Think Like a Freak builds on the following key ideas outlined in the first two books:

  • Incentives are the foundation of life
  • Measuring the right things helps simplify a complex world
  • Conventional wisdom is often wrong
  • Correlation doesn’t equal causality.

This book offers a prescriptive problem solving framework built upon the economic problem solving model (data driven) highlighted through the first two books. The premise is to “think like a freak” which involves challenging the status quo and often taking a creative approach to problem solving.

Barriers To Thinking Like A Freak

  • Cognitive bias
  • Fear (of challenging status quo)
  • Lack of internal thought to break common thinking habits (“training”)

Suspending Your Moral Compass And Saying I Don’t Know

Most knowledge outside scientifically verifiable fact can be molded and influenced. Because of this, “I don’t know” should be on the tip of more tongues when approaching a problem. The cost of saying “I don’t know” is often be higher than being wrong altogether. The incentives to fake are too high.

The impacts of ultracredpidarianism become more pronounced when stakes are raised (Iraq “wmd”)

Determine the core of a problem and ask the right questions before solving. E.g.  what’s wrong with the educational system replaced with why are US students scoring lower compared to other countries. 

Ask Small Questions To Tackle Big Problems

Think small and ask small questions to solve big problems. Many complex problems are composed of clusters of smaller problems. Small questions involve traveling a line of thought less traveled, opening the door to true learning and discovery.

Small questions often include childlike attributes such as not being afraid to ask a “dumb” question or be concerned with how others react.

Persuading Others Who Don’t Share Your View

Preferred vs. revealed incentive preferences often differ. In other words, what people say they want and what they actually want often differ. There are several reasons why this is true with social dimensions often being the root cause for discrepancies.

When attempting to influence or persuade someone who doesn’t share your view, consider the following 5 traits to win them over:

  • It’s not me, it’s you. Even if your logic is perfect, if the message doesn’t resonate, nothing was accomplished.
  • Don’t pretend your solution is perfect (even if it is)
  • Acknowledge the strengths of your opponent’s argument
  • Restrain the insults
  • Frame your view as a story. Storytelling is among the oldest, and most effective types of human communication. Storytelling doesn’t have to involve making up fictional characters and setting. In this context, it means incorporating elements of a good story such as passage of time, antagonist/protagonist, etc.. to communicate an idea.

Know When To Quit

Quitting isn’t always for losers. Sometimes, quitting is the only viable option. Two key points to consider when determining if it’s time to call it quits:

  • Opportunity cost of of continuing the project vs. moving on to something else
  • Is the problem even solvable?

There can be a number of valid reasons why a solution can’t be found. Innovations on not-yet-created technology or capabilities, lack of expertise, or simply not framing a problem in the right light are all reasons why a problem may not be solvable (yet).

Pre-mortems can be a useful way to identify what could cause failure.