Think Like a Freak by Levitt & Dubner

Let the Garden Weed Itself

  • People don’t all respond the same way to a given incentive. If you can seduce people to sort themselves into different categories as they respond to an incentive, it can be very useful. One example comes from the hiring department at Zappos, the online shoe store. At the end of the paid training period, they offer each person $2,000 if they quit. While this sounds nuts, it weeds out people who care more about easy money than working hard for Zappos. One estimate indicates that a bad hire can cost a company more than $25,000 in lost productivity in addition to the cost of hiring a replacement. This chapter contains several other cool examples of self-weeding gardens including what King Solomon and David Lee Roth have in common. It’s more than you think. If this doesn’t get you to buy the book there may be no hope.

Persuade the Unpersuadable

  • Persuasion can be difficult, so it’s important to understand why. Smart people may be more difficult to persuade as they have more experience with feeling they are right. This makes them more confident in their knowledge. Being confident of being right and being right are not the same thing. When people are heavily invested in their opinions, it is much harder to change their minds. It can also be hard to persuade people when they don’t care much about the issue at hand. Opinions are often based on ideology and heard instinct.
  • Just because your argument is factually correct and your logic airtight, if it doesn’t resonate for the recipient you won’t get anywhere. Be sure not to pretend that your argument is perfect. Acknowledge any known flaws and the potential for unintended consequences. Opposing arguments usually have some value so give credit where due. This will make your opponents feel like they are being heard. Name-calling is a very bad idea as it will likely make you an enemy. Since most people don’t take criticism well, try to avoid being negative. Finally, try to come up with engaging stories which fill out the picture rather than brief anecdotes. Try to entertain and avoid too much clinical or technical detail. For example, while most people can’t remember the entire list of the ten commandments from the Bible, they have no problem remembering many biblical stories.
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