Sunday, January 4, 2015

Think like a freak and be more innovative

Have you read "Freakonomics" or "Superfreakonomics?" They are full of interesting facts that often have practical implications, but weren't "common sense" thinking.  This third book by the two author team is intended to encourage thinking that uncovers solutions to problems that have been overlooked.  Innovations come from thinking and maybe freak thinking opens up more possibilities.

In their original book I was struck how they analyzed a fall in crime.  A lot of propositions have been suggested including better police practices, greater incarcerations.  They determined that the suggestions did not cover the total decline in crime.  They took note of the date when crime trends started to decline and dug deeper.  The critical factor to close the gap was when  in the next twenty years after the abortion laws were liberalized with Roe v. Wade there were fewer unwanted babies many of whom would have been brought up in trying circumstances.  This is not a conclusion that would be welcomed by everyone, but still the implications are profound.  Wanted babies are very desirable.

In thinking like a freak there are a few guidelines.  A key one is revealed by a phrase not often used, "I don"t know."  Too many of us are ashamed to admit our ignorance or we just don't care.  Starting from the admission of ignorance we can discover more possibilities than many "educated" people normally consider.

A California experiment to encourage better water habits demonstrated the power of herd behaviour.  Rather than being motivated by saving money or saving the environment the most effective results came from pointing out that their neighbours were adopting some new practices.

Don't be afraid of the obvious.  Sometimes we overlook an explanation that just seems too simple.

When presenting your ideas avoid name calling.  Everyone will not understand or accept your thoughts, but keep the door open.   What has more effect?  We are inundated with mega data and that is likely to increase.   What we really respond to are stories that make a point.

A key decision we all have to make is when to quit.  Winston Churchill is famous for advocating never give up.  When a venture is well on its way and not going to plan we have a tendency to factor in how much we have already invested (time, money).  The authors suggest we should evaluate the opportunity costs, ie. what we could be doing instead of continuing on our problematic route.

Stephen and Steven are always finding new ways to look at things.  Keep up to date,

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