Think Like a Freak and Break Barriers

Stephen Dubner on the strategy lessons of his latest book Think Like a Freak.

Takeru Kobayashi is a legend of Coney Island’s famous hot dog eating contest. How did he learn to crush the competition, double the world record, and go on to set six Guinness Records as a competitive eater? Stephen Dubner, journalist and award-winning co-author of Freakonomics, explains in his latest book with economist Steven Levitt, Think Like a Freak.


In the below video clip from Big Think’s interview, Dubner highlights some of the strategies that help people break barriers. In the quirky case of Kobayashi, he knew how to ask the right questions. By doing so, he redefined his problem and tackled an issue that his competitors had overlooked.

“As we write in Think Like a Freak, a lot of the problems that we all set out to solve as society, whether they’re education problems or famine, poverty – any kind of policy problems – we often think we’re going for the real problem, or the underlying problem, when, in fact, we’re not,” explains Dubner. “We’re often attacking kind of a symptom or the part of the problem that bothers us. And sometimes you really need to redefine the problem you’re trying to solve in order to ask a better question like Kobay did to get better answers.”

Thinking like a freak also requires experimentation. It’s okay not to know all of the answers. In fact, it’s an advantage to know what you don’t know. By doing so, it frees you up to explore and discover, leading to fresh insights and solutions.

“Experimentation can give great feedback, great answers,” says Dubner. “[But] a lot of people like to assume they know the solution to a problem when they don’t.”

For more on how to think like a freak and its advantages, watch a clip from Big Think’s interview:

Unraveling the mystery behind dogs' floppy ears

Dogs' floppy ears may be part of why they and other domesticated animals love humans so much.

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash
Surprising Science
  • Nearly all domestic animals share several key traits in addition to friendliness to humans, traits such as floppy ears, a spotted coat, a shorter snout, and so on.
  • Researchers have been puzzled as to why these traits keep showing up in disparate species, even when they aren't being bred for those qualities. This is known as "domestication syndrome."
  • Now, researchers are pointing to a group of a cells called neural crest cells as the key to understanding domestication syndrome.
Keep reading Show less

Russian reporters discover 101 'tortured' whales jammed in offshore pens

Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.

(VL.ru)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Russian news network discovers 101 black-market whales.
  • Orcas and belugas are seen crammed into tiny pens.
  • Marine parks continue to create a high-price demand for illegal captures.
Keep reading Show less

A dark matter hurricane is crashing into Earth

Giving our solar system a "slap in the face."

Surprising Science
  • A stream of galactic debris is hurtling at us, pulling dark matter along with it
  • It's traveling so quickly it's been described as a hurricane of dark matter
  • Scientists are excited to set their particle detectors at the onslffaught
Keep reading Show less