Blindspots, Bias, Billionaires and Bridgewater with Dr. Adam Grant

March 29, 2018
In this episode we discuss the relationship between bad ideas and creative genius, the three biggest lessons from studying the most successful hedge fund on earth, why a complete stranger may often be a better judge of your abilities than you are, the key things that stand in the way of developing more self awareness and how you can fix them, why it’s so important to invest in the ability to make better decisions, and much more with our guest Dr. Adam Grant. 
 
Dr. Adam Grant has been Wharton’s top-rated professor for six straight years and has been named a Fortune’s 40 under 40, as well as one of the world’s 10 most influential management speakers. He is the multi bestselling author of Give and Take, Originals and Option B which have been translated into over 35 languages. His work has been featured on Oprah, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and he is the host of the new TED Podcast, WorkLife...
 
  • You don’t know yourself as well as you think you do
  • There are two things that stand in the way of self awareness 
    • We have blindspots that other can see, that we can’t
    • Biases - the things we don’t want to see
  • We are better judges of our internal state, but much worse at judging our external behaviors than our friends and colleagues
  • We are motivated to have a positive image of ourself
  • A complete stranger is a better judge of your assertiveness, creativity, and intelligence after 8 minutes than you are of yourself (after your entire life!)
  • We all want to think of ourselves as being smart and creative
    • “Male pattern blindness”
  • Any time a trait is easy for others to see and hard for us to see - we are bad at judging it
  • Human blindspots are predictable and most people have the same kinds of blindspots
  • At Bridgewater they tape video + audio of every single meeting
  • Bridgewater was a fascinating place to study deep self awareness
    • No one has the right to hold a critical view without speaking up about it
  • Peer support in the workplace is vital
  • When we get criticized, we make the mistake of going to people to support and cheer us up - we need a “challenge network” to challenge our assumptions, push us, and see through our BS
  • When things are going poorly, people usually ignore the naysayers and dissenters, but the more you do that the worse things typically get - you should be doing the opposite
  • How do we avoid shooting the messenger when we receive negative feedback?
  • Any time you are about to receive negative feedback, get some praise / positive feedback in a positive domain to buffer your negative emotional response first
  • Why “feedback sandwiches” (praise, criticism, praise) doesn’t work as well as people think they do
  • If you’re praising, praise in a separate realm
  • “Democracy is a dumb idea for running a company” - some people’s decisions are objectively better than other people’s
  • The power of domain specific believability scores and how that’s shaped Bridgewater’s results in a positive way
  • Not all feedback is equal 
  • Go around and look at your feedback sources and ask yourself two questions
    • What’s their track record in the skill you’re asking for feedback on?
    • How well do they know YOU?
  • The three biggest lessons Adam learned from studying Bridgewater
    • Turn the idea of Devil’s advocate upside down
      • Someone arguing for a minority view often turns the group against that view
      • Don’t assign a devil’s advocate, unearth a genuine devil’s advocate - it helps groups make better decisions
      • Authentic devil’s advocates create authentic divergent thinking
    • You must speak up when you have a dissenting opinion and encourage people to speak up when they have a dissenting opinion
      • Say to people “one of things I really value is when people disagree with me or when someone respectfully and thoughtfully challenges my beliefs"
    • Ask people to “opt-in” to wanting feedback - you have to be willing to ask for it and opt-in to it
  • Why would a billionaire spend hours arguing about the placement of a white board?
  • Personality is really bad at predicting one specific behavior, but it’s great a predicting aggregate behavior
  • The marshmallow test, personality, and delayed gratification
  • Situations repeat themselves over and over again - tiny decisions about things like a whiteboard cascade through all decision-making processes
  • We look at each moment of our life as if thru a microscope, what we should do is look at them through a telescope and see how everything is a microcosm of something larger, similar to personality
  • By investing in improving your decisionmaking skills you accrue more and more interest on that over time
  • The mental model of positive EV thinking - looking at aggregate outcomes and not specific instances
  • The best model for psychology is meteorology and how that ties into Charlie Munger - power of thinking across academic discipline and building mental models from a wide array of academic disciplines 
  • Lessons form Shakespeare, Edison, and Picasso to understand what makes them different from their contemporaries 
  • The more BAD IDEAS you have, the more creative you are
  • We are too close to our own ideas to judge them accurately
  • One of the biggest predictors of creative results is raw output and being prolific
  • Your first idea is rarely your best idea
  • Research shows these conclusions across a huge array of domains - business, music, art, innovation tournaments, and more - the more ideas you create, the more valuable ideas you create
  • You don't max out on quality and originality until you have about 200 ideas on the table 
  • How can we improve our creative forecasting skills?
  • Managers often have skewed incentives to reject new and creative ideas
  • What has worked in the past is at best irrelevant, or worst may be negatively correlated with success
  • If you can’t trust yourself and you can’t trust your boss who can you go to? Creative peers are the answer. 
  • Fun fact - clowns are universally hated. 
  • You can open your bosses mind by having them spend 5 minutes brainstorming for themselves, that will prime them to be more creative and less evaluative/judging
  • Your most promising idea is often the one you typically rank second, not first
  • Start with evaluating your challenge network - think about the people who’ve given you the best critical feedback in your life, who are those people, and how can you benefit from their criticism?
    • Example - send an article to your challenge network before publishing it
    • Create a system to repeatedly engage them 
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