10 Updates

Stephen Dubner: The Upside Of Dropping One Idea For The Next

May 12 2014, 7:50am CDT | by

I recently spoke to Stephen Dubner, who is the Co-author of both Freakonomics and Super Freakonomics. Freakonomics spent more than two years on The New York Times bestseller list, having sold more...

Filed under: news

 
 
 

10 weeks ago

Stephen Dubner: The Upside Of Dropping One Idea For The Next

May 12 2014, 7:50am CDT | by

I recently spoke to Stephen Dubner, who is the Co-author of both Freakonomics and Super Freakonomics. Freakonomics spent more than two years on The New York Times bestseller list, having sold more than 4 million copies around the world, in more than 35 languages. The Freakonomics enterprise also includes an award-winning blog, a high-profile documentary film, and a public-radio project called Freakonomics Radio, which Dubner hosts. He is also a founder of The Greatest Good, which applies Freakonomics-style thinking to business and philanthropy. He has also appeared widely on television, including a three-year stint on ABC News as a Freakonomics contributor. His latest book is called Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain .

In the following interview, Dubner talks about ways that entrepreneurs can make better business decisions, why it makes sense to drop some ideas for others, the habits entrepreneurs need to break, why pursuing your passion is more important than ever before and why you should ignore what the people around you do.

Dan Schawbel: What are some ways that entrepreneurs can make better business decisions and stop making critical mistakes?

Stephen Dubner: 

Here are a few ideas:

1. Learn to say “I don’t know” more often. Too many people in business – and politics, and elsewhere – act as if they know the solution to a given problem. I understand the need for ego preservation – nobody wants to look like an ignoramus – but it’s hard to learn anything if you pretend you already know the answer.

2. Once you know what you don’t know, you can start gathering feedback. One great way to do this, which many firms are reluctant to try (because it requires someone to admit they don’t already know the solution), is to run experiments. These don’t have to be complicated or expensive. Experimentation has been the foundation of science for centuries – but why should scientists have all the fun? Real randomized experimentation is one of the most basic, useful tools in figuring out how to solve a problem in any sphere.

3. Spend some time just thinking, period. You may believe you already spend a lot of time thinking but in fact a lot of our ideas are just received wisdom. George Bernard Shaw noted this thought deficit many years ago. “Few people think more than two or three times a year,” he reportedly said. “I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week.” We too try to think once or twice a week (though surely not as cleverly as Shaw) and encourage you to do the same.

Schawbel: What are some habits they need to stop in order to think like a freak and be more successful?

Dubner: A lot of conventional wisdom is true, at least substantially, but much is not. Go ahead and train yourself to question the conventional wisdom as a first step. It costs nothing to do so. It’s also useful to try to figure out what your own biases are. Most of us like to think that we think for ourselves, that we’ve formed opinions based on nothing but evidence, etc. But even the smartest people among us have strong biases – in fact, the very smartest people are likely to be even more biased. That’s not a crime, but when you’re trying to solve a problem, you need to figure out where your biases lie and how to work around them.

Schawbel: Can you explain the upside of quitting on an idea and starting over again?

Dubner: I’d argue that the business community is pretty good at understanding the upside of quitting, at least relative to other realms. That’s because the feedback is pretty direct, and because resources aren’t unlimited. But even in business – and especially in politics, in our personal relationships, etc. – there is still way too much reluctance to abandon a project that isn’t worth pursuing. One problem is the sunk-cost fallacy: once you’ve put a lot of time, money, energy, etc., into a project, it may seem counterproductive to stop. But that’s not necessarily the case. Consider the opportunity cost: every hour, dollar, or brain cell that you’re putting into Project A is one less that you could be putting into Project B. We make the argument that quitting – especially failing fast and failing well – is a greatly undervalued idea.

Schawbel: How do you succeed when you don’t have any talent or haven’t realized what your talent is?

Dubner: In Think Like a Freak, we make the argument that there’s huge value in pursuing what you truly love. It’s understandable that people choose careers based on demand, salary, prestige, etc. But if you can manage to find something you love more than anything – and especially a pursuit that other people aren’t clamoring to do – you will run circles around the competition. Why? Because if you truly love what you’re doing, you’ll be thinking about it when you go to sleep, you’ll wake up with a head full of ideas, you’ll be eager to experiment and fail and start over again until you solve the riddle.

Schawbel: How can entrepreneurs step back and start to see the world in a new way that helps them be more creative and more successful?

Dubner: Here’s a small but, I believe, useful trick: don’t care so much about what the people around you read, watch, eat, listen to, etc. It is astonishing to me that so many smart people end up consuming exactly the same culture, media, trends, etc., as the people they work and live with. While I understand the value of having all that in common, it tends to provide a sort of self-reinforcing group-think and idea-recycling that gets really boring really fast. So if you work in media, spend your time watching and reading what nobody else does. If you’re in investment or banking, look for ideas in narrow, dark alleys rather than in the same spotlight industries that everyone else is already prowling.

Dan Schawbel is a speaker and best-selling author. Subscribe  to his newsletter. 

 
Update
10

6 weeks ago

RM47mil KWSG contributions still unclaimed

Jun 9 2014 7:54am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

Cambodia's Famous Battambang Circus
KUALA LUMPUR: About RM47 million of contributions in the Teachers Provident Fund (KWSG) still remain unclaimed, the Dewan Rakyat was tol ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
9

6 weeks ago

Gold shop lost almost RM1mil

Jun 9 2014 3:50am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

Splendour In the Grass 2014 - Byron Bay
KANGAR: A gold shop owner lost almost RM1 million after after the safe on in his shop was broken into by ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
8

6 weeks ago

Motion to debate MAS losses in Dewan Rakyat rejected

Jun 9 2014 3:39am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

Federal Aviation Administration Bans All US Flights To Israel
KUALA LUMPUR: AN emergency motion to debate the losses incurred by Malaysia Airlines last year, amounting to RM1.2 billion was rejected by the Dewan Rakya ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
7

6 weeks ago

MH370 Tragedy: Hisham: RM27.6 mil spent on 1st phase of SAR

Jun 9 2014 2:11am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia spent some RM27.6 million in its first phase of the search operations for missing Malaysia Airline flight MH370, said Acting Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Hishamm ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
6

7 weeks ago

9.1m litres of diesel seized in a month

Jun 8 2014 1:11am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

INDIA-CHINA-DIPLOMACY-TRADE
PUTRAJAYA: The Domestic Trade, Cooperatives, and Consumerism ministry has seized some 9.1 million litres of diesel and property worth RM58 million since mounting ‘Operasi Diesel Selatan’ in t ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
5

7 weeks ago

Girl, 9, awarded RM2.78m compensation for medical negligence

Jun 6 2014 4:56am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

Government Weekly Cabinet Meeting
KUALA LUMPUR: A nine-year-old girl who suffered brain damage during her birth at a government hospital was awarded over RM2.78 m ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
4

7 weeks ago

Malaysia's total trade in April up 12pc

Jun 5 2014 11:52pm CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's total trade in April 2014 rose by 12 per cent from a year ago to RM123.86 billion due to growing trading activities, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
3

7 weeks ago

Works Ministry to spend RM20m for upgrading works at 50 accident black spots

Jun 4 2014 11:35pm CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

Iskandar Johor Open - Previews
JOHOR BARU: The Works Ministry will implement upgrading works at 50 accident prone locations in the country that have been identified this year involvin ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
2

7 weeks ago

Najib launches loan scheme for Ramadan traders

Jun 4 2014 10:24pm CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM - Day One
PUTRAJAYA: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today launches RM45 million Ramadan Baza ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
1

7 weeks ago

Residents bring up objection against Kidex to Suhakam

Jun 4 2014 4:49am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

PETALING JAYA: A group of 20 Petaling Jaya residents held a meeting with the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) over their objection against the proposed RM2.2 billion Kinrara Damansara Skyw ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

2014 Luxury Watches Have Final US Preview Before Their Release
2014 Luxury Watches Have Final US Preview Before Their Release
2014 Watch Releases From Swatch Group Brands The Breguet Madison Avenue boutique was busy June 26 with press and VIP clientele as the luxury watch brand used this date to celebrate “Tourbillon Day.” The event included...
 
 
China to produce its own 'Avatar'
Beijing, July 28 (IANS) China is preparing to produce its own 3D fantasy movie, based on romantic folklore, to make it an epic on par with the US blockbuster science-fiction movie "Avatar".
 
 
Sushma meets UML leaders, ends Nepal visit
Kathmandu, July 27 (IANS) External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj Sunday averted a diplomatic disaster by meeting leaders of the ruling CPN-UML just before returning to India after a three-day visit which she said was "productive" and "successful".
 
 
Nepal parliament panel okays energy deal with India
Kathmandu, July 27 (IANS) A parliamentary panel in Nepal Sunday asked the government to sign as soon as possible a "Power Trade Agreement" (PTA) with India under which New Delhi has proposed 100 percent Indian investment or joint ventures with Indian entities in the Himalayan country's power sector.
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Twin blasts in Nigeria kill five
Abuja, July 28 (IANS) At least five people were killed in two bomb blasts in Nigeria's Kano city, a mainly Christian area, Sunday afternoon, police said. The first blast occurred under a bridge in the Sabon Gari...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Australia gives $5 mn for Gaza relief
Sydney, July 28 (IANS) The Australian government is providing five million Australian dollars (4.7 million US dollars) in urgent humanitarian assistance to Gaza, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced Monday. The...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
France wants expatriates to leave Libya
Paris, July 28 (IANS) French government Sunday called on all its nationals to quit Libya, "given the deteriorating security situation" prevailing in the African country. "All our nationals are invited to get in touch...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Israel denies responsibility for UN school attack deaths
Jerusalem, July 28 (IANS) The Israeli army Sunday denied responsibility for the deaths of 16 Palestinians during Thursday's attack on a UN school in northern Gaza. "The inquiry as well as documented footage conclude...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
India lose badminton semi-final to England 3-0
Glasgow, July 28 (IANS) India lost to England 3-0 in the semi-finals of the badminton competition at the Commonwealth Games here late Sunday night. India's men's and mixed doubles teams fought well over three games,...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Danielle O'Hara's husband accused of cheating
London, July 28 (IANS) Model Danielle O'Hara's footballer husband Jamie accused of cheating on her with a nightclub blonde. The news has surfaced just days after she unveiled a tattoo dedicated to her husband. Mirror....
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
CWG: India knocked out by England in badminton
Glasgow, July 28 (IANS) India were knocked out of badminton semi-finals 0-3 by England, who will now play for gold against Malaysia, who struggled their way past Singapore 3-2 at the Commonwealth Games here. England...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Real Madrid coach rules out another striker
Madrid, July 28 (IANS) Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has for the moment ruled out adding another striker to his star-packed squad. Speaking after his side's 1-1 draw against Inter Milan in California, which ended...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Ricciardo wins F1 Hungarian Grand Prix
Budapest, July 28 (IANS) Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia, in his rookie year on the F-1 circuit, won the Hungarian Grand Prix Sunday. He managed to slide by Ferrari's Fernando Alonso (Spain) who finished...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
UN chief appeals Israelis, Palestinians to extend truce
United Nations, July 28 (IANS) UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon Sunday urged "in the strongest terms" both the Israelis and Palestinians to extend, for an additional 24 hours, the humanitarian ceasefire that was in...
Read more on Politics Balla