As 2021 comes to an end, what did you rethink or unlearn over the past couple of years in order to personally and professionally survive and thrive?
I’ll go first. Being well versed in the science of change didn’t stop me from initially doubting the success of virtual events. After all, how could the energy, networking, information exchange and activities be as impactful? Yet, twenty months later, client feedback remains incredibly positive, and I’ve mastered new equipment, software and engagement activities. Yes, there were frustrating moments when a platform or viewer’s internet speed caused hiccups, yet re-thinking and pushing through my bias led to emotional and fiscal growth.
Author Adam Grant in his newly released book “Think Again” addresses several important issues that stirred my curiosity. I will paraphrase what I believe to be some of his more important take-away points and add my own observations:
- It may be time for us to develop the skills of rethinking and unlearning. Things change and they are always changing. Are we resilient enough to be open to accepting new things and new ways of thinking? Why, for example, did it take a pandemic for leaders to recognize that physical presence does not equal productivity? Why are too many offices simply re-creating the office on-line rather than building systems for asynchronous communication?
- We need to value rethinking. Because we believe something to be true doesn’t mean it is true. It’s a little scary, I know, but wouldn’t it serve us well to be open to rethinking something through? This can be accomplished when we approach a subject with a scientific mindset. Continuously searching to uncover new truths by experimenting, learning and testing hypotheses. There is so much discord right now, what would it hurt to examine other points of view and challenge our blind spots and biases?
- It’s time to admit we don’t know everything. I know a thing or two about human behavior and motivating people, yet I know nothing about Hunan cooking, plumbing, organic chemistry or 17th-century Italian painters. So, if I hear someone expressing an opinion based on their reality, who am I to say their reality is wrong? Why not invest in a curiosity conversation instead that sparks learning and connection?
- Let’s strive to be less critical of others, more willing to change ourselves. Whether in social media, cable news, talk radio, podcasts, e-magazines or even newspapers, if we look hard enough we can find others with our point of view. If we only stick to that group, we won’t change our thinking. Suppose “our” group is wrong? Would we be willing to change our opinions if we opened ourselves to other viewpoints?
- What has our stubborn thinking cost us this year? This is a tough issue. By clinging to our thoughts about the world and accepting only our learning as the highest source of knowledge, what have we lost? Has this intractability cost us co-workers, dear friends, or relatives? Has stubbornness cost us opportunities or growth? Have we been stubbornly clinging to a viewpoint because we are afraid of the unknown?
Let’s Build Resilience
Where will all this unthinking and unlearning lead us? I believe it will make us more resilient. Rethinking, reflecting and ultimately renewing can only lead us to a more open and accepting place, not only of others, but of ourselves.
The more we are willing to unthink, unlearn and accept that we don’t have all of the answers, the more resilient we will become.
So, as we wind down the year, let’s not forget what this season is about: to judge a lot less and to love a lot more.