Think Like a Freak – Why it is Worth Your Time; and My 8 Takeaways

I read books, and present book briefings/book synopses. I do this at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas, and then within companies and organizations (in more extended presentations).

A book briefing helps the participants know the key content of a useful and challenging business book, and then, helps them think, “So, what do I do with this?”

Over the years, I have added elements to my handouts and presentations. Now, I begin and end each book briefing handout pretty much the same way:

I begin with:

Why is this book worth our time?


I end with

What are some important takeaways?

The middle of the handout (which is quite a few pages long), includes key quotes and excerpts from the book, and then information and insight and lesson from he book.

My intent is simple – from my presentation alone, you can find useful “put to work now” ideas for your own business life and within your organization.

But, as always, somebody in the audience will decide “that’s the book I need to read next for myself.” Yesterday, at the First Friday Book Synopsis for July, a man walked up and told me that after he heard my presentation on Flash Boys by Michael Lewis (at an earlier event), and he went straight to the book store and bought it, and read it.

(Then I asked the question that I am always a little afraid to hear the answer to – “did you think my synopsis did the book justice?” His answer was reassuring – he said “yes, and it made me go out and buy the book”). Someone else, on the way out, said they would buy Think Like a Freak that afternoon (that’s the briefing I presented yesterday), and then later in the day another participant told me that my first point under “Why is this book worth your time?” made him decide to buy the book.

Think FreakSo, with that background, here are these two sections from my handout from Think Like a Freak by Dubner and Levitt, the Freakonomics guys…

Why is this book worth our time?

1. It is a fun read… (some business books are not all that much fun to read…)
2. It reminds us that incentives rule the world; finding the incentive that works is how we move people to agree with us, work with us, buy our products…
3. It is a good book about “problem solving” — one of the genuinely critical issues in business today.
4. It is a genuine idea generator. We always need more, and better, ideas.
5. It is a reminder that we accept as “true and accurate” much of what is not true and accurate. And, it helps us understand why we are so prone to this mistaken way of thinking…

Some Takeaways:

      1. Easy problems are not the problem. Hard problems are the problem.
      2. Start small. It’s the only way to start. It may, in fact, be the only strategy to follow at all.
      3. When you’re making money (especially a lot of money) doing one thing in one way, you are not very open to alternative 
suggestions and approaches.
      4. Thomas Kuhn was right – outsiders ask different questions, and this can lead to breakthrough answers (a “blinding flash 
of the obvious”)
      5. But… expertise matters…
      6. The herd mentality is very real, and very motivating
      7. Stories matter a great deal in persuasion (mythos may trump logos, ethos, and pathos) — “If you really want to persuade someone who doesn’t wish to be persuaded, you should tell him a story.” — Stories provide the “long view” – and “context”…
      8. Conduct premortems (The story of the O rings and the Challenger disaster – the problem was predicted!, and not heeded).



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