Adam Grant (@AdamMGrant) is Wharton’s top-rated professor, the host of podcast WorkLife with Adam Grant, and the author of three New York Times Best Sellers: Option B (with Sheryl Sandberg), Originals, and Give and Take. Adam revisits the show to discuss his latest book, Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know.
What We Discuss with Adam Grant:
- Why being open to changing your mind is a huge advantage in your personal and professional life — and not weakness, as your ego is urging you to believe.
- The criteria by which Amazon’s Jeff Bezos makes big decisions quickly while allowing room for a change of mind when new information is revealed.
- How you can use brainwriting instead of brainstorming to come up with the best ideas from within your organization without losing them to the hazards of dreaded groupthink.
- Why your network could do with a “disagreeable giver” (or several) to tear your ideas apart and point out the holes in your thinking — not to bring you down, but to help you improve.
- How to preface criticism so that other people really hear it (in only 19 words or so) without taking offense.
- And much more…
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We all harbor strong opinions on any number of things. Some people take umbrage when pineapple appears as a pizza topping. Others will only vote in favor of (or against) a chosen political party. Mention your favorite guitarist, drummer, or accordionist in the wrong company and you might inadvertently be inviting yourself to a fistfight. Randomly suggest on social media that you think income disparity could be better managed in a first-world country and you’ll make instant friends and enemies, depending on the proximity of their own views to yours. But how often do you actively re-evaluate the opinions you hold and actually change your mind about them? Maybe the pineapple you tried on pizza that one time was past its expiration. Perhaps the political party you usually oppose took a surprising stance in support of an issue about which you care deeply. It could be that your favorite musician up to this point is a hack compared to someone else you heard for the first time today. And maybe reading a book about the root causes of income disparity might help you see a different solution than the one you’ve been championing. Changing your mind shouldn’t be seen as a weakness only exhibited by “flip-floppers,” but an ability to adapt to new information.
On this episode, Wharton’s top-rated professor Adam Grant revisits us to discuss his latest bestseller, Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know. Here, we discuss how knowing when to change your mind can propel you to success in your personal and professional life, brainwriting versus brainstorming for optimal ideas that avoid the rut of groupthink, why your network should make room for a “disagreeable giver” (or several) to keep you grounded with honest feedback, how to preface criticism in a way that’s helpful without being offensive, and much more. Any time spent listening to what Adam has to say is a goldmine of practical advice that will serve you well — and this episode is no exception. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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Miss our conversation about national security, strategic empathy, and the societal benefits of immigration with former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster? Catch up with episode 410: H.R. McMaster | The Fight to Defend the Free World here!
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THANKS, ADAM GRANT!
If you enjoyed this session with Adam Grant, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant
- Other Books by Adam Grant
- WorkLife with Adam Grant Podcast
- Adam Grant | Website
- Adam Grant | Instagram
- Adam Grant | Facebook
- Adam Grant | Twitter
- Adam Grant | How to Know the Real You Better | Jordan Harbinger 153
- The Science of Reasoning with Unreasonable People | The New York Times
- Max Planck’s Principle, Physics, and Constant: He Knew How to Change His Mind | Slate
- Charlie Munger Explains Why He and Buffett Have Changed Their Minds About Tech and Airlines | Yahoo! Finance
- Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction by Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner
- See the Future Sooner with Superforecasting | Good Judgment
- Jean-Pierre Beugoms | Good Judgment
- Jeff Bezos on Why People Who Are Often Right Change Their Minds Often | Farnam Street Blog
- Linking Organizational Values to Relationships with External Constituents: A Study of Nonprofit Professional Theatres | Organization Science
- Adam Grant Brainstorming Advice That Will Help You Be Productive | Swirled
- A Better Way to Brainstorm | Candor
- Imposter Syndrome: How Can You Use Doubt Positively? | Thought Canvas
- An Overview of the Dunning-Kruger Effect | Verywell Mind
- Why You Need a ‘Challenge Network’ | Knowledge@Wharton
- How to Love Criticism | Adam Grant
- Stop Serving the Feedback Sandwich | Adam Grant, Medium
- Breaking the Cycle of Mistrust: Wise Interventions to Provide Critical Feedback Across the Racial Divide | Journal of Experimental Psychology: General
- Kids, Would You Please Start Fighting? | The New York Times
Adam Grant | The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know (Episode 482)
Jordan Harbinger: Coming up on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:02] Adam Grant: There's an experiment that showed that you can increase people's openness to negative feedback by between 40 and 320 percent, depending on the person, just by saying about 19 words upfront, which are roughly, "I'm giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I'm confident you can reach them." Immediately changes the relationship. "I am not attacking you. I'm not judging you. I'm here trying to coach you and help you get better."
[00:00:29] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with people at the top of their game, astronauts, entrepreneurs, spies, and psychologists, even the occasional four-star general, former Jihadi, or extreme athlete. Each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better critical thinker.
[00:00:56] If you're new to the show or you want to tell your friends and family about the show, which I always appreciate, we have episodes starter packs, and these are collections of your favorite episodes organized by popular topics. That'll help new listeners or you get a taste of everything we do here on the show. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start to get started or to help somebody else get started. And again, I always appreciate that. That's how we grow, and that's hopefully what's going to send my kid to college, so share and share and like.
[00:01:24] Today on the show, Adam Grant, returning guests, this guy, his brain is like a planet. That's what my producer said. And I love that because he is absolutely brilliant, a great conversationalist. Today, we don't change our opinions often enough. That's the focus of Adam Grant's new book here. People are afraid to do their rethinking at loud or to even embrace the idea that our minds can be changed at all. Because it does seem uncertain, it can come across as weak, especially if you're in a leadership position, which as you can see, the problem with this is already self-evident, right? Leaders are the people that need to change their minds, the most listened the best. And yet those are the people who stand to lose the most, coming across as indecisive.
[00:02:04] Today, we'll explore why changing our mind is actually a huge advantage. And those of us that can do so quickly and efficiently, almost have a super power. Also why being disagreeable in the right way is a good thing for your organization, your friendships, your family, and how do we ensure we're re-thinking things in the right way when it comes to our careers and the people surrounding us. No intro ever does an Adam Grant episode justice. So I'll leave it here because we went longer than usual since there are so many gems in this one.
[00:02:31] If you're wondering how I managed to book folks like Adam Grant, these brilliant thinkers, creators every single week here on the show, it's because of my network. You need a network for getting a raise, getting a promotion, getting a job that you want. I'm teaching you how to build your network for free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. By the way, most of the guests on the show, they subscribe to the course and they contribute to the course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company where, of course, you belong. Now, here's Adam Grant.
[00:02:59] So we don't change our opinions often enough. And in fact, most people just die, which is why things evolve at all. And that was kind of — well, let me start it by saying, I read the book out of order because I read the audiobook and all the chapters were jumbled up. And the version that I got, because I got like a pre-release. So maybe this isn't short the book, but it's how I started the book.
[00:03:18] Adam Grant: No, that's definitely, I think you read the epilogue first then.
[00:03:21] Jordan Harbinger: Yes, I did read the epilogue first. Yeah.
[00:03:23] Adam Grant: Wow. I didn't know there was a pre audio. This is fascinating. So I wonder if you had a different experience of the book because of that.
[00:03:29] Jordan Harbinger: Oh for sure because sometimes publishers will send me the book and they'll go, "Hey, there's a couple of notes missing," or there'll be like a temper tantrum from an author in there that they haven't edited it out yet. And there are guys—
[00:03:39] Adam Grant: That wasn't me. I swear.
[00:03:40] Jordan Harbinger: No, you were pretty calm in this one, but you're right. I read the epilogue first, which is weird. Because I suddenly had to Google epilogue. I was like, I swear, this means the end of the book, but it's in the beginning and then like, yep, sure enough. You stayed in the epilogue. So after the book is done or in the beginning of my experience — the reason why things evolve at all is because all of these sort of crusty cantankerous folks like you and me, eventually, we just croak and then new ideas can finally take hold.
[00:04:07] Adam Grant: Well, that's what Max Planck thought, right? And he won a Nobel Prize, I think. He was a great physicist, seemed to know a lot, but I think he was wrong on that. I think we've underestimated how willing people are to change their minds. And I think we've underestimated it in part because we have the wrong strategies for trying to open their minds.
[00:04:25] But also because we live in a world that holds consistency up as a virtue, right? If you change your mind, you're accused of being a flip-flopper but I think it's time to rethink that. I think that last time I checked changing your mind can also be a sign of learning.
[00:04:39] Jordan Harbinger: You know, I understand this. I understand why people don't want to rethink, especially out loud. If I'm, let's say, trying to argue for a point in a board meeting or even just with my wife at the dinner table. I don't really want to embrace the idea that my mind can be changed because it makes me seem, in a work setting, it makes me seem uncertain, which can come across as weak. And at dinner table setting, my ego gets triggered, right? I want to be right. I want to dig in my heels on something, even though I'm clearly wrong. And it's tough to do, especially when my wife relishes the fact that she's got me nailed, you know, that's kind of a problem. But when our core beliefs are contradicted, you're right, that our amygdala is triggered, which totally checks out for me. Like if I'm wrong, I almost have a physical reaction to it, which I know is unhealthy.
[00:05:24] Adam Grant: Yeah. And I think we all do. There's so many reasons why that makes evolutionary sense, right? Because it means that we can — when somebody tells me I'm wrong and I resist that idea, it means that I can have faith in my judgment. I can trust my gut and that seems like a useful thing. It also means that I can still survive in my tribe. That I'm not going to be excluded because if I'm all wishy-washy and I say, "You know what? You're right. I was completely wrong." Then there's a chance that I might be ostracized from the group. There's a chance that nobody listens to me anymore, that nobody's going to believe me. And yet we are capable of being hijacked by all kinds of conversations that are not survival or belonging relevant anymore, right?
[00:06:07] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:06:07] Adam Grant: And that, that I think is a problem.
[00:06:09] Jordan Harbinger: It is a problem, right? Because we're not born with our beliefs. Theoretically, especially right now, there's no real consequence to changing our beliefs to something that is more accurate or better other than other people might say, "Oh, I'm so glad I'm right on this one." Right? The dinner table scenario. And that doesn't affect survival reproduction anymore.
[00:06:31] Adam Grant: No, it doesn't. And all it does is it requires us to admit, "You know what? I lost."
[00:06:36] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:06:36] Adam Grant: And nobody likes to lose.
[00:06:37] Jordan Harbinger: No.
[00:06:37] Adam Grant: We all want to win, but I think if you take a longer view, right? The real win is not proving yourself, it's improving yourself. And the best way to do that is to quickly recognize when you've made a mistake, so you can correct it.
[00:06:49] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. In fact, given the dinner table conversation or dinner table scenario, it might actually increase your chance of survival and reproduction, especially of reproduction.
[00:06:57] Adam Grant: Literally. Depending on how that goes.
[00:07:00] Jordan Harbinger: In the immediate future, exactly. Depending on your dinner table arguments.
[00:07:04] Adam Grant: Yeah. I guess, Jordan, the lesson from this is you should just come to dinner, wearing a sign that says I'm wrong.
[00:07:09] Jordan Harbinger: Yes, you're right, honey. I'm sure there's a dad out there with a t-shirt somewhere that says, "You're right, honey. I'm wrong. You're right. I'm wrong." I mean, that's a very dad shirt to have. I think that somebody who can change their mind or is it adept at changing their mind probably has an advantage in today's society because information changes so quickly. Would you agree with that?
[00:07:31] Adam Grant: Yeah, I think part of the case for being open to rethinking is that if — look, if the world stands down, if nothing ever changes, then you can stick to all your convictions and you never have to worry about updating them. But we live in a world where we're not only dealing with change, change is happening more often, it's happening faster than it ever did before. And that means that it's just really easy to become an expert for a world that doesn't exist anymore. It's really easy to get attached to opinions that made sense to you. And I think, Jordan, one of the things that's most fascinating about this to me is if we could rewind the clock a few hundred years, if you live in the 1700s, you could go most of your life without having a lot of your scientific beliefs challenged.
[00:08:10] You wouldn't have to, at any point in your life, start to believe in germs or the importance of washing your hands. You wouldn't have to grapple with the idea of evolution. You wouldn't have to, in many cases, even question your belief that slavery is okay. And now you look at things people believe 10 years ago. How in the world could you believe that? You're an idiot and so I think because we're learning so much so quickly, because knowledge is evolving and also values are evolving. You are going to get left behind if you're not willing to question yourself.
[00:08:41] Jordan Harbinger: Uh, you can get canceled now too, so it pays to evolve. But this all sort of makes sense, right? The idea that changing our mind is a huge advantage. I'm thinking of investors here. I can't remember who said it, probably one of these, you know, Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett type of quotes that may just be apocryphal, but people who are able to change their mind very quickly with new information, tend to be able to make better decisions, right?
[00:09:06] Adam Grant: Yeah. There's good evidence on this. You know, from reading the book, there's this great research that my colleague Phil Tetlock did on superforecasters and these tournaments are hilarious. If you ever go and participate in one, you can go to the Good Judgment Project website and they give you all these questions. Like who's going to win the next presidential election? Who's going to win the next World Cup? Is the Euro going to go up or down? And then you not only have to make a prediction, you also have to say how confident you are. So then we can score you not just on whether your prediction was right or wrong, but also whether your high certainty predictions were right and your high uncertainty predictions were more likely to be wrong. And that way you're well calibrated, right? You know what you don't know. And if you study what happens in these tournaments, what you see is that the average forecaster will update their predictions about twice. So, you know, you've got six months to register a forecast, you put in your initial prediction and then, okay, I'm going to revise that two times.
[00:09:56] The superforecasters, the people who are the best. They revise twice as often. They will make four updates to their predictions. And this didn't make the book, but I think you'll find this interesting. The superforecaster who taught me the most on this is Jean-Pierre Beugoms. He's a military historian. He is the world's most accurate election forecaster, according to his tournament performance. So he not only predicted the rise of Trump before, just about anyone, not only predicted Brexit, but also is forecasted all these elections around the world. And so when I was interviewing him, it was the summer of 2019. So very early I said, "All right, who's going to win the democratic primary?" And he said, "It's way too soon. I can't even commit to a forecast now, because if I do, then I'm going to get attached to it. And then I might not be as open to changing my mind." I said, "Come on, just walk me through at least how you would think through this." And he ended up at Biden and then he emailed me later that night and said, "You know what? I think I was too quick to make a judgment. I'm actually shifting my forecast to Elizabeth Warren and here's why." He gave me a bunch of reasons. And then he said, "Here are the conditions where I would change that forecast." And then a couple of months later, "I had checked in for an update." He was predicting Bernie. And then he went back to Biden, but what's so brilliant about what, what a forecaster does like that is, is they say, "Okay, I know I don't want my idea to be, become my identity. And so the moment I think something's going to happen, I am going to list those circumstances where I would reverse or where I would at least reconsider. And that way I'm going to keep myself honest."
[00:11:17] Jordan Harbinger: You know, that's an interesting idea because usually people make a decision and they go, "All right. I don't even want to think about anything else." And sometimes that works in business where you just have to commit to something and it's six of one, half dozen of the other. But in this case, he's saying, "All right. I believe this. I know why I believe this," which actually most people don't do. Right? They don't even think about why they need to list why they believe something. And they certainly, myself included, I certainly never think. And if these three things change or two out of these three things, then I will change my opinion. I don't think I've ever really done that. Maybe I have and I'm just not coming up with a ready example, but that is clearly the best way to come up with any sort of prediction or any sort of decision-making tree. Because often we just make a decision and we just go, "Screw it. This is what I think." And I don't want to be wrong. So I'm doubling down on my wrongness now, even though every reason that I would have listed for believing this is no longer the case. I'm still going to believe it. And we see this in politics now too, of course, we always have.
[00:12:16] Adam Grant: Big time and I think you're right. I think it's such a simple practice that's rarely adopted for making good decisions and predictions and somebody who articulated this well. So, you know, you're probably not going to become a superforecaster tomorrow in your spare time. Maybe you will. But most people think that. You know, there's kind of an interesting thing to learn about, but how does this apply to my life? And a couple years ago I met Jeff Bezos. And one of the things that Jeff obviously is best known for is being willing to change his mind. And I wanted to know how he, how he decides when to do that and what he ended up — it was a longer conversation, but the gist of what I took away was he said, "Look, there are two conditions that I look at when I'm making a decision. Number one is how important is it and number two is how reversible is it. If I'm dealing with a high stakes decision that I can't undo, I will procrastinate until the last possible minute, because I want all the information before I lock into that commitment. But if either one of those conditions is relaxed, if it doesn't matter that much, or I can reverse it tomorrow, then I'm going to act quickly, but stay open to questioning myself."
[00:13:16] And I thought that was such a helpful two by two to draw because you get excited about the idea of thinking again and all of a sudden, you're like, "Well, should I rethink everything?" I'm wondering if I'm in the wrong job. Should I move to a different city? Should I be married to someone else? No, let's talk about staying open from the beginning on the important irreversible decisions and then acting quickly, but being willing to second guess on the others.
[00:13:37] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I think it would be a little uneasy if we never — I mean, that explains the amygdala and the desire for certainty and humans. Right? If you were rethinking everything, you wouldn't really be able to commit to anything. And I would imagine back in sort of our caveman days, being able to just get people to agree to go in one direction, if you're a hunter gatherer, is far more important than whether or not you are going in the optimal direction at any given day.
[00:14:01] Adam Grant: That's so interesting. There's actually a study that this is true in business, too. Dan Cable and Glenn Voss did this cool study in professional theaters where they asked leaders, who are you as an organization? And it turns out — I didn't know anything about the theater world, but apparently theaters have these very competing ideologies about what their values are supposed to be. Some people say, "You know, we're, we're here to produce great art." Others say, "We're here to serve the community." Others say, "This is a business we're trying to make money." And they wanted to know which model was most successful. And it turned out that all the models were equally successful. What matters was whether leaders agreed on which model they were pursuing.
[00:14:40] Jordan Harbinger: That's interesting.
[00:14:41] Adam Grant: And so if you had your leaders misaligned and they were trying to march in competing directions, you couldn't really succeed, but if they all said, "Yeah, we're a community." Or another group said, "Hey, you know what? we're a business." They tended to perform pretty well. And I think that's right in line with what you're just saying.
[00:14:55] Jordan Harbinger: That is interesting. I suppose it's just sort of guiding your team, right? If everyone is on the same page, it's kind of also hard to row a business in the totally wrong direction because you go, "Okay, we didn't make any money last year. This is obviously wrong, right? We're out of business." So the metrics tend to be pretty similar.
[00:15:11] How'd you meet Jeff Bezos? You guys have the same barber, I guess. Yeah.
[00:15:15] Adam Grant: That's all in there. I was invited to speak at Blue Origin and he showed up in the audience. Oh shit, Jeff Bezos is here. What do I say?
[00:15:22] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. I guess the answer is don't change anything that you had already planned to do, because that's a good way to bomb on stage generally.
[00:15:29] Adam Grant: I think that's generally good advice. Although there are definitely a couple of things I would have rethought if I had known, but that probably wasn't the moment to do my re-thinking out loud.
[00:15:37] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, exactly. Maybe I should remove my joke about him and I both being bald if he's in the front row. Yeah.
[00:15:43] Adam Grant: That's the perfect time for the joke.
[00:15:45] Jordan Harbinger: Actually, you may be right. You have more speaking experience. So I'll defer to you on here. You mentioned two different types of conflict, personal conflict versus task conflict. And I think a lot of people are afraid to — well, a lot of people don't want to do any questioning of a decision or rock the boat in any way, because maybe it's how they were raised or they worked in a company that had too much personal conflict, but they kind of equate, "Hey, if you do things this way, you're going to run headfirst into this figurative brick wall with some sort of personal issue with the person who made the decision." And I've seen this in business where someone who's maybe a little bit lower on the totem pole will say something like, "Yeah, I was afraid this was going to happen." And we're standing there like, "How did you not say anything when we were making the plan for this?" "Well, you know, I'm new here, or I didn't want to offend so-and-so who came up with the idea." And we're like, "We just spent $30,000 on this. Like he would've gotten over the offended part really quick."
[00:16:42] Adam Grant: That's brutal.
[00:16:43] Jordan Harbinger: It happens all the time.
[00:16:44] Adam Grant: It does. So let's talk about a couple of things there. The first one is why does it happen? There's a whole science of group brainstorming, showing that if you were going to bring a bunch of people together to solve a problem or make a decision, if instead you would let them work independently, they would generate more ideas and also better ideas. And there's a lot of group things that happen when people get together. I think the three mechanisms that we have good data for one would be production blocking, can't all talk at once. Some ideas get lost, might be the introverts might be the only woman of color in a group of white men. Then there's ego threat. I don't want to look stupid. So I bite my tongue on my most creative ideas or the ones that might be most threatening. And then the third problem is just basic conformity. It's the HIPPO effect. The HIPPO stands for the highest paid person's opinion.
[00:17:27] Jordan Harbinger: Oh yeah.
[00:17:29] Adam Grant: As soon as that's known, everybody wants to jump on the bandwagon and we end up with too much convergent thinking, not enough divergent thinking. And I think that's why it's so important to get independent judgment when you make a decision or solve a problem. So in that work, we'd talk about brain writing, where individuals generate ideas independently, and then you bring the group together to evaluate and refine.
[00:17:48] At Amazon, it sounds really awkward, but when you go into a big decision meeting, there's a six-page memo that's been written and everyone sits there reading it silently to do their own analysis of the problem, one, to make sure they actually do the homework. Then two, so you actually have that variety of perspectives before that group thinks sets in. I would love to see more organizations try that, frankly.
[00:18:08] Jordan Harbinger: It can really impede innovation if somebody doesn't want to rethink out loud or is afraid to come up with an idea and you see this in small groups too this — by the way that I think for people listening to like, "Oh, I don't work in a corporate environment. I'm self-employed." I feel like I do this, even when there's one other person in the room, because I have this second layer of programming running, where I go, "Is that dumb? That's a little bit dumb," or, "No. What does it do? Wait, did somebody already say that was I not listening? And they said that I'm not going to say that again, because then it looks like I'm not listening." I do that to myself all the time, even on calls with like one or two other people, I'll go, "Oh crap. Maybe they already meant that or said that."
[00:18:43] Adam Grant: Wow. I didn't know that was going on in your head, Jordan.
[00:18:45] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I mean—
[00:18:46] Adam Grant: You seem much more confident than that.
[00:18:48] Jordan Harbinger: Well, I'm not.
[00:18:50] Adam Grant: Welcome to the club. Nobody is. That's the funny thing, right? And this is something I should have spent a lot more time on in the book is, you know, there's that chapter on imposter syndrome versus being the armchair quarterback. And I think one of my big aha moments that led to a lot of rethinking for me was researching the book is I always thought about imposter syndrome is this chronic sense of, "Oh no, everyone's going to find out that I'm a fraud. I don't deserve any of that success. I'm completely incompetent." And that turns out to be really rare. What's common is exactly what you just described, which is kind of everyday.
[00:19:22] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:19:22] Adam Grant: Well, maybe I don't really know what I'm doing in this moment or maybe this conversation, like I was lost in thought. And what I'm saying is not going to make any sense and those everyday kinds of doubts. I think that the mistake we make is we don't voice them. We don't legitimate them ourselves by saying, "Well, maybe, actually there's something there." We don't bring them up out loud because we're afraid that then we're going to look like we don't know what we're doing as opposed to saying, "You know what a lot of the decisions we make in a small group, nobody knows what they're doing."
[00:19:51] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:19:51] Adam Grant: And if we can all admit our uncertainty, we can surface more diagnoses of the problem and then more solutions too.
[00:19:58] Jordan Harbinger: I think there's also this solution or idea is too obvious part of imposter syndrome where I remember one example from when I was in high school. I don't know why I don't have a more recent one, but I was sort of volunteering with the football team because I'd gotten injured. So they made me a coach and they were like, everybody has to give some bit of feedback. And I was terrified cause I was like, I'm not going to, there's all these experienced coaches in the room. I'm literally like 15, you're 16 years old. They say, "Come on, say anything, do something." And I said, "Well, in the weight room, there are two weight lifting coaches. And one guy is always talking about speed and power and the other, guy's always talking about form and technique and it's really confusing. And there's like some guys that follow one coach and some guys that follow another coach and there's this weird divide."
[00:20:38] And then I remember thinking that was so obvious. Why would I even say that? But at least I'm off the hook. And I remember afterwards, all they did was talk about that for the next half an hour. And they had decided to let go of one of the strength coaches. And they were like, "This is probably one of the more productive meetings we've ever had. Thanks to Jordan." And I was just blown away. Because I thought this is such an obvious thing that I probably shouldn't even bring it up. And it turned out to be the most important thing that happened that day.
[00:21:03] Adam Grant: Of course, it's obvious to you because you thought of it.
[00:21:06] Jordan Harbinger: Right, yeah.
[00:21:06] Adam Grant: How can anybody else miss this, but it's hard to imagine somebody else's perspective and what they're seeing. And I think, that's to me, one of the most basic things that happens whenever, I don't know whether I'm speaking or advising or occasionally getting dragged into a consulting project, the vast majority of the value that I ended up bringing to a team or an organization is just holding up a mirror and showing them things that I think are blindingly obvious, but that they haven't had the vocabulary to explain, or that there might've been a kind of a silent majority that was afraid to say it out loud. And so it's been verbalized and now they can talk about it. It sounds like what you were doing there was taking a dynamic that a bunch of people had seen, but maybe not really thought about or called out and say, "Wait a minute. This is actually making everybody's strength training really challenging. And we could do better here."
[00:21:55] Jordan Harbinger: And it also seems dumb when you're 15 and there's a bunch of adults in the room, but I would imagine that's how you feel when you're 25 and everyone else is 50 and has been working there for 20 years. And you're thinking like, "What do I know about where we should keep inventory? There's a reason they don't keep the stuff we access most often by the right bin where — they must be doing that for a reason. I'm just not going to say anything." And then finally, someone's like, "Why don't we move this shit closer to the door?" And they're like, "Wow, you're a genius." right?
[00:22:22] Adam Grant: I think that's almost the good version of it. The version that I see too often is you go to the one person that you trust to ask. And they're like, "Well, that's just the way we've always done it. And we don't really need to question things like that around here." And then you're like, "Oh man, I guess I should probably keep quiet as often as possible and just do my job." And then at some point you find out that the issue that you're raising was critically important.
[00:22:45] Jordan Harbinger: Right. And look, I think a lot of people have really good ideas and they shut them down. I hear about it all the time in the Feedback Friday inbox, where we give advice, people are like, "How do I bring this up? I don't want to seem like I'm overstepping." And I'm thinking every leader would love to get sort of frontline in the trenches feedback from people. Usually they pay people, consulting firms, whatever $30,000 to bring in a team of five to get surveys going when you could literally just fire an email to somebody who runs the warehouse and go, "You know, these should be closer to the door. That's my two cents. No one's ever gotten fired for doing it." Well, I shouldn't say that most people don't fire people for doing that. And if you're working for a place that does, you probably just learned a cheap lesson and should get a different job.
[00:23:29] Adam Grant: Yeah, if you have the opportunity, that's a sign that this is not a place that's going to look out for your future.
[00:23:34] Jordan Harbinger: Right. You mentioned armchair quarterback syndrome being the opposite of imposter syndrome. I've never heard that as interesting to have a name for that since we discuss imposter syndrome so often. Where did you come up with this? Because I don't know if I know anybody, that's the opposite of imposter syndrome. Maybe kids in high school have this, right? Because they know everything and they don't need any help, but otherwise, where do you see this?
[00:23:55] Adam Grant: I think Jordan, you must know a lot of arrogant, narcissistic, overconfident people.
[00:24:00] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, we all hang out together.
[00:24:04] Adam Grant: People who don't even know what they don't know.
[00:24:05] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:24:06] Adam Grant: And they're just convinced they have a lot of expertise that they really don't. I think the first time I noticed it though, to your point was in high school, I was with a group of friends and we were watching the Super Bowl and everybody who was a football fan in the room. We'd played fantasy football together all year. I think this is back in the day when we had to keep track of the stats by hand, but we get into watching the Super Bowl and the guy in our group who knows the least about football is the one screaming at the coach for calling the wrong place. I'm like, this is completely backward because it should be the person who's the most knowledgeable who's giving an opinion, but just like we all know with experts, right? It's the people who know the most, who also realize how little they know.
[00:24:42] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:24:43] Adam Grant: And I think that this is something we see in every walk of life. I see armchair quarterbacks everywhere. There are people who have just learned enough to sound like they know what they're talking about. And then pretty soon they're kind of waxing poetic on all these topics that they're just not qualified to have opinions about.
[00:25:01] And one of the scariest examples to me is with startup founders, you get a founder who has one big success and then over generalizes it and says, "You know what? In that moment everybody told me I was crazy. I turned out to be right. I have better judgment than other people."
[00:25:18] Jordan Harbinger: In every instance, right?
[00:25:19] Adam Grant: Yeah, exactly. Every time somebody tells me, every time, every time and says you're crazy or that's stupid that means this must be a good idea, as opposed to I got lucky or I happen to detect a pattern in that industry that may or may not apply to the one I'm in now. And it's gotten to a point where they just believe that they — I've dealt with a few founders who just can't fathom the idea that they could be wrong about anything. And obviously, that is not going to go well for their futures.
[00:25:45] Jordan Harbinger: No. Yeah. That's a, I live in Silicon Valley and there's a lot of those kinds of people here. And we'll argue with you about everything. They're disagreeable, but not in the right way. Like you can't even get freaking bubble tea with these folks because they're like, "Oh, you shouldn't get those kinds of bubble—" "I like those." "Don't, no, no, no. You just haven't had the kind that I'm about—" and I'm like, "Why do we hang out with this guy? I don't care if you pay for the tea or you have a hundred million dollars. You're in sufferable." We have to be. Disagreeable in the right way. And you call these people disagreeable givers. And as a lawyer, I approve this message, right? Because that's kind of what our jobs are or supposed to be is be a disagreeable giver with our clients or with the scenario that we're in. Obviously, it's easier said than done.
[00:26:29] Adam Grant: I think this goes to the question of who's in your network and we all know the value of a support network. And usually the people we want in that support network are highly agreeable. That they're warm, friendly, polite Canadian.
[00:26:42] Jordan Harbinger: You said the same thing twice.
[00:26:44] Adam Grant: Exactly. It's redundant. What we forget though, is that there's another kind of network, which is a challenge network. And that's the group of people that we trust to tear our ideas apart to point out the holes in our thinking. And I think the best members of a challenge network are disagreeable because they're not afraid of conflict. They're not worried about hurting your feelings, but to the point about disagreeable givers, you don't want somebody who's challenging you in order to take you down and take your sense. You want somebody who's challenging you because they care. Because they want to help make you better because they believe in your potential and are trying to push you to achieve the success that they think you're capable of.
[00:27:20] And so one of the things, Jordan, that I did after — I think I just finished writing the chapter on challenged networks. I went to a bunch of people who have been my best, most thoughtful critics at different points in my life. And I said, "Hey, you may not know this, but I consider you a founding member of my challenge network." And the first reaction is, "What the hell is that?"
[00:27:37] Jordan Harbinger: What's that?
[00:27:39] Adam Grant: Like, listen, I know I haven't always taken your feedback. Well, sometimes I've gotten defensive. Sometimes I've ignored it because I was trying to finish a project, but you've really made me question myself in a helpful way. And I valued and benefited from your feedback. And I would love to encourage you to continue giving more of it. I have gotten the best feedback of my career since I basically legitimated that and said, "Hey, you know what? You don't have to worry about hurting my feelings. The only way you can hurt my feelings is if you don't tell me the truth."
[00:28:09] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Adam Grant. We'll be right back.
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[00:30:46] Jordan Harbinger: Now, back to Adam Grant on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:30:51] I think even if you're afraid of getting your feelings hurt, most people don't say, "So this book is terrible and you should burn it." Right? They just say, "Hey, you know, the chapter was unclear when you're talking about Dunning-Kruger, like you kind of didn't define it. And then you gave an example, but then you define it after and it seems backwards." Like, that's not really an assault on your abilities as a creator or a writer, but we always feel like it's going to feel that way before we get the feedback, or at least many people, myself included, worry that it's going to feel that way before we get the feedback. And so I'm almost afraid to ask for it. My wife will give it to me without me asking, which is one of the reasons why she's so important to the business, but a lot of people, especially in the past, we'd be like, "Ah, I don't want to deal with this because it's going to hurt." It's going to feel bad to get feedback.
[00:31:35] Adam Grant: Yeah. And I think in some ways, the giver is being selfish, right? Saying, "Well, I don't want to feel guilty."
[00:31:41] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Right.
[00:31:42] Adam Grant: I don't want to feel bad. And you know, it's not about your feelings, right. I'm going to be uncomfortable. And I think the first step obviously is to say, "Well, is this going to help the person in the long run more than it hurts them in the short run?" But then to your point on the receiver side of the person, who's afraid to ask for it. It's such a simple distinction just to say, "You know what? Anytime somebody gives you any feedback, they are not judging you. They're judging a tiny slice of your work." They're judging a set of thoughts I had on a particular day that then I tinkered with a little bit and tried to mold into something that looked like, "It's a beautiful sculpture, but it kind of turned out to be a lump of clay." And if they tell me that, they're not condemning me and my talent level. They're just saying, "Hey, this thing that you did, wasn't as good as it could have been."
[00:32:24] Jordan Harbinger: And we have to, of course, be careful not to act like they've offended us. I mean, you don't want people to think, "Should I tell him about that? Or am I going to get uninvited to the Christmas party by accident? And then, you know, I'm not going to get my promotion or, you know, I'm going to get left out of golf on Sunday." You have to make people feel welcome and then not secretly get pissed or turn ice cold when they do give the feedback, which is kind of something that I may or may not have done in the past.
[00:32:49] Adam Grant: Yeah. I mean, I think people always say things like, "Feedback is a gift." I'm like, "Really? Where's the returns department? I want to send this one back. I did not ask for that."
[00:32:58] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:32:58] Adam Grant: "I'm re-gifting it to someone else," but yeah, I think you have to resist that temptation and actually. There's a fun example of this that comes to mind way back. So we have a friend in common, right?
[00:33:07] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:33:08] Adam Grant: My high school friend Serge. Was he your college roommate?
[00:33:10] Jordan Harbinger: He was my college roommate, yeah, for a couple of years.
[00:33:13] Adam Grant: Okay. So Serge in high school. I don't know. I don't know if he was like this still in college, but in high school he was a great contrarian. He's the kid who's going to find the mistake and you know, the teacher's math on the board and say like, "Hey, do you think there might be an error here?" He wasn't afraid to challenge.
[00:33:29] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, he was a little bit like that in college, but I remember him, you know, he had his quirks. Yeah. But we weren't sitting in front of a blackboard very often because he was studying for medical school and I was farting around or whatever, and eventually in law school, But I can definitely see him being that guy, yeah.
[00:33:45] Adam Grant: Yeah. So there were moments when there are a couple of teachers in particular who knew, okay, Serge is really smart and he's not afraid to call me out if I make a mistake. There's one teacher, our physics teacher, who the moment that Serge started to raise his hand, or even sometimes just when he would walk by in the hallway, he just put his hand up and smile and go, "Serge, like, no, no, no. Like you don't have to correct me yet. Let me finish, Serge." And what was great about it was he did it with a smile and he was saying to Serge, "I can take it. This is a routine that we're going to go through and I welcome this, but I'm just not ready for it yet." I guess it left a lasting impression on me. And I came away from it thinking, you know what, when we asked for feedback or when we give it, it's not that hard to just say, "Is this a good time?" Or like, even just to say, "You know what? I'm finding myself, not responding well to your feedback. Do you mind if we pick this conversation up, but it's when I'm a little bit more open."
[00:34:38] Jordan Harbinger: You know, makes sense that way it's well received and I can 100 percent see why Serge is a good doctor doing that kind of thing, because he's so detail-oriented. He's always looking for — not the whole and the system, but he's looking for like the inconsistency, which is probably a good thing to have in somebody who's looking at like your GI tract or whatever or your stomach lining. It's definitely something where he would be great at that and probably excelled in part, because of that reason.
[00:35:06] In the book, you mentioned that strong leaders engage their critics and make themselves stronger and weak leaders silence their critics and make themselves weaker. So essentially, we should embolden and encourage our critics to be disagreeable givers in the right way, because we learn more from those who challenge our thought process as opposed to those who reaffirm our conclusions. And I'll repeat that for my peeps, who are jogging, driving, bench pressing right now. We learn more from those who challenge our thought process, as opposed to those who just reaffirm our conclusion.
[00:35:38] Adam Grant: I did write that and I even believe it.
[00:35:40] Jordan Harbinger: Yes. Good.
[00:35:41] Adam Grant: Yeah. I think part of what's interesting about it is I think a lot of times we dismiss feedback because we don't respect the person who's giving it, or we don't like the way it's delivered. And I think a lot of the time feedback is not helpful. Maybe the person was insecure. Maybe they're not knowledgeable. Maybe they had an agenda, but that doesn't mean you can't learn something from it, even if it's just their taste. I still want to know. If somebody doesn't like a chapter of a book I wrote, I want to know why because then maybe I can learn something for how to preempt that reaction next time, or how to get into the topic a little bit differently.
[00:36:17] And so I think there's this, I guess one of my issues, I've never really thought this through before, but one of my big problems with feedback is people have a kind of a binary accept-reject reaction. It's like, "Well, is this true? Or is it not true? Is this person trying to help me or are they trying to hurt me?" And I think the better question is to say, "Well, what can I learn from this feedback? And even if the person is coming in bad faith, even if they're trolling, I obviously don't want to spend all my time listening to those people, but is there a pattern in their response or in the kind of criticism they give that could lead me to do something differently next time."
[00:36:49] Jordan Harbinger: How do we know if we're doing this in the right way at work or if we're the office a-hole who's always got to play devil's advocate, right?
[00:36:57] Adam Grant: Oh, that's a good question. I think the first test is: are people coming to you and asking for your feedback? If they're not, it's probably not a good sign because they're afraid they're just going to get torched. Another way to probably pick this up a little bit is to watch people's facial expressions when you bring up an idea or you're about to make a comment. You can sometimes see people bracing themselves a little bit or sort of pulling back because they're afraid they're about to get attacked. And I think again, so much of that is, you know, is not about the message. It's about the way it's delivered.
[00:37:29] There's an experiment that showed that you can increase people's openness to negative feedback by between 40 and 320 percent depending on the person, just by saying about 19 words upfront, which are roughly, "I'm giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I'm confident you can reach them." Immediately changes the relationship. "I am not attacking you. I'm not judging you. I'm here trying to coach you and help you get better."
[00:37:52] And hilariously, I taught that research one year when I was about to give out mid-course feedback forums and three different students wrote at the top of their forums in my class. I'm giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I'm confident you could reach. I'm like, "No, you don't have to use the words." And by the way, you can tell me whatever feedback you have without that preamble. The idea is just to invest in the relationship before you think you've earned the right to challenge them.
[00:38:17] Jordan Harbinger: Actually, that makes a lot of sense, right? Because as you wrote in the book are grumpy colleagues thrive in friction and they also make it a safe environment for other people to thrive in it as well. So these people who are doing this right. They're changing the culture; they're making it more productive and they're kind of beneficial — what's the opposite of a cancer in a workplace? They're like a catalyst.
[00:38:38] Adam Grant: Vitamin?
[00:38:38] Jordan Harbinger: A vitamin, yeah. I don't know.
[00:38:40] Adam Grant: Catalyst is better.
[00:38:41] Jordan Harbinger: They're a catalyst for productive conflict. That is not relationship conflict, but is task conflict. So the good kind of conflict, right? Where people are saying, let's make the example, you give us the Wright brothers, "Make the airplane this way." "No, it's got to be this other way," as opposed to, "You know what? I never liked you." Right? That kind of thing.
[00:38:57] Adam Grant: Yes, exactly. Yeah. Let's disagree on the substance, right? About our vision or strategy, a decision we have to make as opposed to having these kinds of personal attacks. And I think that, yeah, one of the problems with those of us who are really agreeable is we shy away from conflict because we're afraid it might lead to some kind of relationship tension. And having those disagreeable people in your challenge network, it makes you more comfortable. I can say, as an agreeable person, with my most disagreeable colleagues, I have much better debates because I know they're not going to take it personally. I know they enjoy the tension and kind of the feisty argument. And at the end of the day, they're still going to say, "All right, however, this went let's go out for drinks."
[00:39:38] Jordan Harbinger: The imposter syndrome that we touched on before, it actually has some advantages. I want to see if you agree with this, because people will say, "Well, why do I have this? When does it go away?" And my response is usually that we don't really want it to go away because it keeps you in like a novice, like a beginner's mind where you say, "This could be wrong. Oh, that's just my imposter syndrome, but also I could be wrong. Oh yeah, there's some new information that I should probably take in here because I haven't reevaluated my media buying strategy for five years to encompass social media," or whatever it is. It's like the second you go from yellow belt to green belt, that's when you start making a bunch of these mistakes, right? From novice to amateur is when — and I'm thinking about driving.
[00:40:20] Teenagers who are 17, 18, they're the most dangerous people on the road. I don't have data for this. I'm assuming somebody can correct me if I'm wrong because when you're 16, you're like, "Okay, look left, look right. Slow down to a complete stop at the stop sign." But when you're 18, you're like, "I can eat, drink, talk on the phone, steer with one hand and put the pedal all the way down to the floor, because this is a straight road from here out. And nothing's going to surprise me because I drive this way every day." And those are the people we see, unfortunately, you know, getting into some serious accidents a lot of the time, because they've just enough knowledge and experience to be dangerous, but they don't have deep experience, which if they did, they would know, "I should probably be careful everywhere because I'm driving a two-ton machine at 65 miles an hour."
[00:41:06] Adam Grant: Yeah, that's super interesting. So I actually got an email about this recently. I was like, what do the driving data show? And I couldn't find at least in my quick search, like, okay, you know, brand new driver versus a couple months or a year of experience, it does seem like both injuries and fatal crashes go down as people gain more experience from, you know, 16, 17 to 18, 19. But the pattern you're describing is really common. You get a little bit of knowledge and your confidence climbs faster than your competence and pretty soon you're overestimating yourself.
[00:41:37] And I think you're right. I think having those imposter thoughts is an antidote. It leads you to feel like you have something to prove. So, you know, you stay focused, you keep working hard, it leaves you to work smarter because you know that there are people around you who know things you don't, and it gets you in the mindset of saying, "What can I learn from these other people?" I think the big caveat on this is, I guess I would say that imposter thoughts or something to harness as opposed to just a race, but it's a lot easier for white men to do that than it is for women or people of color. That's a finding of Basima Tewfik who's now an MIT professor who is in our doctoral program at Wharton.
[00:42:11] And I think the way that I've made sense of this is you and me as white men, we're kind of used to people assuming we're competent. And so when we have those doubts—
[00:42:20] Jordan Harbinger: Speak for yourself, but yeah.
[00:42:22] Adam Grant: No, no, but like people look at you and think like, "Oh, you know, that guy could be a leader."
[00:42:26] Jordan Harbinger: Sure. Maybe, yeah. Maybe.
[00:42:27] Adam Grant: And sort of take it for granted at some level.
[00:42:30] Jordan Harbinger: I don't look like a stereotype of a leader, I suppose, right? Whereas—
[00:42:33] Adam Grant: Yeah exactly.
[00:42:34] Jordan Harbinger: Right, yeah, what you're getting at is like, if I looked extremely, if I were a female of any kind actually, or a person of color people, I don't fit into the neat box that most people have growing up in the '80s anyway, in the '90s that people think this is a CEO of a company possibly. Is that where you're going with that?
[00:42:50] Adam Grant: Exactly. Yeah. In psychology, it's called the think leader, think male effect.
[00:42:54] Jordan Harbinger: Oh.
[00:42:54] Adam Grant: We should actually call it the think leader think white male effect because when you make a list of the prototypes of leaders, guess who comes to mind.
[00:43:01] Jordan Harbinger: Huh, yeah.
[00:43:01] Adam Grant: And so I think you have enough of those experiences where nobody is questioning, whether you belong in that role of authority, where it's easy to push through those imposter thoughts and say, "You know what? I've pulled this off before I had these feelings before. You know what? I'll just go." And it seems to be at least in the data that women and people of color are more likely to internalize some of those doubts and say, "You know, I really haven't tested the waters here, or I haven't been given a chance." And they're more likely to question their abilities as opposed to saying, "Yeah, perfectly okay to just admit that I don't know what I'm doing here."
[00:43:32] Jordan Harbinger: That's I have a bummer because, of course, we've all, you especially in your work have met plenty of people that look the part that are freaking terrible at the job, right?
[00:43:40] Adam Grant: But I mean, almost more than not.
[00:43:42] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I think you're probably right. And you have way more experience in this area than I do, but yeah, you're right. I'm not one of those people who's like, "Oh, let me signal the right kind of virtue by saying, we need more diversity." But I will say that I've met so many people who don't belong in the job as leader, that I can't really think of a specific physical archetype of somebody that does a better job than others. I think most leaders that I've met who are maybe just too young or inexperienced are bad at it, no matter what they look like. And those people who have a lot of options and have a lot of work underneath their belt can be great at it, no matter what they look — like, it really does. It is kind of a bummer to hear that people can internalize doubt like that. Especially when I think a lot of us don't express that doubt deliberately it's just because of the way things have always been. Right?
[00:44:30] Adam Grant: Yeah.
[00:44:31] Jordan Harbinger: Like even me thinking about — if you asked me to picture a CEO, I will readily admit that the first image that pops into my head is not going to be an Asian woman or an Asian immigrant, it's not just who's going to pop into my head first.
[00:44:44] Adam Grant: No.
[00:44:45] Jordan Harbinger: I'll admit that, and that's hopefully not because I'm a terrible racist, right? It's just because those are the stereotypes that exist right now.
[00:44:52] Adam Grant: I mean, those are still the images that we see all around us.
[00:44:55] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:44:55] Adam Grant: You know, to your point, Jordan, there was a Zenger and Folkman analysis. This is a 360-degree review of leaders. So you get your peers, you get your subordinates, you get your supervisor to rate you on, I think, 19 leadership competencies and they have this huge database, thousands of leaders. It turns out that women outscored men on 17 of 19 leadership competencies. Now, do I think that women are inherently better leaders than men? No. Do I think though, that women have had to be on average that much better to get into those roles? Probably. And, you know, you look at that and you think, okay, how long is it going to take for those prototypes to change?
[00:45:33] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, that's interesting. It reminds me of something. My first boss or one of my first bosses, I was the only white guy working at this security company. This is a long time ago in the '90s. And I remember him disciplining one of the guys that came in a little bit late, but I also came in late and I remember saying like, "Oh, why don't you give me any crap for being late?" And he goes, "You know what I should have," he told me, he said, "Black people have to work twice as hard to be at the same level because everybody thinks that we're going to work less hard or that we're lazy." So he goes, "I'm telling them that as a favor," because he was also African-American and he's like, "I'm just being real. We have to work twice as hard just to not get fired. And so he needs to know that he can't be late. If you're five minutes late, maybe you are delayed by traffic. If he's five minutes late, nobody's assuming that they just think he's lazy." And I was blown away by that because I've never heard that before.
[00:46:20] Adam Grant: Wow.
[00:46:20] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:46:21] Adam Grant: I mean, on the one hand, obviously I appreciate the honesty.
[00:46:23] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:46:24] Adam Grant: There's so much disadvantage that persists, but on the other hand, you shouldn't get away with that.
[00:46:29] Jordan Harbinger: No.
[00:46:30] Adam Grant: He should be holding you accountable the same way.
[00:46:32] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I mean, there's a reason I remembered that for like 24 years because it was shocking. And to hear him say like, "No, really, you know, you can get fired for being five minutes late if you're working at a restaurant, but it's one of those things that like, he just experienced his whole life. And he's like the sooner you realize this as a young African-American guy, the better," because the guy was pissed. He like, "Jordan was late. I walked in before him. What the hell?" And he's like, "He's not going to get fired from his next job for being 10 minutes late. You might." I thought that was just shocking. Anyway, we're a little bit off the beaten path here.
[00:47:00] And another benefit of imposter syndrome is that it keeps us away from Dunning-Kruger. Can you define this? Because honestly, this is a fascinating concept that I think many people have heard of, but applies now in pretty much every area of our lives.
[00:47:16] Adam Grant: Yeah. It's still being debated a lot by social scientists. There's an open question about how much of the effect is a statistical artifact versus how much of it is real. But my read of the data is that at least part of the effect is real, which is that it goes back to the armchair quarterback idea, a little bit that people who know the least about a subject or who are the least skilled in a domain, are the most likely to overestimate their knowledge and skill. And people hear that and they think, okay, it's ego, right?
[00:47:43] So, you know, if I'm bad at logical reasoning, or if I have low emotional intelligence that I really want to convince myself and other people that I don't. And so I brag more than I should, but the funny thing is, David Dunning has a great way of describing this. He says, "You know, some of it's just that when you lack the ability to produce excellence, sometimes that means you also lack the ability to recognize excellence." You don't even know if you're emotionally unintelligent, you don't even know what it looks like to be emotionally skilled. And so you don't have the standard in mind to even figure out how to judge yourself. And that's what Dunning-Kruger is about.
[00:48:21] Jordan Harbinger: That's interesting. I will say a lot of the dumbest people I know are huge fans of labeling everything. They don't quite understand as the Dunning-Kruger effect in action, when actually, they are the prime example of the Dunning-Kruger effect in action. Not me though. I'm extremely learned, unlike those other foolish people that we're talking about and this example, but I find it to be such a funny thing because it's like, "Well, that's Dunning-Kruger." "No. Well you're Dunning-Kruger." "Well, though, that's Dunning-Kruger that you think I'm Dunning—?" I mean, it's like this endless loop of people that don't understand the thing that they're talking about. Labeling each other as this. And it's hard to sit there and roll your eyes and go, "Look at these two argue over this thing that — wait a minute, am I doing this now? Am I the example of Dunning-Kruger now?" Like how do you know when you're out of the loop, when you're out of the blast zone of being affected by Dunning-Kruger?
[00:49:10] Adam Grant: I always think of the Friends episode where Joey Tribbiani has no idea what's going on and he just nods and smiles to pretend to fit in. That's Dunning-Kruger in action, except he knows it internally.
[00:49:22] Jordan Harbinger: Right, he knows.
[00:49:22] Adam Grant: He's just trying to signal. I don't know. I don't know. It's a good question. I think in an ideal world, you know, we'd have some objective assessment where you could say — you see this a lot with trivia, right? Everybody has a friend, who's a big trivia buff, and then they go and watch Jeopardy and they can't answer any of the questions.
[00:49:39] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, that's me.
[00:49:40] Adam Grant: Yeah. That's me too. I know a lot less than I wanted to or thought I did. And that right there, you're like, okay, that should be a humbling experience. Right? You start to, you start to have a little bit more nuance in your knowledge about your knowledge. Oh, I know a lot about a few things. I know a lot less about everything else than I thought I did, especially compared to other people. But the problem is I think most of where Dunning-Kruger gets the average person in trouble is in domains where the feedback is only subjective, right? Where nobody's keeping score. And you know, you can walk around — like emotional intelligence is a great example. How do you know how emotionally intelligent you are? Even if you took a test, the tests are fairly noisy. And they require you to do things like look at a bunch of eyes and judge what the emotional expression is. And then, recommend different ways of managing your emotions in some intense situations. And even if you've got scored in those tests, it's not a perfect test by any means, let alone what most people do in everyday life.
[00:50:36] Jordan Harbinger: Right. And then of course it only applies to EQ level areas and not IQ level areas. It reminds me, there was a very popular influencer whose name I will not mention. And also of the word influencers is ridiculous, but—
[00:50:47] Adam Grant: Completely ridiculous.
[00:50:48] Jordan Harbinger: So ridiculous.
[00:50:49] Adam Grant: If you call yourself an influencer, you cease to be one.
[00:50:51] Jordan Harbinger: Yes, exactly.
[00:50:52] Adam Grant: That's a sign that you're a Dunning-Kruger.
[00:50:54] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, that's a good point. That's a good point. This guy made a series of videos about how humble and self-aware he was, and it was like four or five videos about his level of humility and self-awareness. And I remember looking at the person that showed me these and going, "Are you sharing these because you're in on the joke? Or are you sharing these because you're a part of the joke?" And he's like, "Isn't it weird that he made a bunch of videos about being humble and self-aware?" And I was like, "Okay, good, we're on the same page. Yeah, that's literally the most ridiculous thing. He obviously is not self-aware enough or humble enough to know that this makes him look like a complete a-hole.
[00:51:30] Adam Grant: You know, this reminds me of the first conversation we ever had around givers and takers.
[00:51:35] Jordan Harbinger: God, that was a while ago. You remember that? That's amazing.
[00:51:38] Adam Grant: Eight years ago. Yeah, I specifically remember us having this hilarious back and forth where you were like, "I'm a giver." And then I think you're like, "Wait, if I say that, does that mean I'm not a giver?"
[00:51:49] Jordan Harbinger: That sounds like me, yeah.
[00:51:51] Adam Grant: Yeah. Sort of right? Somebody who wanders around claiming to be generous or claiming to be humble, doesn't realize, no, this is actually a judgment that only other people can make of you. Right? Like you have to earn it. You can't just wave a sign and say, "Look how humble I am."
[00:52:06] Jordan Harbinger: Right. That's a good point. And it's so true. Especially eight years ago that I would have been trying hard to be a giver, but probably not doing, certainly not doing the things I'm doing now that are, I would say are like table stakes for a giver, like helping other people, without the expectation of getting things in return. Back then, I was like, "Oh no, I'm a giver. I freely trade with people who will help me right back immediately," you know?
[00:52:32] Adam Grant: That's yeah. That's matching, not giving.
[00:52:34] Jordan Harbinger: Right, exactly.
[00:52:35] Adam Grant: That right there is humility. That's you looking back and criticizing yourself and saying, "I had some area for growth," but I also think that's potentially a harsh judgment, right? Because you can also look back at that version of you and say, "You know what? No, what I meant when I said I'm a giver, was I like helping people." And that's something that I gravitate toward and you're not claiming like, "Oh, I'm doing all this good for people without expecting anything in return." and so if you made that judgment or if I made that judgment, you could also say, well, that's too harsh because it's one thing to own the motivation. It's another thing to claim. Well, I have lived that motivation.
[00:53:07] Jordan Harbinger: Right. That makes sense. That's interesting. I find myself looking back on pretty much everything I've done over, let's say two, three years ago and cringing, that's a good one sign, right?
[00:53:17] Adam Grant: It's a good sign when it comes to being open to rethinking, right? Because you're learning and you're willing to recognize that the you of the past does not live up to your current standards or tastes. I think though, there's a version of it that's also pretty painful which is if you're cringing and it makes you that uncomfortable, like maybe that discourages you from learning. And so I wonder if the middle ground there is to say, you look back at your past self and you have a lot of constructive criticism.
[00:53:43] Jordan Harbinger: I'll have to meditate on that one and find out which one it actually is. I'd like to think it's because it's the same thing as growing up, right? You look back at something and you just go, "Why would I have done that way?" And the answer is because it was a while ago and you didn't know any better, but it doesn't feel any better when you're reliving the experience in this particular moment.
[00:54:01] Adam Grant: I think it can. I think this goes to the idea of separating your past self from your present self. I think that one of the things that prevents people from rethinking their habits, their choices, even some of their beliefs is they feel like who I was yesterday has to define me today. And again, I don't want you to reinvent your identity every day. That's a lot of change and probably too much turbulence for the average person, but there is evidence that people who distanced their current self more from their self a year or two ago, they basically by themselves flexibility to say, "All right, that was me then. And I get to make some new choices about who I want to be next year." And I think that's a healthy thing for all of us to do. Like why should we be attached to the images of who we wanted to be when we were younger, dumber, less wise.
[00:54:45] Jordan Harbinger: Right. You're right. It pays to kind of give ourselves a little bit of a, what did you call it? Leeway space, distance between our current self, yeah, because otherwise I think one of the reasons, I'm hard on myself is because it does make me better in the moment, but it is kind of painful. And I think you can easily overstep the bound to where you're literally just beating yourself up, there's nothing you can do about it, but you also hear successful people do this a lot. There's an example of — I can't remember if I read this in one of your books now but possibly, David Letterman used to watch every episode of his show, but like after it aired. So imagine it's probably, I don't know, 1:00 a.m. He's watching it and people who are around him said he just shredded himself. He'd beat himself up every time. It could have been the best show they did all year and you would find 50 things wrong with it. But that's also the reason he was the best although I can't imagine that was good for his mental health.
[00:55:39] Adam Grant: Yeah. I think I was going to say if you can handle it right. That's the recipe for excellence, but otherwise it's a recipe for misery.
[00:55:44] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:55:45] Adam Grant: This reminds me of — have you read Ethan Kross' book Chatter yet?
[00:55:48] Jordan Harbinger: Not yet. I do have it though. Yeah, he's a smart dude.
[00:55:51] Adam Grant: Yeah, go blue.
[00:55:53] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:55:53] Adam Grant: He's a Michigan neuroscientist and psychologist, very smart. I think. It's the best book I've read on the monkey mind and those voices in your head you were talking about earlier. And one of the things I learned from Ethan's work, which was just, I don't even want to say it wasn't counterintuitive. It was just completely non-obvious to me was one of the ways that you can self-distance is actually to talk to yourself in the second or third person. And so like, he would say one of the ways that you stop cringing at your past self is you name that person like past Jordan is George or something like that. Like, "George was an idiot. I choose not to be George anymore." Even saying they or you, as opposed to I, creates a little bit of that separation between that thing I did that I don't like and who I want to be moving forward.
[00:56:36] Jordan Harbinger: Right. I can see that. So man, like you're reliving this moment. You go, "No wonder he was single back then this guy right here," maybe.
[00:56:44] Adam Grant: Yeah. Like dumb Jordan. I'm so glad he doesn't occupy all my brain anymore.
[00:56:49] Jordan Harbinger: Ooh. I hope I don't see that guy again. He was a work.
[00:56:55] This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Adam Grant. We'll be right back.
[00:57:00] This episode is sponsored in part by Paint Your Life. We all have an impossible to shop for a person in our life. I'm that person, by the way, in my own life and everyone else's life who's in my life. If that makes sense. So when I heard about paintyourlife.com, I thought what a great gift idea for the people that are really hard to buy for, but it's got to be prohibitively expensive. I mean, you're getting an oil painting of somebody, right? You can actually get a professional hand painted portrait created from any photo at a truly affordable price. It was kind of amazing. I can only assume, well, I guess there are starving artists out there that are trying to pay the rent. I decided to get my show art done as an oil painting for my new studio. I was just blown away by the quality and the speed. They even nailed a Momo, the cat in the photo. It takes five minutes to order. You send any picture yourself, your kids, family, a special place, your pet, whatever. Combined photos into one painting, totally fine. Customize the background if you want. You choose from a team of world-class artists. You work with them until every detail is perfect. Oil painting is the most popular, but you can get charcoal, watercolor, pencil. You can even have them send you a progress video of the artists doing the painting in real time, which is really cool. The whole thing takes about three weeks. It was actually faster for us. If I'm honest, I received my proof in two days. It only took us a couple of weeks to receive the framed painting. So I think this is a really cool gift.
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[00:58:45] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by Bloomscape. After being cooped up for a year, I think we're all ready to get out of the house. I know I can't wait to travel. Like I don't know. I could use a couple of weeks on the coast of Italy or something like that. But in the meantime, I'm taking the opportunity to spruce up my space a little bit. If you've got a green thumb, more power to you, but some of us need a hand — ooh, I feel like there's a missed opportunity for a pun here. Anyway, that's why I love Bloomscape. They make it easy to find the perfect plants for your space and keep them growing/alive all year long. I ordered a snake plant, which purifies the air at night, which I think a lot of plants do candidly, but that's the claim to fame for the snake plant. It arrived, packaged so carefully. It was like sitting in a first-class box with heat packs and a blanket made out of recycled material. I didn't know plants needed blankets, but apparently if you get a fancy snake plant, you do. Anyway, I love the idea behind Bloomscape. I love the idea of getting more plants, especially kind of rare, cool ones, and actually knowing how to keep them alive. I think Bloomscape is a great idea for that.
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[01:01:27] I want to talk about the binary bias. You mentioned this earlier, this sort of black-and-white thinking that is a trap. Tell us what this is one more time. I know you mentioned it earlier in the show, but I want to know how to escape this trap and consider positions of belief and opinion across a spectrum if that's the answer.
[01:01:44] Adam Grant: I think it's an answer to avoid the simplifying tendency that I catch myself in all the time. But so binary bias is this idea in psychology, where you take a really complex continuum or spectrum and you oversimplify it into just two categories. So anytime someone says us versus them. It's much more black and white than probably the real issue is. And it's hard to think about this without thinking about the charged political issues we're dealing with right now.
[01:02:08] Jordan Harbinger: I was just going to say it's politics, but I'm not going to say it if you're not going to say it until you say it.
[01:02:12] Adam Grant: Oh no, no. I mean, it looks, this is actually the point is I can't have a thoughtful political conversation because, well, I have to belong to a camp? Am I gun rights or gun safety? Am I a climate change fearmonger or am I a climate change denier? And those extremes are so rare. Almost every issue you have a normal distribution, it's a bell curve, right? Most people are somewhere in the middle. And if you can overcome that binary bias, it's a lot easier to depolarize conversations because you know, if I'm going to talk to somebody who's on the opposite end, let's say of the gun issue or the climate issue. If I think about it as a binary, then I definitely think they're wrong. Whereas if I see it as a spectrum, well, you know what, maybe there's a common ground on universal background checks, which there is right across Republican and Democratic groups. Everybody thinks those are a good idea.
[01:03:02] Jordan Harbinger: Almost everybody. I have definitely heard the counter argument. It's not as persuasive in my opinion, but I have heard the counter argument mostly from like NRA people that say, "Hey, if you have background checks, they're just going to make it impossible for everyone to buy guns," which I think is one of the many counters there. But you're right, if you—
[01:03:18] Adam Grant: But that's a rare perspective.
[01:03:19] Jordan Harbinger: It is a rare perspective.
[01:03:20] Adam Grant: It's a tiny minority of the country who worries about that. And that voice gets amplified along with the polar opposite, which is the, we should have a universal ban on all weapons. You shouldn't be able to get one, unless you're a soldier. And you know that both of those perspectives obviously don't represent the majority of people.
[01:03:39] Jordan Harbinger: That's a good point. I think what a lot of people may worry about, especially leaders or people in an organization is they'll say, "Look, when I express doubt—" Or if I'm an expert, right? Imagine — let's not mention politics. Let's imagine, let's imagine hypothetically, there's a man in charge of, I don't know, a center for disease control hypothetically. And he said something, but then expressed a little bit of doubt in that. I think those people are maybe rightly, maybe wrongly worried that they'll seem less persuasive if they are not concrete on one thing.
[01:04:09] But your book, it actually says that nuance is more persuasive. Can you speak to that a little bit? Because that's fascinating to me.
[01:04:16] Adam Grant: Yeah. So let's add the nuance. It can be, but it isn't always, okay. It turns out that if you don't know what you're talking about and you express doubt, people just dismiss you altogether. If you're an established expert, if people recognize your knowledge or your credibility and you show a little bit of doubt, you ended up becoming more persuasive. And I think the data on this would say — data can't talk. What am I saying? What I've learned from the data on this is that it surprises people. People expect experts to be confident and certain. And when they say, "Actually, I'm not entirely sure yet. We don't really know." People are intrigued. They lean forward a little bit. They listen more carefully and that means they end up hearing more of the substance which the experts argue, which then is likely to be persuasive.
[01:05:01] However, there's another possibility at play here that I've seen happen anecdotally a lot. I don't have evidence for this, so I will say very tentatively, but I think also part of what happens is — actually, you know what? I take it back. I do have evidence for this. It's in chapter five. As a knowledgeable person, when you equivocate a little bit, when you say, "Well, you know, it could be, this could be that," you signal that you're a reasonable person. That you're not just here to preach your beliefs and prosecute anybody who disagrees with you. That you're actually interested in pursuing the truth. That's a useful signal to send. "I might be willing to change my mind. I'm looking at the evidence. I'm trying to figure out what's correct." And that's the kind of person I want to listen to and learn from not the person who's dogmatic.
[01:05:41] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Okay. That checks out quite a bit. I'm trying to think of people in my life that I know that I trust a lot and you're right. They do say things like, "Well, we're never sure of this." And it used to be frustrating, but I guess as I've gotten older, maybe, and realize that black-and-white thinking is not helpful or accurate. That I do trust those people more and their opinions more because it's so clear that they've thought about them more than the person who just says, "Anybody who does this is that way." When you can think of a million examples in just a few moments that contradict that. We almost always know those people are wrong, so we appreciate the nuance. But of course, there's a lot of people that love black-and-white thinking, man. I mean, we see it all the time online and the vitriol that says, "Well, if you do this, you're that." You can make millions of dollars to the leading people with black-and-white statements, whether they're accurate or not.
[01:06:34] Adam Grant: I think you're right. And I think there's an opportunity to complexify things a little bit when you run into that. So let's take this idea that the marketing researchers put on the map, which I think about every day now, because that's what we do in social science. These constructs get in your head and you can't get rid of them. But this one, I think, is immensely useful. It's called solution aversion. And the idea is when you propose a solution to a problem that somebody else doesn't like sometimes their first instinct is to just deny or ignore the problem altogether.
[01:07:04] Let's take another charged political issue right now, policing. And let's say I'm a law and order person. And somebody comes and says, "Do you fund the police?" You know what? I don't want to talk about police racism anymore because I don't want the police to be defunded. I know they play extremely important roles in preventing violence and keeping communities safe. And I know that there are a lot of great police officers out there and they don't deserve to be unfairly stigmatized. And so I just shut down on the issue altogether. I'm like, "Eh, a few bad apples, we don't need to change the system."
[01:07:33] And whatever that happens, what you're doing is you're locking somebody into one narrow remedy for what's a much messier problem. And so what you could do there is instead say, all right, I obviously have some concerns about people who are treated unjustly. That seems to disproportionately happen to the black community. And I know that there are also other groups though. Like there are, there have been people who are convicted of crimes that they didn't commit. I want to talk about all the places where that happens. So let's talk about the nature of that problem and all the different pieces of it.
[01:08:03]And then any person that you're talking to, who's having a good faith conversation will be able to recognize that, "Yeah. You know what? Police don't always get it right. And sometimes they punish people unjustly." Then, what you want to do is open the conversation, but the range of possible solutions there, and you can have a much more thoughtful conversation. Again, assuming the person is actually trying to make progress, as opposed to just trying to spew hate.
[01:08:25] Jordan Harbinger: You mentioned in the book a practical way to maybe become a little bit more flexible, changing our minds, and you say define your identity in terms of values instead of opinions. I think that's brilliant because I find that if you're connected, of course, to an opinion, and like if you are this person who believes this, how the hell are you going to change your mind from there? If you are the — all cops are bastards or you're the absolutist on the second amendment, how on earth are you ever going to come around to changing your mind? And the answer is you're really not. But if you believe in, let's say equality in the justice system at the law enforcement level or whatever phrase you want to say, then give so much more room to change your idea on what policing should look like or how it should be regulated and how guns should be regular things like this.
[01:09:16] Adam Grant: Yes. I think it's such a simple distinction for me, but I didn't even realize until I was writing Think Again, that people seem to gloss. I guess they seem to gloss over it. I was thinking about this personally, and I was thinking, "Okay, what kinds of opinions have I been to attach to? That became part of my identity. And one, I actually dug up some emails from college and I had an email signature. And my quote was, "I'm a great believer in luck. And I find that the harder I work, the more I have of it," and that was my identity. And I think it was my identity because I got into a school where I knew that probably a lot of people were a lot smarter than me. And the only way I thought I could make it was to be gritty and dedicated. And it shouldn't have been my identity one because the belief is not right for all people. I know it's a lot easier for my hard work to pay off given the privileges that I have in my life. I also know though that I'm like — you know what? I don't think all hard work is virtuous. There are some very hardworking dictators in the world.
[01:10:16] Jordan Harbinger: True, yeah.
[01:10:17] Adam Grant: Let's talk about the ends, not just the means. And so I realized I needed to detach this opinion from my identity and the value that I was attached to — so not the thing that I thought was true, but the thing that I thought was important is excellence. I care about excellence. That's the thing I'm after. And so, well, I don't know what the best way is to get to excellence. I know that in a lot of fields, probably hard work is important. We could have a whole debate about deliberate practice and how many thousands of hours you need in different fields, right?
[01:10:45] Jordan Harbinger: That's another show, yeah.
[01:10:46] Adam Grant: It's a whole nother show, but the point is, I don't know. And I also know there are times when actually working less hard is going to help me because I'm too fixated on one solution and I need to open up my creative capacities. And so the thought was all right, you know what? My identity is, I'm someone who pursues excellence and I'm going to be very open about given task I'm working on or the project that I'm pursuing is the best way to achieve that goal. And it's made me a lot more flexible.
[01:11:12] Jordan Harbinger: Right. So to clarify this example for people, if necessary — if you say, the hard work is the only way to get their hard work and grit, that might mean everyone's on spring break. "Great, I'm at the library until four o'clock in the morning brushing up on my whatevers." But if your goal is excellence, so you might say, "And part of that is making sure I'm fresh and well rested for the work that I have to do. And I come back on Monday and everyone is cheerful and tan and ready to rock." I'm going to freaking Mexico like everyone else. And that's going to be part of excellence because I find myself doing this as well. It's like, "Weekends, that's for sure losers. I'm busting my ass on the weekends." And now I realize, no, I need to sleep and work out and go get some sun and go for a hike with my family. Like that's going to further my goal—
[01:11:59] Adam Grant: Yes.
[01:12:00] Jordan Harbinger: —not just reinforce this tenet of my identity that I picked when I was 17.
[01:12:05] Adam Grant: That's such a helpful example. And I think it another way of saying it is you want to be committed to the goal and not the path and even better yet, you want to be committed to the value, not the goal.
[01:12:14] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Great. I love that. I think that's extremely useful for people. Before we wrap here, I want to talk about some of these, I guess you'd call them persuasion tactics in the book. First one that I wrote down here was asking people how they formed their opinions originally. This is a really, I won't say good trick, but a great tactic maybe because when people ask me this, or if people were to ask me this, because I spent the week after I read the book, asking myself some of these questions. And I realized that I have no idea where I've formed most of my opinions originally. They were obviously arbitrary, formed very casually, probably formed in 1995. That sort of pops the lid off, I think, most people. When and where'd you form this opinion? And they don't even know. They're like, "In 1968, someone spilled something on me and then I've decided ever since then, I'm never going to do things this way ever."
[01:13:07] Adam Grant: It's hilarious. I think the first place that I first became aware of that was reading this research on what I called cognitive truisms, which is, I think a lot of the beliefs that people hold and the opinions they hold are just kind of things they take for granted because somebody said them at one point or they learn them through an idiosyncratic experience, but they never really questioned and they don't have a lot of support for them. And what the psychologist originally found was if you could identify opinions and beliefs and even values too that people held. If you pulled out the right Jenga block in their tower, the whole thing would come crashing down and they would rebuild it.
[01:13:41] And I think that part of the reason that works is even if people do have some decent reasons for how they got there, when you ask them the how question you get them to approach their own beliefs with a little bit more humility and curiosity, you get them to think a little more scientifically and say, "Well, let me, let me actually reconstruct this. How did this unfolded? How did this happen?" And I think for most of the things that people believe they can identify some factors that might've swayed their judgment that shouldn't have. And then all of a sudden, it's like, "Well, maybe I should rethink that."
[01:14:10] And I think, to your point, Jordan, it's a question we could ask ourselves as often as we ask other people. When somebody challenges one of my beliefs and I feel that hostility, that amygdala hijacking reaction, okay, that either means they've attacked one of my core values. Or I'm overly attached to a belief that maybe I shouldn't be. And either way, I want to understand that better. Like why is that so important to me? How did I land at this place where somebody could say words out loud and all of a sudden evoke this emotional reaction in this brain that I think has hyper rational? How did that happen? And I think that reflection is extremely informative.
[01:14:46] Jordan Harbinger: The second point I wrote down here was agree with valid points on the other side. This is something that is called the steel man argument. Is that the same thing? Can you take us through an example of this? Because most people, of course, do the opposite, which is straw man argument, where I take, maybe even misconstrue your words to mean the weakest possible version of your argument, and then say, "Aha! You're wrong," which isn't really constructive.
[01:15:10] Adam Grant: No. I think applied that way they fit together very nicely. So there's a classic study of expert negotiators comparing them to average ones. And one of the things the experts do differently is they spend substantially more time preparing by identifying areas of common ground. And then in the actual bargaining, they talk more about areas of agreement. And I think the goal is to establish, "Hey, you know what? I'm a reasonable person. We share common interests." So that then on issues where you do disagree, instead of attributing them to the other person's character or bad ideas, you say, "Oh, well, we have different interests on this one specific issue, or we have different ideas here." and I think that in that way, what you're doing is, you're showing the other person, "You know, what I care about your interests and I'm also interested in hearing you and learning from you and evolving my beliefs accordingly." And anytime we get in an argument, you cannot expect somebody else to open their mind if you want to open yours.
[01:16:06] This is new for me, Jordan, but one of the things I've started doing is the beginning of an argument I will say, "You know what? I have a bad habit of going into prosecutor mode. When somebody has a strong opinion, my instinct is just to argue the polar opposite. And then I come across as stubborn and close minded. But what I'm trying to do is I'm trying to open the other person's side. I don't want to be that person anymore. If you see me doing that, please give me feedback." And actually, it just happened to me last week, a friend of mine, we were having an email debate back and forth and he said, "You're going into lawyer mode again." "Oops, sorry—"
[01:16:36] Jordan Harbinger: Nice.
[01:16:37] Adam Grant: "—here's the questions I should have asked you that I didn't."
[01:16:39] Jordan Harbinger: That's interesting. So you actually tell the other party to almost blow the whistle if you start becoming a little bit too — what's the word I'm looking for?
[01:16:47] Adam Grant: Too aggressive.
[01:16:48] Jordan Harbinger: Too aggressive or too — I was going to say conflicty but that's not a word.
[01:16:53] Adam Grant: No, but I think the way you just described that as right. I want them to blow the whistle. And I think a lot of people are afraid. "Well, aren't you giving up ground? Aren't you admitting weakness?" No, what I'm doing is I'm inviting them to call me out when I'm arguing in a way that's counterproductive. And so I'm not going to say it this way to them, but what I'm basically trying to get at is have I just slipped into a mode where I'm going to fail to reason with you. And if so, the sooner I know that the sooner I can rethink that and course correct,
[01:17:21] Jordan Harbinger: Asking people what evidence would change your mind. This is sort of secret Ninja brilliant, because I think a lot of folks, if we're honest with ourselves, the answer is nothing because I just want to be right about this one issue. So asking them this you'll find out quickly, if you have any shot in hell of actually convincing them of anything, or if it's just crazy Uncle Frank had Thanksgiving shouting some crap that he heard on Rush Limbaugh, right?
[01:17:45] Adam Grant: Yeah. It's my favorite question because it recalibrates, it resets the conversation around facts, around data about something that's objective in the world that we could actually look up.
[01:17:55] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:17:55] Adam Grant: And then sort through and yeah, you're right. Jordan. Sometimes people will, they'll respond to that question, nothing. Like, "Okay, this is a religion for you. I understand. Well, at least, you know, can you play this back for me and tell me what would have made this feel less like I was attacking your religious beliefs, and then I can learn something as opposed to arguing to win." But also maybe more importantly, when I ask what evidence would change your mind, what I am doing — and this happens to me all the time in my job. I'll be brought into an organization. They presumably have hired me because I'm going to bring evidence from the outside that will help them make a decision. And somebody pushes back. And instead of getting defensive or going on the attack, I'll just say, "Wow, this is so interesting. If you don't value the kind of evidence I bring to the table, why in the world did you hire me? Like, why am I here? Tell me why." And then they'll usually say, "Well, you know, we, we value this kind of evidence. We thought your work on this was kind of interesting." I'll say, "Great. Okay. So on this particular issue, what kind of evidence would have opened your mind?" And then I can start to have the conversation in around that I have a lot more data than they do, and it's my best shot at trying to be persuasive.
[01:18:59] Jordan Harbinger: "And we hired you to tell our CEO that he was right about everything and to fluff his ego. Please don't tell him I said that."
[01:19:06] Adam Grant: You know, I wish somebody would have the candor to tell me that I know that's happened from time to time, but when somebody says that to me, I'll say, "You know, look, my job as an organizational psychologist is to try to analyze why you're in a position where you have to bring an outsider to tell the truth." And even the outsider has a challenge doing that. "What's going on here? Do you mind if I go to your CEO and say, 'The feedback I got in the organization is people can't tell you things that you need to hear, but don't want to hear"?
[01:19:33] Jordan Harbinger: You just raise your rate for those people. "Ah, well, if you didn't want me to do any analysis or do anything, my rate is doubled." They'd probably pay it.
[01:19:41] Adam Grant: Jim Collins actually has done a version of that, which is after a Good to Great took off, he got so many requests from so many leaders. I was asking him, "How in the world did you decide what to take?" And he said, "It's really simple. If I'm asked to give a speech, I have a rule that the CEO has to be on stage with me afterward to discuss the points I made and what was learned and where we agree and disagree so that we can have a real conversation about what the organization is going to do about these ideas." I thought that was ingenious.
[01:20:06] Jordan Harbinger: Right. And so when they go, "No, we don't want to do that." He's like, "All right, well, I'm not going to come." Because I know—
[01:20:10] Adam Grant: "I'm not going to waste my time."
[01:20:11] Jordan Harbinger: —blowing hot air in your conference room at that point. Yeah.
[01:20:14] Adam Grant: What's the point?
[01:20:15] Jordan Harbinger: Before I let you go, this is completely unrelated to everything that we've talked about so far, but you give this exercise in the book about — it's career checkups is what this is called. And this is again, drawing a nexus to what we've discussed before. It doesn't really seem necessary here, but this sounds so useful that everyone needs to be doing this. And I'm wondering if we can just go through, what are these, what do they do, who they're for and the steps on how we do this?
[01:20:42] Adam Grant: Yeah. I started recommending this to my students years ago and I didn't really think much of it at the time. And now it's become one of my favorite things to do. I think about it as you go to the doctor or the dentist a couple of times a year for a checkup, even if nothing's wrong. And isn't your career, at least as important as your health, maybe not as important, but tell you care about your career—
[01:21:01] Jordan Harbinger: Of course.
[01:21:02] Adam Grant: —as much as you care about your teeth—
[01:21:03] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:21:03] Adam Grant: —a lot of people do.
[01:21:05] Jordan Harbinger: Look, if I could do this job with no teeth, well, that's a whole — we wouldn't have to go down that road.
[01:21:10] Adam Grant: No, but the trap that I was worried about and I saw too many students kind of fall into it was this escalation of commitment problem. Where they took an initial job in finance. They after a couple of years, discover, "This is not quite right for me, but you know, I want to move up and I'm getting paid a lot of money and I want to learn. I've already invested a couple of years, so I'm going to stick with it." We were touching on this earlier, but then by the time they really realized this is the wrong career for me, it's too late.
[01:21:38] Jordan Harbinger: Right. They're eight years in. They're about to make partner, yeah.
[01:21:40] Adam Grant: Yeah, exactly. "I'm making too much money. I have too much status. I've invested in this firm or this set of skills. And I don't want to just go back to zero." So the thought was, all right, I don't want you to rethink your career every day, because then you're just going to hate your job. You're never going to engage and figure out whether there's a decent opportunity for you in this organization, but you do need some mechanism to sound the alarm if maybe you're going in the wrong direction. And so the thought was twice a year, put in your calendar, a career checkup where you ask yourself: is this the job I thought I was signing up for? Is that still what I want in a job now that I know more about myself and what work is like? Is this a culture that's toxic for me? How have I reached a learning plateau or a lifestyle plateau?
[01:22:26] And that becomes kind of an off-ramp for you to say, "Okay, it's time for me to rethink what I want to do with the next year. And I can begin planning that." And I've had students say, Jordan, that one of the mistakes that they often make is they're even afraid to entertain that question because they might realize they made a bad choice. "I don't want to live with regret."
[01:22:45] Jordan Harbinger: For sure.
[01:22:46] Adam Grant: But I would much rather do my rethinking while I still have the chance to change as opposed to do it all in hindsight and say, "Wow, I really wish I had led a different life."
[01:22:56] Jordan Harbinger: I wish I'd done this 20 years ago. I can think of numerous — the reason I brought this up is one, yes, it's important for careers, but two, even if you're self-employed like me or you're running your own business, you should be doing this. Because if I had legit done a career checkup every six months, I wouldn't have let things with my last company get to the point where they were, where I had to end up pulling the rip cord. And we had like this nasty separation. I wouldn't have let it get anywhere near that. But every time it came time for a career checkup, not that I had it on my calendar, which I recommend people do anyway. I would've just, if it even came up organically, I'd be like, I can't even entertain this because what I felt almost like, what am I going to do about it anyway? I can't do anything and so I sort of blocked the ideas out.
[01:23:37] But I think realizing that, you know, have I had a learning plateau? Am I in the right place? Am I in the right niche? Am I growing? Am I moving forward? Am I excited for the future? Even these basic questions, if we answer them, sit down and write them down. Don't try and do it while you're driving because then you're just going to distract yourself things uncomfortable. Sit down and write it out. I think a lot of people will find that they need to jump departments or ask for that raise or get on a project that they didn't think they were qualified to do just to keep things moving forward. And it's probably something very few people actually do.
[01:24:08] Adam Grant: Yeah. And I guess, to be clear, I don't have any data on this. I don't know whether it's helpful to do it every three months or just once a year. But my students have told me that about twice a year is appropriate because it gets them to do enough rethinking, but not so much that they're constantly agonizing over the situation. I think the other thing that's kind of interesting about doing this is this is a perfect role for your challenge network, going to those people who are good critics and saying, "Look, I hope you don't mind, I'm going to check in with you twice a year. Or would you even be willing to hold me accountable and touch base with me twice a year and really pressure test whether I'm on a path that's going to be productive for who I am now and where I want my values to take me?"
[01:24:47] Jordan Harbinger: Adam Grant, thank you so much. This has been excellent.
[01:24:50] Adam Grant: Well, thank you, Jordan. This is, as always, thought provoking. I appreciate how deeply you engage with the ideas and also how you drew out the practicality of them with personal examples. And also with personally embarrassing stories, which is always, always a treat.
[01:25:03] Jordan Harbinger: It's no fun if I come across looking squeaky clean, right? I think it's more fun when people can laugh at me a little bit, because it reminds them to do these exercises and think about this stuff, which is the important part of this. So once again, thank you very much.
[01:25:16] Adam Grant: Thank you.
[01:25:19] Jordan Harbinger: I've got some thoughts on this one as usual, but before I get into that, here's a preview with the 26th national security advisor, General H.R. McMaster on the greatest threats to the United States. Here's a preview.
[01:25:31] H.R. McMaster: War is this continuous interaction of opposites, right? You and maybe multiple enemies and adversaries inside of a complex environment. You have to understand strategic empathy to try to view these complex competitions from the perspective of the other.
[01:25:47] Jordan Harbinger: Do you think our divisions domestically right now are one of the greatest threats to our national security?
[01:25:52] H.R. McMaster: Actually Jordan, they are. And you know, our adversaries are doing everything they can to exploit them. I mean, Russia is masterful at this. When we were attacked on 9/11, Al-Qaeda didn't target Democrats or Republicans, right?
[01:26:07] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:26:07] H.R. McMaster: They targeted Americans. I think it's time to really demand real reforms, you know, and if teacher's unions are an obstacle, we've got to tell them, "Hey, you can't obstruct reform anymore." And we need to demand it.
[01:26:17] The fact that we're driven apart from each other, based on these divisions in our society. What social media is doing to us by driving us apart with these algorithms that show more and more extreme information that's based on your pre-elections. The fact that, you know, if you're of one political persuasion, you watch one TV network. And somebody of a different political persuasion watches a different one. And so you're creating two different realities.
[01:26:41] We're doing this to ourselves, Jordan. We got to stop, you know, we got to stop it. So let's think about it. Let's work together to make our Republic better every day. And there are some who don't want to do that. They think that, "Hey, you can't even empathize." You're not even allowed to empathize. It's a real tragedy.
[01:26:56] Jordan Harbinger: For more, including General H.R. McMaster's thoughts on immigration and climate change, check out episode 410 on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:27:06] Adam's new book of course is full of gems. One which I loved is that arrogance is the combination of ignorance and conviction. It's so true, sadly. We see this in everyone, right? Ourselves included. And well, maybe I should speak for myself, but you can be confident enough to know that you have the ability to achieve a goal while also having enough humility so that you're not arrogant or overconfident that your methods to achieve that goal are correct.
[01:27:30] I'll repeat that because some of you are running, jogging, driving. You can be confident enough to know that you have the ability to achieve a goal while also having enough humility that you're not arrogant or over-confident that your methods to achieve that goal are correct. This is what Adam calls confident humility. And I love this. I think this is super useful.
[01:27:48] We also have the first instinct fallacy. We didn't really touch on this on the show, at least not by name, but we are so low as to rethink things, right? We want to favor our previous conviction. Over winging new evidence. And Adam says this brilliantly in the book, he says, "We laugh at people who use Windows 95, but we hold so strongly to opinions that we formed in 1995." We stick with things that make us feel good instead of ideas that make us think hard. And I think that's a fundamental problem that many of us have with our own cognition, our own thinking, the business climate right now. And even just the way we live in the world is something that we are now forced to re-examine from the way that we work, you know, and everyone's remote now to the way that we interact with each other or the way that we don't interact with each other, maybe more accurate here.
[01:28:34] People who are right, listen a lot. They also change their mind a lot that comes from Jeff Bezos and you love him or hate him. He's obviously doing something right. So every time we come across new information, we have a choice to make. We can either attach our identities to this opinion, or we can take in the information test and retest our opinion and see if it's still the same and still accurate. Don't just take perspective, seek perspective. This is what scientists do. In other words, don't try and prove yourself, strive to improve yourself. Clever, hey, that's my self-help hashtag of the day here as cheesy as those always are.
[01:29:12] Speaking to cheese, if you buy the book, please do use the links on our website. That helps throw a little bit of cheese my way. Please do use those website links for any guests. It also helps us track things and the cheese adds up folks. I know you think it's probably 25 cents and it probably is, but that is a stream that we count on to pay for things like web hosts — hosting of this show, I could buy a freaking Ferrari with it each year, just the serving of the files. Worksheets for the episode are in the show notes. Transcripts for the episode are in the show notes. There's a video of this interview going up on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram, or hit me on LinkedIn. I love having conversations with you in my DMs.
[01:29:51] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships, using the same systems, software, and tiny habits that I use. That's our Six-Minute Networking course. It's a free course. You don't have to enter your credit card or any crap like that. Just go to jordanharbinger.com/course and start digging the well before you get thirsty. Most of the guests on the show actually subscribed to the course. They contribute to the course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company.
[01:30:16] This show is created in association with podcast one. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show, share it with friends, share it with families, share with anybody who will listen for God's sake, whether you find something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who's interested in Adam Grant or the way that our brains make decisions, share this episode with them. Hopefully, you find something great in every episode of this show, please do share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see next time.
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