- Hardcover: 268 pages
- Publisher: Allen Lane; 1st edition (13 May 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1846147557
- ISBN-13: 978-1846147555
- Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 2.8 x 22.2 cm
- Average Customer Review: 171 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 145,654 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Think Like a Freak: How to Think Smarter about Almost Everything Hardcover – 13 May 2014
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In one of the many wonderful moments in Think Like a Freak, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner ask the question: Who is easier to fool-kids or adults? The obvious answer, of course, is kids. The cliché is about taking candy from a baby, not a grown man. But instead of accepting conventional wisdom as fact, the two sit down with the magician Alex Stone-someone in the business of fooling people-and ask him what he thinks. And his answer? Adults.
Stone gave the example of the staple of magic tricks, the "double lift," where two cards are presented as one. It's how a magician can seemingly bury a card that you have selected at random and then miraculously retrieve it. Stone has done the double lift countless times in his career, and he says it is kids-overwhelmingly-who see through it. Why? The magician's job is to present a series of cues-to guide the attention of his audience-and adults are really good at following cues and paying attention. Kids aren't. Their gaze wanders. Adults have a set of expectations and assumptions about the way the world works, which makes them vulnerable to a profession that tries to exploit those expectations and assumptions. Kids don't know enough to be exploited. Kids are more curious. They don't overthink problems; they're more likely to understand that the basis of the trick is something really, really simple. And most of all-and this is my favorite-kids are shorter than adults, so they quite literally see the trick from a different and more revealing angle.
Think Like a Freak is not a book about how to understand magic tricks. That's what Dubner and Levitt's first two books-Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics-were about. It's about the attitude we need to take towards the tricks and the problems that the world throws at us. Dubner and Levitt have a set of prescriptions about what that attitude comes down to, but at its root it comes down to putting yourself in the mind of the child, gazing upwards at the double lift: free yourself from expectations, be prepared for a really really simple explanation, and let your attention wander from time to time.
The two briefly revisit their famous argument from their first book about the link between the surge in abortions in the 1970s and the fall in violent crime twenty years later. Their point is not to reargue that particular claim. It is to point out that we shouldn't avoid arguments like that just because they leave us a bit squeamish. They also tell the story of the Australian doctor Barry Marshall, who overturned years of received wisdom when he proved that ulcers are caused by gastric bacteria, not spicy food and stress. That idea was more than heretical at first. It was absurd. It was the kind of random idea that only a child would have. But Dubner and Levitt's point, in their utterly captivating new book, is that following your curiosity-even to the most heretical and absurd end-makes the world a better place. It is also a lot of fun.(Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink)
This book will change your life. (Daily Express)
Good ideas... expressed with panache. (Financial Times)
Compelling and fun. (New York Post)
About the Author
Steven D. Levitt, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, was awarded the John Bates Clark medal, given to the most influential American economist under the age of forty. He is also a founder of The Greatest Good, which applies Freakonomics-style thinking to business and philanthropy.
Stephen J. Dubner is an award-winning author, journalist, and radio and TV personality. He quit his first career-as an almost-rock-star-to become a writer. He has worked for The New York Times and published three non-Freakonomics books. He lives with his family in New York City.
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The writing is clear and engaging and avoids off-putting professional jargon. The book is brief enough to attract a very casual reader with some interest in the subject. Recommended.
If you pick this up cheap it's worth the hour or two it'll take you to read, but if you've not read Freakonomics that is the book to go for.
However, if you've listened to a lot of their podcasts and additional material then there's isn't too much there's new here. The cases presented are things they've mentioned before. Nevertheless, that is not the focus of this book as the crux of it is the inspiration behind it. As such, it's still a fascinating read. Dubner has a fantastic writing style that has a real flow to it.
If you're a fan of all things freakanomics, it's a great addition to your library!
The Chapters are [with my summary in brackets]:
1) What Does It Mean to Think Like a Freak?
[You need data and you need to understand cause and effect]
2) The Three Hardest Words in the English Language
[I won't spoil it!]
3) What's Your Problem?
[How you define the problem drives the answer. Lean practitioners and six sigma belts - this will give you some "real" life examples to use]
4) Like a Bad Dye Job the Truth Is in the Roots
[Address the cause - not the symptoms]
5) Think Like a Child
[Ask the daft question - Why?]
6) Like Giving Candy to a Baby
[The Power of Incentives]
7) What Do King Solomon and Dave Lee Roth Have in Common?
[A clever test... with Game Theory]
8) How to Persuade People Who Don't Want to Be Persuaded
[The Science of Persuasion]
9) The Upside of Quitting
[If at first you don't succeed... try something easier instead! - Actually the danger of sunk costs.]
I really enjoyed the book - Highly recommended.
Another highlight of the book was the revelation regarding a chapter entitled 'Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance", which featured in their second book. Absolute genius! (But I won't give it away and spoil it.)
So, if you haven't read the first two books, check them out first, and then give this one a go. Well worth it.
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