I am grateful, once again, for Dan Pink and his biweekly Pinkcast. The content is short and sweet, and always contains a nugget or two of useful, actionable information.
Today’s Pinkcast is no different.
According to Dan, Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman once said that if he could wave a magic wand and eliminate a single human foible, he would choose overconfidence.
We human beings believe we know more than we really do. We have an unwarranted faith in our forecasting abilities and our intuitions.
But there is an antidote to overconfidence. It’s called intellectual humility.
Intellectual humility is the willingness to recognize that what we think and believe might be wrong. It is about being open and recognizing aware that we all have cognitive blindspots.
Developing intellectual humility is hard, but Pink believes that four questions from Warren Berger’s The Book of Beautiful Questions: The Powerful Questions That Will Help You Decide, Create, Connect, and Lead can help us develop this quality:
- Do I think more like a soldier or a scout? Soldiers defend positions, scouts explore new territories.
- Would I rather be right or would I rather understand? Long-term knowledge is more valuable than a short-term victory
- Do I solicit and seek out opposing views? Instead of saying “don’t you agree”, say, “tell me if you disagree, and explain why.”
- Do I enjoy the pleasant surprise of discovering I’m mistaken? Being wrong isn’t a failure; it’s a success. You’ve just learned something new.
Pink notes that intellectual humility is in short supply today; we need more of it, claiming it is the antidote to what ails us.
I think for many of us intellectual humility comes with age; at least it has for me. I’ve become more keenly aware of what I don’t know, and more willing to acknowledge such shortcomings. I view such shortcomings as an opportunity to learn something new, which I always find enjoyable.
Here is what I consider a high-profile example of intellectual humility.
Malcolm Gladwell wrote about the 10,000-hour rule in his book Outliers. This rule simply states that the key to success in any field is simply a matter of practicing a specific task that can be accomplished with 20 hours of work a week for 10 years, or 10,000 hours.
David Epstein, in his latest book, Range, questions the 10,000 hours rule and offers strong evidence that it is not always the case that such practice will lead to success.
And in a great show of humility (and some good marketing), Gladwell actually has a blurb on the back cover of Range that says the following:
“For reasons I cannot explain, David Epstein manages to make me thoroughly enjoy the experience of being told that everything I thought about something was wrong. I loved Range.”
If that’s not intellectual humility, I don’t know what is.
Here’s the Pinkcast:
*image from traffic club