Think Again, by Adam Grant

I typically determine the value of a business or self-help book by the number of times I stopped to highlight portions of it along the reading journey. After recently finishing Think Again, by Adam Grant, I can say it's easily the most highlighted and thought-provoking book I've read in quite some time.

In fact, there are too many highlights to squeeze into this article so I recommend you buy a copy of your own. In the meantime, here are just a few of the best excerpts I'm still thinking about...

The curse of knowledge is that it closes our mind to what we don't know.

The single most important driver of a forecasters' success was how often they updated their beliefs. The best forecasters went through more rethinking cycles.

As a general rule, it's those with greater power who need to do more of the rethinking, both because they're more likely to privilege their own perspectives and because their perspectives are more likely to go unquestioned.

When we try to convince people to think again, our first instinct is usually to start talking. Yet the most effective way to help others open their minds is often to listen.

Resisting the impulse to simplify is a step toward becoming more argument literate.

When someone knowledgeable admits uncertainty, it surprises people, and they end up paying more attention to the substance of the argument.

Rethinking is more likely to happen in a learning culture, where growth is the core value and rethinking cycles are routine.

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die.

In the face of any number of unknown and evolving threats, humility, doubt, and curiosity are vital to discovery. Bold, persistent experimentation might be our best tool for rethinking.


Reinventing pen on paper

I'm a borderline obsessive note-taker and I've wrestled for years with bringing notes on paper into the digital world. The hack I've used for the past few years is to simply take a picture of my written note pages and then move them into Evernote. That works, for the most part, but I also end up with a stack of notebooks to toss at the end of the year...if only I could bring myself to actually toss them. OK, I'm a borderline hoarder too.

I've also never gotten comfortable using a stylus on a tablet. For whatever reason I insist on writing on paper with a pen.

A few months ago I was ready to take another shot at stylus-on-tablet and splurge on the reMarkable 2. In fact, I was days away from clicking "buy" when a colleague sent me an email from one of his friends who had an awful customer service experience with the device. That saved me $400 but left me with my old solution...until I discovered the Rocketbook.

Rocketbook is an erasable notebook with pages designed to upload directly to Evernote and pretty much every other digital note platform. They have a number of notebook formats and I opted for the Fusion. It's super thin and simply requires the use of erasable pens. There are probably other pen options out there but I went with the friXion clicker. In fact, I bought a bunch of them in different colors at Walmart.

I've been using my Fusion for several weeks now and I love it. The first page shows all my tasks for the week and notes associated with them. At the end of the week I use the Rocketbook app to take a picture and have them automatically loaded into Evernote. I then wipe the page clean with a damp cloth and I'm ready for the week ahead. The notebook is filled with other pages for drawings, notes and pretty much any other use you can think of.

Adding up the notebook and the pens I'm all in for about $45, or about 10% of the reMarkable investment.

Not only is the Rocketbook Fusion a great solution for my needs, it's also a regular reminder that pretty much anything can be reinvented and disrupted, even pen on paper.


The unexpected benefits of simply asking "Why?"

Curiosity is an important attribute for any successful businessperson. It's something I always try to measure during an interview, for example. That's because I've found the more curious someone is, the more likely they are to embrace change and want to learn new things.

I'm frequently amazed at how rarely we ask each other "why?" over the course of a day. Some people worry the question will be interpreted as them challenging their colleague. Others feel they just need to do what's asked and not question the logic behind the request.

In reality, "why?" is where learning often starts.

I've often wondered how many times something I thought was a simple request turned into a major homework assignment for someone else. The higher you are on the org chart, the greater the likelihood your requests become the new top priority. Again, there have been countless times when what I regarded as a low-priority, 5-minute task suddenly caused a team to drop what they're doing and spend half the day answering. Ugh.

I try to be specific by saying things like, "this is low priority" or, my favorite, which is, "if this takes you more than 5 minutes it's not worth doing." Despite those guidelines I've still experienced plenty of situations where my request derailed other higher-priority activities.

One of the things I've started doing is regularly encouraging the team to ask me "why?". More importantly, I now say, regardless of my request, if it's going to take longer than 5 minutes to complete please be sure to ask me why I need it. This not only helps provide context for colleagues but it also leads to better open communication. Better yet, sometimes when answering the "why?" I'm forced to think further about my request and realize either (a) it's not what I really need or, better yet, (b) my colleague has a better way of helping me answer the problem I'm trying to solve, and that's priceless.

So do yourself a favor and encourage more of a "why?" culture throughout your organization. I promise you'll appreciate the results.


The failed promise of turning webpages into a podcast

How many times have you found an interesting article on the web but you have no time to read it? This happens to me every day and despite the variety of save-for-later reading tools out there they all tend to fade into the background and I forget to go back and read what I've saved for later.

When I saw this article on Springwise I immediately took a closer look at the solution it described. The article talks about how a "web browser extension transforms saved articles into podcasts." It turns out this extension is like many others; it simply does a text-to-speech conversion and creates an MP3 file. IOW, there's no connection to a podcast stream. So although the conversion produces impressive human-sounding results (click here to listen to my previous article), it falls short of the promise of transforming anything into a podcast stream.

This seems like a potentially enormous opportunity and gap for someone to fill. Imagine a one-click solution that truly gathers all your saved articles into a stream for your favorite podcast platform. What if that system eventually became so popular that audio ads could be injected dynamically, creating an income source? OK, yes, there would be a number of IP rights issues to potentially overcome but I could also see a model where that revenue stream is shared with the IP owner, alleviating that legal issue. Another interesting feature would be where I could follow others and listen to the articles they curated in their feed; as we've seen with other platforms, those with the biggest following also earn some sort of affiliate income. There are loads of possibilities here and it's all about transforming the written word into audio for broader consumption.

If something like this already exists please let me know. I'd use it every single day and I'm sure there are millions of others out there who would do the same. It's also one of those rare problems where I'd gladly pay a reasonable price to solve.


The future of collaborative digital content consumption

Amazon's recent Watch Party announcement sheds light on what the future holds for digital content consumption. It's primitive, yes, but a step in the right direction.

To summarize, Watch Party lets two people watch a movie together even though they're not in the same location. The first version limits interactions to texts and emojis but you can bet a future version will support video on both ends so you can make faces and feel closer together.

With Alexa (and Prime) Amazon has built an incredible platform for on-demand content which can be simultaneously enjoyed by multiple people regardless of location. Podcasts are a great example. There have been a number of times when I wanted to listen to one with my wife when I was probably driving home but she wasn't in the car with me. Today I'm forced to stop and wait till we're together.

In the future imagine using nothing but voice commands to tell the podcast to pause, see if my wife wants to join me, then play it for both of us to enjoy remotely. Now a channel is open for us to listen, pause, comment to each other, etc., as if we're both listening in my car.

Take it a step further and think about longer-form learning. What if two or three people want to take a course together, listening and/or watching, over an Alexa-powered Zoom-like communication platform where, again, pausing, commenting, etc., is all enabled via audio commands. Thanks to a powerful search on the back side of this you're always able to pause and ask for a deeper dive on any topic that comes up.

I realize a great deal of the learning process takes place in solitude. That means textbooks don't necessarily go away but voice UI and synchronized platforms like Watch Party will undoubtedly lead to new options for learning as well as entertainment.