Interesting sequel to yesterday’s post.
Yesterday, I published a post under the title of Just to focus our minds. It featured a chart that demonstrated how long Planet Earth would take to ‘recover’ if the human race disappeared today.
Why today’s post seemed a perfect companion was because it explores how we could think better. For if the human race doesn’t quickly find a way to think better, then that aforementioned chart may not be such an academic abstract after all.
The post is more or less a copy of what appeared on the Big Think blogsite, a site I have been following for some time now.
Want to Make a Difference in the World? Think Small
Ambition can work against you by leading you to set unrealistic and overwhelming goals. Want to make a difference in the world? Think small. It’s much less complicated, you’ll have easier access to the data that you’ll need. Most importantly, you will preserve one of your most precious resources: optimism.
Having the will to attack an issue at its root—from launching a socially conscious business to demanding more green spaces in your neighborhood—requires energy and enthusiasm to see the project through. By being less ambitious in your plans you’re more likely to stick with them and be successful.
Besides, when you first developed your problem-solving skills you were small—a child. Stephen Dubner, the co-author, with economist Steven Levitt, of Freakonomics and Think Like a Freak, wants you to go back to that way of thinking:
One of the most powerful pieces of thinking like a child that we argue is thinking small. So I realize that this runs exactly counter to the philosophy of the arena in which I’m appearing which is thinking big, Big Think, but our argument is this. Big problems are by their nature really hard to solve for a variety of reasons. One is they’re large and therefore they include a lot of people and therefore they include a lot of crossed and often mangled and perverse incentives. But also a big problem – when you think about a big problem like education reform. You’re dealing with an institution or set of institutions that have gotten to where they’ve gotten to this many, many years of calcification and also accidents of history. What I mean by that is things have gotten the way they’ve gotten because of a lot of things a few people did many, many years ago and traditions were carried on.
Want to break those traditions and build something new and forward-thinking? Then curb your ambition. Start to look at the world again with the eyes of a child.
Stephen Dubner talks about [that YouTube link reveals the transcript of the talk. PH] the importance of thinking small in order to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems piece by piece. Dubner is the co-author of Think Like a Freak
Stephen Dubner and economist Steven Levitt co-authored the book Freakonomics. If you are interested, the Freakonomics website is here.