I was in the airport flying back from my Detroit MI tour of Green Golly and I needed a new book, having finished my last “easy reading” flying book that morning. There were hardly any books for sale in the Detroit airport – just one little shelf, so I picked up a book that is an uncharacteristic purchase for me. It’s called “Think Like a Freak” by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. It turned out to be a very interesting book and one that inspired this column.
“Think Like a Freak” written by two economist’s, talks about how to change your thinking – how to think like...a freak!! They define thinking like a freak as thinking in unexpected ways about problems large and small, with chapter’s focused on learning how to say ‘I don’t know’, or learning how to ask the right questions, or think like a child. It’s a fascinating read with many unexpected insights and I got to thinking about all the ways thinking differently helps an entrepreneur. I thought about how thinking differently can be applied to the problems that face classical music today. Or, how it might help a flutrepreneur come up with a great new business or project. In fact, I think musician’s are often very good at thinking creatively and differently, it’s an easy muscle for us to activate!!
Today we’ll look at two interesting ideas from the book and see how they can apply to entrepreneurs.
In chapter 5 called “Think Like a Child” two things struck me. One was the concept of thinking small, the writers discuss how there are many big problems in the world that have proven to be intractable even with some of the greatest minds in the world at work on them. As entrepreneurs we often look at a big problem in the music business and want to solve it, we want to be “big thinkers” but Levitt and Dubner quote a very famous advocate of thinking small- Sir Isaac Newton! He says “To explain all nature is too difficult a task for any one man or even any one age. Tis much better to do a little with certainty and leave the rest for others that come after than to explain all things by conjecture without making sure of any thing”. That seems to say it all!! So when thinking about your own project and your entrepreneurial mission, think about what small problem you can solve, since the small problems often intertwine together and make up the bigger problem. Taking a small step can have a great impact on the path towards the bigger picture. And it’s easier to understand and feel a sense of accomplishment- like perfecting one scale, or piece for instance.
The second thing that struck me in chapter 5 involves a discussion of kids and magic. Turns out kids are a lot harder to deceive with magic than adults for a variety of reasons: kids attention is more diffuse so they aren’t looking where the magician wants them to, kids are curious, kids notice more, kids are relatively free of assumptions and expectations, so a magician has trouble turning those assumptions and expectations around for someone without any. And of special interest to me- kids are short- many magician’s depend on you seeing a trick head-on, or from above as the trick may be happening underneath where you (the big adult)are looking. The point here is that – quoting Levitt and Dubner “by seeing things from a literally new angle, you can sometimes gain an edge in solving a problem”.
How can we apply this thinking to our Entrepreneurial projects? Thinking like a child asks us to drop our assumptions and expected outcomes- be it around fund raising, sales, repertoire, venue, product and more. Can we use curiosity to look at something from an entirely different angle, can we broaden our attention enough to notice the whole picture? Whether we are looking at flute playing, or classical music in general, or whether we are trying to understand how social media can help move us along, dropping our razor focus can help us see from a new angle. See how differently you can think and on the other side of this process you might have found something truly original that nibbles away at an intractable problem!!
Next month we’ll keep exploring!
Here’s the name of the book:
“Think Like a Freak”, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Published by Harper Collins