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Book Review Coaching Leadership

The Scout Mindset

Julia Galef gives us “The Scout Mindset“, a book about developing your skills in seeing things how they are, rather than how you hope they might be.

We start off by looking at two types of thinking, the Soldier and the Scout. Soldier thinking is both defensive and aggressive. There’s a truth, I know it already and I need to protect it against the assaults of others. Scout thinking is focused around discovering the truth that we don’t yet know. It’s about exploring, improving the map and throwing the old map away when we learn more.

The Soldier approach has value in some situations, and is usually our default way of approaching problems. The Scout mindset is less common, unfamiliar, but likely to be better for the complexities of modern life. So how do we move from one model to the other?

Julia gives four key stages to moving towards the Scout mindset:

  1. Develop Self Awareness – Understand when you are thinking like a Scout or a Soldier
  2. Thrive Without Illusions – Get comfortable living with how things are
  3. Learn to Change Your Mind – Be comfortable being wrong, and celebrate steps towards the truth
  4. Rethink Your Identity – Don’t let beliefs define who you are, as it makes it harder to accept change

Through these stages, there’s some great deep dives on some surprising topics, ranging from how boundlessly positive thinking can be harmful, to how you might have to do things that aren’t obvious to have the biggest impact.

It’s well written, and the book doesn’t endlessly labour similar points or loop over and over on the key message. There’s lots of practical advice, and a great collection of references and further reading to pick-up on.

Any leader working in complex spaces would benefit from reading this book, and trying to think more like a Scout.

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