When it comes to decision making and the way we analyse information, we all have a particular tendency based on four main thinking styles; the preacher, the prosecutor, the politician and the scientist; as defined by Adam Grant; author of Think Again; The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know. Through a little bit of self-reflection, you can identify which thinking mode you have a tendency to fall into and work towards processing the information you receive differently; in a more helpful manner.
Grant identifies one particular style of thinking as the most favourable (we will get into that in a moment), and recommends we all try to embrace tit as we navigate our way through life; which is of course useful in the workplace and just as much in your world outside of work. Which thinking style do you have more or a natural tendency towards?
- The preacher – the acolytes of an idea
If you are a preacher, you might find yourself unwaveringly convinced of an idea or an opinion about something. When faced with a decision, you are most strongly guided by your firm values, beliefs, morals and the desire to do the right thing. You can be compelled to convince others of your ideas and lead them down the same virtuous path as you, often guided by the bigger picture. Preachers can be inflexible and not open to alternative ideas and opinions.
- The prosecutor – prosecutors those who don’t have the same idea
The prosecutor uses a more logical approach to analysing information and making decisions. You fall into this category if you seek to gather all the evidence, scrutinise the facts and present compelling arguments to those around you. Once they have their opinion on something though, they are unwavering and determined to convince others of it. They operate in confirmation bias mode, determined to leave no stone unturned in their quest to prove themselves right and others wrong. In a workplace, prosecutors are more inclined to examine all aspects of a situation, question assumptions, focus on systematic evaluation and look for accountability; much like they would in the court room.
- The politician – convince others of an idea
If your natural tendency is to win the approval of others, you might be a politician. They seek to negotiate, partake in a persuasive communication style and try to reach a compromise. They are better at appearing like they are open-minded but still remain quite strongly glued to their own ideas and opinions regardless of evidence to the contrary.
- The scientist – you look for reasons why you might be wrong
Scientists are more open-minded than the other three archetypes. These people see their ideas more as hypotheses – they are much more willing to change their minds based on new evidence or ideas and don’t feel so attached to their ideas. They are eager to seek evidence to contradict their ideas and opinions and can easily change their minds without feeling foolish.
Operating in the preacher or prosecutor mode of thinking and you are out to prove others wrong, it’s your way or the highway. Operating in the politician mode, you might tell others what they want to hear but you aren’t really changing your idea or opinion; you are posing as open-minded but it’s all for show. All three of these styles of thinking are closed-minded and not contusive to self-reflection and self-growth.
Which leaves us with the scientist style. Having ideas and opinions that you view as flexible thoughts that are open to confirmation or revocation is the best way to be. You view changing your mind as progressive, not weak. Embracing this way of thinking allows you to be keen to seek out evidence that opposes your opinions and willing to hear others’ points of view.
Find the joy in being wrong
By not being attached to our ideas and opinions and actually welcoming being wrong about our ideas, rather than viewing being proven wrong as a downfall, we are able to grow and stay progressive in a complex and ever-evolving world.
Try to find one thing each day that you are or were wrong about. Change your mind often and don’t be afraid to do so, do so in the knowledge that the great leaders and entrepreneurs of our time do just that. Love him or hate him, Jeff Bezos has a hiring policy of employing people who display this way of thinking and show evidence of how they change their minds often. He sees this as the key to a progressive and innovative workforce.
Next time you have as strong idea or opinion about something and others have differing ideas and opinions, be more open minded, willing to hear others thoughts and try not to be too strongly attached the idea. Stay curious!
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