Think like a scientist
In this fourth picture inspired by the interview to Andrea Serrano, I bring a concept that I read in “Think again” from Adam Grant. When we talked about creating your map with Andrea, she mentioned two very interesting things:
- In the corporate world, there is not a blank page where you draw your map, it is more like a “choose your own adventure” book. You can choose from different paths and each of them may lead to a different ending.
- While navigating the organization, the different paths and “adventures”, try to maximize what you like doing and minimize what you don’t and adopt some of the design thinking elements when pursuing change: prototype, test, learn and adjust.
As I was reading the interview again and went through #2, I tried to go deeper and better understand what Andrea was trying to tell me and I remembered what Adam Grant says in his book “Think again” which I think is very relevant to this topic and very much aligned with what Andrea told me.
In his book, Adam Grant examines the critical art of rethinking: learning to question your opinions and open other people’s minds which can position you for excellence at work and wisdom in life.
In terms of career development and creating our own map, the book has a lot to offer. The bullets below have some career development inspiration including what it means to think like a scientist:
- We should allow ourselves to change tracks when we need to
- We shouldn’t settle down prematurely on a sense of self without enough due diligence and close our minds to alternative selves. This is known as “Identity foreclosure”
- Work is what you do, not who you are. Be open to exploring different possibilities
- Your future self doesn’t exist. Your interests may change. Identity foreclosure can stop us from evolving.
- When it comes to our careers, it is better to lose the past 2 years of progress than to waste the next 20.
- There is a helpful framework for those who feel have reached a learning plateau in the workplace and want to pivot. As people consider career choices and transitions, it helps to think like scientists:
- Entertain possible selves: Identify people you admire within or outside your field and observe what they actually do at work day by day.
- Develop hypotheses about how these paths might align with your own interests, skills and values.
- Test out the different identities by running experiments: do informational interviews, job shadowing, and sample projects to get a taste of your repertoire of possible selves — which keeps you open to re-thinking.
- At work and in life, the best we can do is plan what we want to learn and contribute over the next year or two and stay open to what might come next. To adapt an analogy from E. L. Doctorow, writing out a plan for your life “is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way”.
- We don’t have to upend our entire paths to rethink some of our plans. Some people are perfectly content with their fields of work but dissatisfied with current roles. Others may be too risk averse to make a geographic move for a job or a partner. And many don’t have the luxury of making a pivot: being economically dependent on a job or emotionally attached to an extended family can limit the options available. Whether or not we have the opportunity or appetite for major changes in our lives, it is still possible to make smaller adjustments that breathe new meaning into our days.
- It takes humility to reconsider past commitments, doubt to question our present decisions, and curiosity to reimagine future plans. What we discover along the way can free us from the shackles of our familiar surroundings and our former selves. Rethinking liberates us to do more than update our knowledge and opinions — it is a tool for leading a more fulfilling life.
I believe this book is a fantastic tool for everybody at work. We can become better employees by thinking like scientists daily and we can be open to more and better opportunities for our careers as we grow and develop.