What it is: “Think Like a Freak” is a book about thinking creatively.
Most people don’t think. The problem is that they think they do, which is what makes them more stubborn in their beliefs. In “Think Like a Freak,” the authors suggest how to think creatively about any type of problem. More importantly, the book also explains how to deal with other people’s thinking.
As the authors state in dealing with convincing others, “The first step is to appreciate that your opponent’s opinion is likely based less on fact and logic than on ideology and herd thinking. If you were to suggest this to his face, he would of course deny it. He is operating from a set of biases he cannot even see.”
Try to change someone’s mind about anything whether it’s the benefits of Android vs. iOS or Windows vs. OS X and you’ll likely never get anywhere, especially if you use facts. Facts are the last thing people want to consider when defending their beliefs because that would force them to actually think about their beliefs. Keep people from thinking and they can stay in their limited world surrounded by others who think just like them. Therefore the problem isn’t their beliefs but the fact that others don’t share in their beliefs.
You can see how destructive this can be to everything from politics to business. If you think you’re right, then there’s nothing that will prove you wrong, even facts. Just look at how much in denial Nokia and Blackberry executives were regarding the threat of the iPhone. Only after their business has totally cratered did they finally admit the obvious, but it took years of unending facts to finally change most people’s minds.
Then a surprisingly thing happens. People who were ardent critics of the iPhone and defenders of Blackberry conveniently forget that they ever held those beliefs. Beyond the tiny fringe of Blackberry users still using Blackberries, most have switched to Android or iOS.
The same holds true for Windows users who ardently defend their choice of software while dismissing anything else as not productive. Then when people switch from Windows to Linux or OS X, you can see them become just as fanatical about their new choice as if that were the only option they had always defended.
If you wonder how people can function in a communist society where facts change on a regular basis, the answer is right in front of your face. People have no problems defending what’s wrong for years, and when they finally admit to themselves that they were wrong, they don’t. Instead, they simply change and pretend that their past beliefs never existed at all.
People don’t want to know the truth. They simply want to believe that they’re right regardless of the truth. If the truth doesn’t fit with their beliefs, then the truth must be wrong, not their beliefs. That’s why you see so many people believing in a flat Earth, a world that’s only 6,000 years old, or government conspiracies covering up everything from fake moon landings to UFOs. Facts can never change someone’s mind because people associate their beliefs as extensions of themselves. Contradict someone’s facts and you threaten their personality. Is it any wonder why so many people refuse to think?
One unusual belief is that less-educated people are more likely to become extremists. The actual fact is that more educated people are likely to become extremists because more educated people got rewarded throughout school for being right most of the time on tests and report cards. So it’s easy for that type of person to believe that they must be right in everything else they do too.
That’s why terrorists are often well-educated and that’s why extremists are often well-educated. When you’ve been rewarded for being right most of your life, it’s only natural to believe you’ll continue being right, even if you’re completely wrong.
Perhaps the most interesting lesson from “Think Like a Freak” comes from their idea of identifying terrorists. The authors created an algorithm to track terrorist behavior and determined it had close to a 99% success rate. The problem was that they needed to identify actual terrorists without falsely accusing innocent people of being terrorists, so they came up with a creative idea.
They determined that terrorists didn’t buy life insurance because it wouldn’t be honored anyway if they died and committed a terrorist act. So the authors publicized this fact and said if you wanted to avoid being seen as a terrorist, buy life insurance from your bank so it would be easy to verify that your banking activities weren’t suspicious at all.
Anyone with life insurance most likely bought it though a separate company, not a bank, but potential terrorists, worried about being identified as terrorists, rushed out to buy life insurance from a bank to avoid being flagged as a terrorist. Yet that very action identified them as extremely suspicious as potential terrorists.
By thinking creatively, the authors found a way to get terrorists to identify themselves. When you practice creative thinking, you can solve all types of problems simply by looking at it from another angle. If you refuse to think, you’ll be easily duped, fooled, and seduced into thinking you’re right when you’re not.
Thinking isn’t easy, which is why so few people do it. The popularity of reality TV shows showing the lives of celebrities is proof that far too many people prefer not to think because thinking involves dealing with facts and facts can be unpleasant at times. When you want to cling to a belief, the last thing you want is something that threatens that belief.
Knowing that the vast majority of people prefer not to think gives you a huge competitive advantage. Rather than follow the crowd, you can stop, analyze every situation for what it offers, and make intelligent choices based on facts rather than beliefs. Any time you make a decision based on beliefs, you’re probably making the wrong decision.
Beliefs are fantasy. Reality is truth. You can either live in a fantasy world that doesn’t always cater to your beliefs, or you can live in reality that gives you harsh feedback every second of your life if you’re willing to keep your eyes open.
Which option do you think will be best for you in the long run?