'Think Like A Freak'
Last fall I read Steven Levitt’s and Stephen Dubner’s “Think Like a Freak.” You might recognize the authors from their more popularly known books “Freakonomics” and “Superfreakonomics.”
I related to their book and their unique way of looking at problems so I posted “Think like a freak” to my refrigerator as a reminder to think through problems from many different angles and perspectives.
I’m not exactly sure when, but a short time later I noticed a note scrawled below it, “I’m sorry I didn’t do the dishes. I didn’t want to wake you. – Carly.”
Both notes have been on the fridge now for about six months. And both still ring true.
A little background information. My 23-year old daughter Carly is living with us as she has committed to house sit and cat sit for us later this year when we take a nine month cross country trip in an RV. More background: Carly works late hours. I go to sleep very early. My bedroom is right next to the kitchen.
When I saw Carly’s note, I laughed hard and out loud, thinking, “Now, dear Carly, that is indeed thinking like a freak!”
Why? First, it solves a problem that arises almost every night of the week. I’m usually asleep before she comes home and she usually makes something to eat at night – which can be noisy. Second, it solves her specific problem as she knows I will do the dishes in the morning. She thought like a freak and stretched it to mean, “Don’t do the dishes.”
The dishes example is rather mundane, when it comes to thinking like a freak. The book provides many illuminating examples from as simple as explaining the odds of scoring on a penalty kick in soccer to Australia researchers discovering the real cause and new treatment for stomach ulcers.
In the soccer example, it turns out you have the highest chance of scoring if you kick right at the center of the goal where the goalie is standing because 97 percent of the time the goalie will dive left or right. If you are the kicker, are you going to take that 3 percent chance?
The Australian researchers found that stomach ulcers were not caused by stress or spicy foods but by bacteria. Ultimately, they deduced that by creating a healthy gut bacteria transfusion, patients were cured. Grossly, but successfully, they created the use of fecal transplants.
A quick summary of the main principles of thinking like a freak:
Thinking like a freak includes putting our prejudices and biases aside and looking at issues and problems without coloring our views. Of course, we have to know we even have them.
Thinking like a freak means putting away our fear of not going with the herd. We need to be willing to consider not how our friends and family think, but how we think.
Thinking like a freak means we take the time to think. Really set aside time for deep thinking.
Thinking like a freak means we admit to ourselves how much we don’t know.
Thinking like a freak means we have to be open to and listen to feedback.
Thinking like a freak means sometimes we have to set aside our moral compasses, our belief in what is right or wrong, black or white, so we can think about something without injecting our own personal slant. I’m not saying we act outside our moral beliefs, but that we try to think outside of them.
Thinking like a freak means we have to be willing to experiment. And to make mistakes.
Thinking like a freak means admitting we don’t know but committing to finding out.
Thinking like a freak means asking the right questions.
Thinking like a freak means correctly identifying the real problem we want to solve.
Thinking like a freak means not accepting artificial limits.
Thinking like a freak means finding and attacking the root causes of a problem.
You can learn about these ways of thinking and more by reading Levitt’s and Dubner’s book, which is available at our local library.