Think Like a Freak by Levitt & Dubner

Think Like a Child

  • Kids are relentlessly curious and relatively unbiased. They know little and don’t carry around preconceptions that can stop one from seeing things as they are. Preconceptions also lead us to rule out a huge set of possibilities. Kids aren’t afraid to share wild ideas and when it comes to problems solving, generating a boatload of ideas is a good thing. Children are less likely to be afraid of the obvious and can ask questions that insiders would be blind to. Having fun at what you do is also important. Loving what you do is a good predictor of success. It’s easy to see things from a new angle if you are seeing them for the first time. Two other suggestions from this chapter are to try to tackle small pieces of big problems, and never act on a new idea for at least twenty-four hours.

Like Giving Candy to a Baby

  • People are complicated creatures and behavior is enormously influenced by circumstances, so there is a lot of psychology at work. Financial, social, moral, legal and other incentives push people’s buttons in different directions. As a freak, you have to figure out which incentives will actually work rather than backfire. A classic example of the latter occurred when a British overlord in colonial India offered a cash bounty for every cobra skin. It wasn’t long before many locals started farming cobras. Keep in mind that not everyone thinks like you do, and no one is as smart as the sum of all the people they are trying to influence.
  • The freaks suggest the following: figure out what people really care about, find incentives that are valuable for them and cheap for you, watch how they respond, try to switch the frame from adversarial to cooperative, don’t count on people to do the right thing, and know that people will always try to game the system.
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