I absolutely loved “Freakonomics,” and was amazed by the authors’ innovative way of looking at problems and whittling them down to essential components that almost nobody else had ever thought to see before. The title of this book made me think that they would teach me how to think like they did, which is why I picked it up.
I’m not sure if it delivered on that. The main takeaway to me was the same one I got from “Freakonomics,” which was, find the human incentive, and you’ll be able to deduce the behavior that will follow. That is certainly worth the price of the book… they just reinforce it in various examples, from potty training (don’t offer candy to a child for doing their business, or they’ll suddenly “have to go” all the time and never do anything else), to job and college applications. (In that case, don’t lower the bar too low — if you make them just cumbersome enough to complete, you’ll get fewer applicants, but those who aren’t serious about the position will self-select themselves out. There’s always a balance, of course–raise the bar too high and you’ll get no applicants at all… and I was incidentally in process of hiring while listening to this, so it was very prescient advice.)
What I wanted were a set of rules: pay attention to this, don’t pay attention to all this other extraneous information that’s only confounding the issue. Instead I really got “Freakonomics Part 2,” with a bunch of examples, and I still had to do the work myself to distill it down to something usable. But the real gems were there, buried. To fill out the idea of ‘find the incentive’ I suppose I’d distill the message down to, put yourself in the other person’s shoes. What would motivate you is likely the same thing that would motivate them.
My rating: ****
Sexual content: none
Political content: none