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I came across a comic strip recently when scanning Adam Grant’s latest book called “Think Again”. Below are the text snippets accompanying the cartoon:

  • I live
  • I make mistakes
  • I learn from mistakes
  • Repeat step 1 – 3 until knowledge is acquired
  • Realize that the wisdom you acquired in step 4 was not really wisdom at all. This realization brings new wisdom
  • Repeat steps 1 – 5 for the rest of your life


How nicely summed up I thought.  Isn’t knowledge and the ability to learn what every company needs from all employees? However, willingness to make mistakes is seldom (never) a highly sought-after skill on any of the job descriptions that I have seen. Stretching to apply past experience to new situations is naturally going to result in a certain number of “mistakes” or as I prefer to think of them “learning opportunities.”

Most of us take pride in the sum of our current knowledge = expertise and that makes perfect sense where what has worked in the past will always work = a stable world.  Modern professionals don’t work in that kind of stability, they work in an ever-evolving work process and society.  Re-Thinking our approach is very different from doubting, Re-Thinking is just that THINKING. Spending a few moments each time you “run and experiment” which is what making a new decision or choice can be, can result in a dramatic increase in knowledge and how best to apply that knowledge.

Over the years, I see that my clients are starting to recognize some of the followings that bring high intrinsic value to their business: high EQ, a growth mindset, resilient personalities who can thrive in a dynamic business landscapes. Proven prior experience are always nice-to-haves, but without employees’ ability to learn and change a business starts to fall behind as the limits of past experience impacts beyond the candidate’s own tasks and team.

I would say re-thinking is a skill set and should be one of the key requirements in professional job descriptions these days. Also, I could also argue that being successful using this mindset is a perhaps more a matter of knowing that we have those tools and remembering to utilize them.

Below are some ideas which could help boost your “re-thinking” skill:

  • First and foremost, we need to grasp with the fact that there are many things we don’t understand, and we don’t know what we don’t know. Once you have this idea sunk in, you may begin the engage in true open mindedness, feel more daring or even an urge to “experiment” to confirm an emerging theory
  • When you try something and it succeeds, don’t stop there ask “why did this work” or “how could it work even better?”
  • When you try something and it fails, don’t stop there; accept it as part of a process or a step that doesn’t need to be repeated again. Frankly ask why didn’t this work or how could it work even better?
  • Re-Focus on the goals, add what you have learned and begin again with a new experiment
  • Seeking out contrarian views, people who think differently than yours, that challenge your current assumptions
  • Question the “how” a problem is approached rather than the “why”
  • Learn something new from each person you meet. Everyone knows something different and these differences help initiate quantum leap or even a life-changing conversation. Who knows?
  • Be an active participant in constructive disagreements, they encourage you to re-think your position, approach, strategy … Disagreements are only unpleasant when you or the other person forget that respect is the minimum that all humans should expect from all interactions. This should be a tussle of ideas never an attack on a person
  • Each time a “best practice” is suggested, just spend a moment and wonder if this still is applicable? As a business, perhaps it is better to adopt ever-evolving work process and continually striving for better practices as your new “best practice”?
  • Make time to re-think. I am sure your calendar is like mine: full of meetings/lists/tasks to be completed. How about schedule yourself some to unlearn and rethink time?

Careers, relationships, communities are “open systems”, they are constantly in flux because they do not exist in a vacuum.  According to Grant, at work and in life, the best we can do is plan for what we want to learn and contribute in short to mid-term, then stay open to what might come next. Harness the benefits of not being so sure, start re-thinking. Think once, think twice, and think again.

Re-Thinking is a habit worth cultivating!