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How To Think Like A Scientist

Posted by Jerry De Luca on Saturday, March 27, 2021

Sadly not all, but most scientists are good critical thinkers. They don’t approach an idea with preconceived notions. They just go with the results of the scientific inquiry. If they do hold preconceived beliefs, they make sure they are open to correction. Organizational psychologist Adam Grant is the author of the new book Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know. He goes into some depth into how thinking like a scientist can help the average non-scientist make wiser common, everyday decisions.

Grant writes: “In a changing world, you have to be willing and able to change your mind. Otherwise, your expertise can fail, your opinions get out of date, and your ideas fall flat.” Below is a summary of basic points from an interview.

Don’t form opinions and draw conclusions just to not upset your social circle:

“We don’t form beliefs in a vacuum. We generally end up with opinions that are influenced by and pretty much similar to the people in our social circles. So, there’s a risk that if I let go of some of my views, I might be excluded from my tribe, and I don’t want to take that risk.”

Humility and curiosity should be of prime importance:

“Thinking like a scientist does not mean you need to own a telescope or a microscope. It just means that you favor humility over pride and curiosity over conviction. You know what you don’t know, and you’re eager to discover new things. You don’t let your ideas become your identity. You look for reasons why you might be wrong, not just reasons why you must be right. You listen to ideas that make you think hard, not just the ones that make you feel good. And you surround yourself with people who can challenge your process, not just the ones who agree with your conclusion.”

It seems counterintuitive to look for reasons to be wrong:

“One of the reasons you want to is because if you don’t get good at rethinking, then you end up being wrong more often. I think it’s one of the great paradoxes of life: The quicker you are to recognize when you’re wrong, the less wrong you become.”

Embrace the joy of being wrong:

“Being wrong means I’ve learned something. If I find out that I was right, there’s no new knowledge or discovery. In some ways, the joy of being wrong is the freedom to keep learning. If you can embrace the joy of being wrong, then you get to anchor your identity more in being someone who’s eager to discover new things, than someone who already knows everything or is expected to know everything.”

The Italian start-up and man’s mega ego:

“Italian start-up founders went through a three- to four-month crash course in how to start and run a business. But half of them were randomly assigned to think like scientists, where they’re told that your strategy is a theory. You can do customer interviews to develop specific hypotheses, and then when you launch your first product or service, think of that as an experiment and test your hypothesis.

“Those entrepreneurs that we taught to think like scientists brought in more than 40 times the revenue of the control group. The reason for that is they were more than twice as likely to pivot when their first product or service launch didn’t work instead of getting their egos all wrapped up in proving that they were right. To me, that is some of the strongest evidence that being willing to admit you’re wrong can actually accelerate your progress toward being right.”

Understand the true meaning of humility:

“I think people misunderstand what humility is. When I talk about humility in experts or in leaders, people say, ‘No, I don’t want to have no self-confidence. I don’t want to have a low opinion of myself.’ But, I say, that’s not humility. The Latin root of humility translates to ‘from the earth.’ It’s about being grounded, recognizing that, yes, we have strengths, but we also have weaknesses. You’re fallible. Confident humility is being able to say, ‘I don’t know and I might be wrong,’ or ‘I haven’t figured it out yet,’ which is essentially believing in yourself but doubting your current knowledge or skills.”

Be respectful and ask for feedback:

“I bombard people with facts and data, but that’s not who I want to be. I want to come into conversations with people who disagree with me in the hopes that I can learn something from them. I don’t want to be a prosecutor. So, I invite people to catch me doing that and ask them to please let me know.”

Be open to changing your mind right from the onset:

“One of my favorites is being a ‘super-forecaster,’ which means, when you form an opinion, you make a list of conditions that would change your mind. That keeps you honest, because once you get attached to an opinion, it’s really hard to let go. But if you identify factors that would change your mind up front, you keep yourself flexible.”

People don’t want to be bombarded with too many arguments:

“For encouraging other people to think again, you can avoid argument dilution. Most of us try to convince people with as many reasons as possible, because we think that giving people more reasons makes it easier for them to change their mind. But we forget that two things happen ….. The more reasons we give, the more we trigger the other person’s awareness that we’re trying to persuade them, and they put their guard up. Also, if they’re resistant, giving them more reasons allows them to pick the least compelling reason and throw out the whole argument. The lesson here is, if you have an audience who might be closed to your point of view, sometimes it’s more effective to give two reasons instead of five. Lead with your strongest argument.”

Time for our regular check-up:

“We all go to the doctor for regular check-ups, even when nothing is wrong. We should do the same with the important decisions in our lives. I’ve encouraged my students for years to do annual career check-ups where they just ask themselves once or twice a year, ‘Have I reached a learning plateau? Are the interests and values I had when I came in still important to me now?’ We can do the same thing with our relationships or pretty much anything that’s important to us.”


Why Thinking Like a Scientist Is Good for You  https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_thinking_like_a_scientist_is_good_for_you

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Jerry De Luca is a Christian freelance writer who loves perusing dozens of interesting and informative publications. When he finds any useful info he summarizes it, taking the main points, and creates a (hopefully) helpful blog post.


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