Late last year I read Adam Grant’s book Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know. His assertion is that, despite what we think we might know, there is power in being wrong and open to considering other possibilities.
The message runs counter to what many rising professionals are taught to do: Be confident. Speak up. Fake it until you make it.
Confidence is great. Speaking up when you have something to offer is valuable. And, arguably, people have to signal their spot in the professional world eventually.
And … what would happen if you showed up with more vulnerability? What would happen if you admitted you weren’t an expert? What if the learning process was celebrated as much as the final destination?
And … what if, in the tourism industry, we dabbled in wild possibilities? What if we re-positioned tourism as complementary and supportive? What if we collaborated more and different with other industries and put different people in charge? What if we rewarded degrowth? What if we were okay with not knowing all the answers?
And … what if you introduced this mindset to travelers? What if, instead of providing all the answers, you encouraged people to share their opinions? What would happen if one-way communication evolved into two-way conversations ripe with ideas?
I’ve often said that evolution from good to better should focus on progress, not perfection. In an age of 24/7 scrutiny and cancel culture, people and companies are terrified of making mistakes. They don’t embrace transparency because it leaves them exposed and open to criticism. They’d rather say nothing on their way to perfection than celebrate wins on an imperfect journey.
Yet, there’s no possible way that perfection can be achieved. Science evolves. Research provides more data. People’s preferences change. There is always something new to be learned, unlearned, and relearned.
That’s where the power of “and” comes in. I’ve noted before the need to embrace “imperfect solutions” using the “yes, and” mindset. In tourism, we can take this one step further by being willing to “think again” on a more granular level — in our conversations with travelers and colleagues, in our problem solving sprints during industry events, and in developing strategies within our travel companies.
This stellar read by Rob Hopkins (which I reread frequently because it resonates so deeply) points out: “Saying ‘yes, but’ allows us to stay safe, whereas ‘yes, and’ means learning to trust people, and interact with people, and to co-create something that could only have arisen from that interaction. We open ourselves to being changed by that other person.”
By saying “yes, and” versus “yes, but,” Hopkins points out that, “I am allowing myself to be changed by your invitation, and then opening up new possibilities.”
Grant offers several actionable takeaways for embracing rethinking at the end of his book that can be used in various ways throughout the tourism industry to break the confines of what we think we know. Here are a few of his suggestions along with a few of my own:
- Seek out information that goes against your own. (Grant)
- Intentionally create space so it is safe for everyone to share their ideas free from criticism.
- Embrace the joy of being wrong. (Grant)
- Think big by asking “what if?”
- Learn something new from each person you meet. (Grant)
- Be an active listener. Don’t feel the need to respond to everything.
- Don’t shy away from constructive conflict. (Grant)
- Ask open-ended questions.
- Build a challenge network and not just a support network. (Grant)
- Invest time learning about other industries and from people outside the tourism industry.
- Remember that less is often more. (Grant)
- Build off others’ ideas.
As the tourism industry continues to evolve, redefine itself in the “new normal,” and tentatively toy with the idea of radical disruption, “yes, and” shows that I am — and we are — willing to think again.