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Changing your mind is often viewed as a sign of weakness. Leaders pride themselves on sticking to their guns, and we reward entrepreneurs for certitude. Twitter makes it clear – terrifyingly clear – that so many of us are convinced of so much. 

In Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know psychologist Adam Grant argues that it pays to change your mind. While resolute beliefs make sense in a stable environment, our world is rapidly changing – and information evolving. As such, individuals and organisations should cultivate mindsets of curiosity. “We need to spend as much time rethinking as we do thinking.”

The problem, Grant says, is that protecting our beliefs leads us to slip into three distinct modes: preachers, prosecutors and politicians. Preachers deliver sermons to promote their ideologies, prosecutors point out the flaws in the thinking of others, and politicians campaign for approval. Each of these identities demands a rigid, made-up mind. 

The solution is to train yourself to think more like a scientist. Grant argues: “If you’re a scientist by trade, rethinking is fundamental to your profession. You’re paid to be constantly aware of the limits of your understanding. You’re expected to doubt what you know, be curious about what you don’t know, and update your views based on new data.”

It’s easy to see how scientific tools can apply to a business context. Leaders might view their strategy as a theory to test, pivoting and adjusting their approach with new information and contexts. A scientific approach led to the development of Apple’s iPhone: the company’s product team pushed to pioneer touchscreen technology, while Blackberry founder Mike Lazardis thought the idea of doing away with a keyboard was ‘ridiculous’.

A scientific toolkit is the friend of every good strategist too. Strategy asks you to be actively open-minded, even searching for reasons why you might be wrong – rather than reinforcing that you’re right. So at Sonder & Tell, we’re committing to anchor ourselves in curiosity, flexibility and even doubt. As Grant says: ‘If knowledge is power, knowing what we don’t know is wisdom’.

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“Scientific thinking favours humility over pride, doubt over certainty, curiosity over closure”

― Adam Grant, Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know
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The Interview Header

Stories Behind Things are doing a really good job in educating the public on where things come from and how they are made. Questioning the impact of our general consumption habits on our mental health was the driving force behind Jemma Finch's decision to launch the platform. 

Aiming to build confidence in people to become changemakers by sharing practical, and realistic, advice and solutions, Stories Behind Things shares the stories of brands that are making a positive impact on the planet and unveils the benefits consuming slower have on our mental health.

We spoke with Jemma to understand what got her started in this journey, the impact storytelling has had in the growth of her community, and what brands really need to do to stand out from the vague term of sustainability.

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Some of the world’s best brands exist thanks to scientific thinking. We’re loving newcomer bodycare brand Soft Services for that reason. Rather than going all in on one aesthetic (a la Aesop, Glossier, The Ordinary) they’re using ‘elastic branding,’ which means that each product has its own identity, and can stand alone as a hero product. It seems to be working; the business had to pull ads for their Theraplush hand cream after it sold out in one hour. We’re keeping our eyes peeled for the UK launch.
Write down three of your values. Now imagine they’re the subject of scrutiny.

How would you respond to the questioning as a scientist (and not a preacher, prosecutor or politician)?

Hit reply to submit your prompt

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Sonder & Tell · Sonder & Tell, Unit 28 · 40 Bowling Green Lane · London, EC1R 0NE · United Kingdom