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November 2020
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TD Magazine

Great Minds Think

Think for Yourself: Restoring Common Sense in an Age of Experts and Artificial Intelligence

By Vikram Mansharamani
Harvard Business Review Press, 304 pp., $30

Think for Yourself is dedicated to shifting perspectives around how individuals view rules, experts, and technology. Mansharamani argues that critical thinking has been atrophied by—if not outsourced to—red tape, siloed specializations, and artificial intelligence dependency. The repercussions include potential leaders losing their autonomy, increasing conditioning (think how Ivan Pavlov trained his dogs) for handing over that autonomy, and a distinct underappreciation for less common paths. All of that has the potential to stall and undermine broadening perspectives and the provision of solutions for real-world, right-now problems.

Structured into six parts, the book includes specific examples of when group think, closed-mindedness, and other barriers to critical thinking go awry. Mansharamani also provides insights on what it means to own your thoughts, take action on the decisions you arrive at on your own, and the importance of putting the contributions of experts and rules into context during the process while maintaining your autonomy and perspective.

It is an intriguing read. However, as the author admits, it is difficult to digest the fact that people should strongly question expertise, cautiously approach the technologies humans have grown accustomed to, and understand that rules are made to be broken. At the same time, Mansharamani raises some undeniable truths, such as that decision making should have an integrated approach that layers several different lenses as opposed to one narrow field of focus. Readers are left to find the balance between challenging threats to their autonomy and the possible blowback for taking risks.

For talent development professionals, this book is best leveraged when you have a difficult decision and the proposed solutions have been categorized as outside the norm. This book also can serve as a reminder to be unafraid to take risks when you are being called to act against instinct and embrace a solution counterintuitive to the problem at hand. Ultimately, Think for Yourself can be a guide through unchartered territory when technology, experts, and rules just aren't enough and it is up to you to be the voice of common sense.

About the Author

Laura Lubin is the assistant director of faculty support at American University in Washington, D.C. She is the administrator of faculty development and support in the area of online teaching and learning at the Kogod School of Business. Her past roles, as an instructional designer, educational technologist, and adjunct faculty member, have taken place at Broward College, Florida International University, Florida Atlantic University, and Learning Systems International.

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