Think Like a Freak?

Actually, just think.

Published in 2014, Think Like a Freak has continued to garner attention from the worldwide media. Named as one of the New York Times-bestsellers, the book received both good and bad reviews from varied perspectives.

But there’s one piece of the book that I found quite intriguing and useful to remember. Right at the beginning of the book, the writers introduce George Bernard Shaw, a Co-Founder of the London School of Economics (LSE), and present one of his famous quotes:

“Few people think more than two or three times a year. I have made an international reputation by thinking once or twice a week.” ― George Bernard Shaw

Why did the quote hit so hard? In our day-to-day lives, we are usually trained to focus on efficiency, and shooting out the best answers, fast and straight. The pressure to achieve the best results and outperform our competitors makes us feel like we need to move fast, solve problems, and not waste anybody’s time.

In the decision-making process, there are some people who suggest that after you analyze all the information you have, within 30 seconds you’ve already made up your mind. That said, however long you take to communicate your decision is just because the lack of guts to do so.

It might sound a bit harsh for somebody reading it for the first time, but we are actually quite used to following and feeling the consequences of this rule. While visiting a website, for example, the first 10 seconds of the page visit are critical for the users’ decision to stay or leave.

“If the Web page survives this first — extremely harsh — 10-second judgment, users will look around a bit. However, they’re still highly likely to leave during the subsequent 20 seconds of their visit.”
― Jakob Nielsen

Some business even use this 30-second rule as a sort of metric.

The writers also point out how hard it’s for the most of us to simply admit we don’t know something. Easily enough, we let our biases color our views of the world and tend to seek out evidence to confirm what we already think. We assume that if we understand things in a certain way — and there’s at least one other source that supports our vision — well, we are probably right.

“One thing we've learned is that when people, especially politicians, start making decisions based on a reading of their moral compass, facts tend to be among the first casualties.”
― Steven Levitt

We are usually too busy to rethink the way we do things, especially the way we think. But as problem solvers ― a.k.a. designers ― our job is pretty much to hear other people, understand their needs, run from the obvious, think about the best way to address these needs and design a great user experience. And pragmatically speaking, there’s no way you can truly develop any kind of empathy for another’s condition if you need to come up with a solution in just about 30 seconds.

From time to time, it’s imperative that we rethink the way we create value and add something meaningful to the world. When was the last time you actually questioned the goals and objectives of what you were doing? Or the reason for how you were doing it? And why it’s worth doing after all?

How many times a week do you think?