Think Like a Freak by Levitt & Dubner

What’s Your Problem?

  • Whatever problem you are trying to solve, make sure you’re not just attacking the noisy part of the problem that captures your attention. First, it is incredibly important to define, or perhaps redefine the problem. The example of Kobayashi the eating champion, is used as an example. While other competitors were asking How do I eat more hot dogs? Kobayashi asked How do I make hot dogs easier to eat? By redefining a problem, you can discover a new set of solutions. The other vital idea is to not set and believe artificial limits for any accomplishment. It gets a lot harder if you’ve decided beforehand that something can’t be done.

The Root of the Problem

  • When trying to figure out a problem, most of us gravitate toward the nearest and most obvious cause. While the most proximate cause often makes perfect sense, the real cause is often somewhere else. The message here is after you have considered the most obvious causes, keep looking. For example, poor people generally lack food and money, aid groups have been giving food and money to poor people for many years with little impact on the underlying problem. That’s because poverty is a symptom of the absence of a workable economy built on credible political, social, and legal institutions. The lesson here is that even when you do get to the root cause of a problem, you may still be stuck. There are other cool examples in the chapter but you will have to purchase the book to find out what they are.
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