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'Give and Take' author and Wharton professor Adam Grant on why entrepreneurs should think like scientists

Most people do not introspect if their theories or opinions are wrong. Being scientific helps them see their mistakes and be objective, says organizational psychologist Adam Grant.

May 14, 2021 / 08:24 AM IST
Adam Grant, Saul P. Steinberg Professor of Management at the Wharton School, at a Wharton event (screen grab).

Adam Grant, Saul P. Steinberg Professor of Management at the Wharton School, at a Wharton event (screen grab).

Most of us have different mindsets in different situations. According to Adam Grant, a best-selling author and Wharton professor specializing in organizational psychology, we need to use the approach of scientists more than we do.

In an interview to the Greater Good Science Center, Grant outlined four mentalities we often adopt when approaching problems. They are preacher, prosecutor, politician and scientist.

"When we're in preacher mode, we're convinced we're right," Grant said in an interview, according to Inc.com. "When we're in prosecutor mode, we're trying to prove someone else wrong.”

In the politician frame of mind, we are trying to win someone over, while as a scientist, we examine data and see whether something is right or not. The latter bit results in a more accurate analysis of a situation, or ourselves.

"I think too many of us spend too much time thinking like preachers, prosecutors, and politicians," Grant said. “In preacher and prosecutor mode, I'm right and you're wrong, and I don't need to change my mind. In politician mode, I might tell you what you want to hear, but I'm probably not changing what I really think; I'm posturing as opposed to rethinking.”


In scientist mode, however, you view your opinions more as hypotheses in need of confirmation or rebuttal. That is not weakness or inadequacy, but growth.

Grant even recommends finding joy in being wrong. He gives the example of Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel Prize-winning psychologist. When Kahneman learns that a part of his research or thinking is wrong, his reaction is more like joy. It means he's now less wrong than before.

In simple words, Grant recommends being open-minded. This will help entrepreneurs avoid the trap of yes men and the emperor’s new clothes syndrome. If you consider your own conclusions and theories as provisional, Grant says, you're less likely to escalate your commitment to a losing strategy.
Moneycontrol News
first published: May 14, 2021 07:59 am

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