in half that time. The accelerating pace of change means that we need to question our beliefs more readily than ever before.”
  • “Scientists morph into preachers when they present their pet theories as gospel and treat thoughtful critiques as sacrilege. They veer into politician terrain when they allow their views to be swayed by popularity rather than accuracy. They enter prosecutor mode when they’re hell-bent on debunking and discrediting rather than discovering. ”
  • “The better you are at crunching numbers, the more spectacularly you fail at analyzing patterns that contradict your views. ”
  • “In psychology there are at least two biases that drive this pattern. One is confirmation bias: seeing what we expect to see. The other is desirability bias: seeing what we want to see. These biases don’t just prevent us from applying our intelligence. They can actually contort our intelligence into a weapon against the truth.”

If knowledge is power, knowing what we don’t know is wisdom.

  • Research shows that when people are resistant to change, it helps to reinforce what will stay the same. Visions for change are more compelling when they include visions of continuity. Although our strategy might evolve, our identity will endure.
    The engineers who worked closely with Jobs understood that this was one of the best ways to convince him. They assured him that they weren’t trying to turn Apple into a phone company. It would remain a computer company—they were just taking their existing products and adding a phone on the side. Apple was already putting twenty thousand songs in your pocket, so why wouldn’t they put everything else in your pocket, too? They needed to rethink their technology, but they would preserve their DNA. ”
  • “In theory, confidence and competence go hand in hand. In practice, they often diverge. ”
  • “The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.”
  • “While humility is a permeable filter that absorbs life experience and converts it into knowledge and wisdom, arrogance is a rubber shield that life experience simply bounces off of.”
  • “A mark of lifelong learners is recognizing that they can learn something from everyone they meet.”
  • “When a core belief is questioned, though, we tend to shut down rather than open up. It’s as if there’s a miniature dictator living inside our heads, controlling the flow of facts to our minds, much like Kim Jong-un controls the press in North Korea.”
  • „The inner dictator manages to prevail by activating an overconfidence cycle. First, our wrong opinions are shielded in filter bubbles, where we feel pride when we see only information that supports our convictions. Then our beliefs are sealed in echo chambers, where we hear only from people who intensify and validate them. ”
  • “As Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio told me, “If you don’t look back at yourself and think, ‘Wow, how stupid I was a year ago,’ then you must not have learned much in the last year.”
  • “Who you are should be a question of what you value, not what you believe. Values are your core principles in life—they might be excellence and generosity, freedom and fairness, or security and integrity. Basing your identity on these kinds of principles enables you to remain open-minded about the best ways to advance them.”



  • “Jeff Bezos says. “If you don’t change your mind frequently, you’re going to be wrong a lot.”
  • “It’s common for people who lack power or status to shift into politician mode, suppressing their dissenting views in favor of conforming to the HIPPO—the HIghest Paid Person’s Opinion. Sometimes they have no other choice if they want to survive.“
  • “Although I’m terrified of hurting other people’s feelings, when it comes to challenging their thoughts, I have no fear. In fact, when I argue with someone, it’s not a display of disrespect—it’s a sign of respect. It means I value their views enough to contest them. If their opinions didn’t matter to me, I wouldn’t bother. I know I have chemistry with someone when we find it delightful to prove each other wrong.”
  • “Experiments show that simply framing a dispute as a debate rather than as a disagreement signals that you’re receptive to considering dissenting opinions and changing your mind, which in turn motivates the other person to share more information with you. A disagreement feels personal and potentially hostile; we expect a debate to be about ideas, not emotions. Starting a disagreement by asking, “Can we debate?” sends a message that you want to think like a scientist, not a preacher or a prosecutor—and encourages the other person to think that way, too.”
  • “In a negotiation, agreeing with someone else’s argument is disarming. ”
  • “You should be willing to listen to what someone else is saying and give them a lot of credit for it. It makes you sound like a reasonable person who is taking everything into account.”
  • “A key step is getting them to do some counterfactual thinking: helping them consider what they’d believe if they were living in an alternative reality.”
  • “To activate counterfactual thinking, you might ask people questions like: How would your stereotypes be different if you’d been born Black, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American? What opinions would you hold if you’d been raised on a farm versus in a city, or in a culture on the other side of the world? What beliefs would you cling to if you lived in the 1700s?”

“It’s a rare person who wants to hear what he doesn’t want to hear.
—attributed to dick cavett”

  • “binary bias. It’s a basic human tendency to seek clarity and closure by simplifying a complex continuum into two categories.
  • “That’s what good scientists do: instead of drawing conclusions about people based on minimal clues, they test their hypotheses by striking up conversations.”


  1. “(1) “interrogate information instead of simply consuming it,”
  2. (2) “reject rank and popularity as a proxy for reliability,” and
  3. (3) “understand that the sender of information is often not its source.”



  • “One of the most popular ideas came from Lauren McCann, who suggested a creative step toward helping students recognize that rethinking was a useful skill—and one they had already been using in college. She invited her classmates to write letters to their freshmen selves covering what they wish they had known back then. The students encouraged their younger selves to stay open to different majors, instead of declaring the first one that erased their uncertainty. To be less obsessed with grades, and more focused on relationships. To explore different career possibilities, rather than committing too soon to the one that promised the most pay or prestige.”
  • Rethinking is more likely to happen in a learning culture, where growth is the core value and rethinking cycles are routine. In learning cultures, the norm is for people to know what they don’t know, doubt their existing practices, and stay curious about new routines to try out. Evidence shows that in learning cultures, organizations innovate more and make fewer mistakes.”
  • psychologically safe teams reported more errors, but they actually made fewer errors. By freely admitting their mistakes, they were then able to learn what had caused them and eliminate them moving forward. In psychologically unsafe teams, people hid their mishaps to avoid penalties, which made it difficult for anyone to diagnose the root causes and prevent future problems. They kept repeating the same mistakes.”


“ To combat that problem and nudge the culture toward learning, she started carrying a 3 × 5 note card in her pocket with questions to ask about every launch and important operational decision. Her list included:

  1. What leads you to that assumption?
  2. Why do you think it is correct?
  3. What might happen if it’s wrong?
  4. What are the uncertainties in your analysis?
  5. I understand the advantages of your recommendation. What are the disadvantages?”

How do you know?

“How do you know? It’s a question we need to ask more often, both of ourselves and of others. The power lies in its frankness. It’s nonjudgmental—a straightforward expression of doubt and curiosity that doesn’t put people on the defensive.”


  • “One of the most effective steps toward process accountability that I’ve seen is at Amazon, where important decisions aren’t made based on simple PowerPoint presentations. They’re informed by a six-page memo that lays out a problem, the different approaches that have been considered in the past, and how the proposed solutions serve the customer. At the start of the meeting, to avoid groupthink, everyone reads the memo silently. This isn’t practical in every situation, but it’s paramount when choices are both consequential and irreversible. ”
  • “We can’t run experiments in the past; we can only imagine the counterfactual in the present.”
  • “When we dedicate ourselves to a plan and it isn’t going as we hoped, our first instinct isn’t usually to rethink it. Instead, we tend to double down and sink more resources in the plan. This pattern is called escalation of commitment. Evidence shows that entrepreneurs persist with failing strategies when they should pivot,”
  • Sunk costs are a factor, but the most important causes appear to be psychological rather than economic. ”
  • “There’s a fine line between heroic persistence and foolish stubbornness.”
  • “For the record, I think it’s better to lose the past two years of progress than to waste the next twenty
  • “We should be careful to avoid getting too attached to a particular route or even a particular destination. There isn’t one definition of success or one track to happiness.”
  • “To adapt an analogy from E. L. Doctorow, writing out a plan for your life “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.”