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Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, has a new book out this fall, Loserthink: How Untrained Brains Are Ruining America. His last book, Win Bigly, was a New York Times bestseller. Will his new book, “Loserthink” which we review here, become his next? We certainly think it has the potential to become a bestseller.
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“Loserthink” could not have come at a more timely point given our current age of political division. If many heed Adams’ advice in “Loserthink,” we might just be able to see the light of a new morning in America soon.
In “Loserthink,” Adams uses the same contrarian approach that we saw in “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. Here, he tells us how we are using the wrong ways of thinking in our lives. This is what he calls engaging in “Loserthink.” This way of reasoning, he opines, ends up keeping everyone locked in their own reality. And that’s why on many important topics, we can’t reach a reasonable consensus. Getting people to think past their differences is a daunting task these days, but Adams takes it on full-force in “Loserthink.”
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Who is to blame for this? According to Adams, the news organizations and media companies. They learned, through big data and analytics, what drives people to click on a given news story. Once that was measured with precision, our ability to be manipulated by them increased. Daily, they tweak our emotions to get us to click more on their content and drive up their profits. Seeing the current political divide in America, driven by CNN and Fox News, this is rarely doubted.
Much like in his Dilbert comics, “Loserthink” is his attempt to mock unproductive thinking because he feels it holds society and our workplaces back. Adams shows us how to identify “Loserthink,” in others and ourselves: “Once you learn to see the walls of your mental prison, and you learn how to escape, you will have better tools to help usher in what I call the Golden Age.”
For today’s business leaders, his advice could not have come sooner. We all need to learn to think in diverse ways that are outside of our own field and experience. Unlike other authors who mostly write to impress their peers and book critics, Adams writes “Loserthink” only to lift his audience. He makes a quick connection and takes you on a magnificent ride in which you discover simple things you can do to make your life better.
How To Spot Unproductive Thinking
To start with, Adams is careful to let his readers know exactly what the title means: “Loserthink” is about unproductive ways of thinking. “You can be smart and well informed while at the same time be a flagrant loserthinker.” In other words, he’s not calling the person a loser, just their method of thinking that deserves to be mocked.
The gist of “Loserthink,” and what will help you the most from the book, is how to sample thinking from multiple professional streams. Adams spends eight chapters of the book going through the thinking styles of various professionals for us. From psychologists and engineers, to leaders and economists, he provides us with the best ways in which they think.
Scott Adams. His new book, which is reviewed here, is Loserthink: How Untrained Brains Are Ruining America.
Photo via scottadamssays.com
Here are a few of his examples on how some of us engage in “Loserthink.” He notes that it is easier to recognize this in others. And it is more difficult to spot when we engage in it.
The Mind Reading Illusion In “Loserthink”
A chapter on “Thinking like a psychologist” introduces us to what Adams calls the “mind reading illusion.” We are terrible at reading other people’s minds. But the illusion fools us into thinking we are good at it. So, we routinely mischaracterize what others are trying to say to us and what their intent is. “If your opinion depends on reliably knowing another person’s inner thoughts,” Adams writes in his classic style, “you might be experiencing loserthink.”
When it happens to us, we are essentially being penalized for what others “think we are thinking.” His fix is to ask people to provide a specific position of yours that they think you believe. Then, one-by-one, run through the list of the things they have imagined about you. And let them know you don’t stand for any of those things. Eventually, they might realize their folly. Adams suggests that we observe what people do and how they act, rather than trying to deduce their intent because we are not good at this.
History Repeating Itself As An Example Of Loserthinking
Does history repeat itself? Or, as George Santayana put it, are those who are unable to remember the past doomed to repeat it? According to Adams, in his chapter on “How to think like a historian,” this is mostly another illusion on our part. We incorrectly infer a historical pattern when either only a weak one exists, or none at all.
Where we get in trouble is that we tend to pick historical patterns that fit our worldview when we try to make our points. But this is just our confirmation bias — the tendency to search for and interpret information is a way that confirms our prior belief — kicking in. The predictions we then make based on this imaginary historical context, are not convincing to others. And usually don’t pan out the way we thought they would.
Egos And “Loserthink”
Dialing down our egos at times is another suggestion from Adams. He notes that we are good remembering the times when we are right about something. He tells us to write down our big predictions to check later whether they come true. Then: “Keep a few examples of your wrongness fresh in your memory so you can generate the right level of humility about your omniscience in future situations.”
Persuasion In “Loserthink”
You might not know that Adams is a trained hypnotist and an expert in persuasion. But when you read “Loserthink,” you will recognize the persuasiveness in his writing and narrative style. Short and clear sentences. Getting you to look past the sale on many of the points he is making. And using vivid framing and visualizations to explain his concepts.
But then one question begs: Are his insights in this book really good advice for us? Or does it just come across this way because he is an expert persuader? It’s possible that it is both. And after reading the book, you might think so too.
Adams’ book is highly recommended for managers in the workplace and those looking to take on leadership roles. If we are willing to take stock of our own shortcomings in how we reason, we can start the process of breaking free. Only when our own internal thinking improves can we help others with their reasoning. And then for everyone’s sake, find common ground and be able to move our teams forward.
Loserthink: How Untrained Brains Are Ruining America, By Scott Adams
Our list of books on influence and persuasion can be found here.
Shaun Mendonsa, PhD is an influencing expert and pharmaceutical development leader. He writes on the topics of influence and persuasion, and develops next generation drugs in human pharma by advising international pharmaceutical CROs and CMOs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Book review, Loserthink: How Untrained Brains Are Ruining America, Scott Adams, Thinking productively
Loserthink: How Untrained Brains Are Ruining America, By Scott Adams
Categories: Business; Personal Growth; Humor. Portfolio/Penguin, 2019. 256 pages.
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