Commentary based on the book Think Like a Freak by Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner
As a father of 5, I often find myself discussing the challenges of parenting with others. During those conversations I’ll often say that I feel the main job of parenting is to raise people with values and the conviction to live them, and to raise people that are critical thinkers. Think Like a Freak nails the level of critical thinking that I mean when I say that.
We all fancy that we are critical thinkers that have arrived at our opinions and ideas of fact by virtue of some comprehensive and open-minded analysis of all available information. That’s what allows us to argue and defend so vehemently the positions that we have on nearly any issue. In fact, as Levitt and Dubner present so well, what we believe to be true and right is far more likely to be a result of what our parents, the media, and our “herd” (those that we identify with and want to be accepted by) believe than it is some logically arrived at position. Then we set about reading and listening to and believing those people, books, positions, and media that simply support our positions rather than subjecting them to open minded scrutiny.
I seek out books and people that challenge how I think because I know I am subject to the imperfect thinking that is baked into the human condition. I have a degree in Psychology and a minor in Philosophy and Religious studies because of my intense interest in what makes us think and do what we do. This book does exactly what they warn against; it supports my thinking rather than challenges it! That said it is a wonderful book for the brave and curious person willing to confront everything they think.
Some of the subjects I pondered while reading this short book include:
- Incentives for management and team members
- Marketing messages, approaches and experimentation
- Asking the right question
- Our inability to predict the future and the lengths we go to try
- Celebrating failures
“I know” is a statement that I have tried to teach my kids never to utter. As benign as it sounds, it is really just another way to say: “Don’t tell me anything”, “I don’t value your opinion on the issue”, and “I’m not open-minded or teachable”. This book challenges the reader to say: “I don’t know”.
As the CEO of a fast growing company with thousands of team members and stakeholders, it is understandable that many people look to me and my Leadership Team to have all the answers. That is why we confidently state company direction and intiatives along with thoughtful supporting reasoning as a normal matter of course. But confidence to decide, act, and communicate should not, does not, and cannot be based on certainty of the future. In the end, making decisions and acting is both art and science. Great successes famously come with many bumps along the way. Fearlessly being willing to make your best guess is one of the things I truly love about business…and life.