Super Freakonomics Lesson #4: You can’t find the answer if you don’t ASK!

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Super Freakonomics Lesson #4: Life and Economics are alot alike; You can't find the answer
if you don't ask the question!

I love  the tag line for the book Super Freakonomics; 'the hidden side of everything.' I have a very wise friend who always reminds me, "you don't know what you don't know." 

True. I don't know what I don't know, and you? 

Life and economics are a lot alike; you can't find the answer if you aren't willing to ask the question.

Super Freakonomics is full of facts, the economics; the numbers behind what really is. The authors are very clear; again and again the numbers, the economics, the reality is what we need to understand not just the story, the press, the first impression or the intended objectives of a given action, direction, law or initiative. YOu see  'people respond to incentives , although not necessarily  always in ways that are predictable or always manifest the intent, thus the law of unintended consequences.

In Super Freakonomics I learned  it's safer to  drive drunk ( do you know there's only 1 arrest for every 27,000 miles of drunk driving) than walk drunk?

( Don't freak out- read the stats behind this; drunk walking is 8 times more likely to get you killed than  drunk driving.)  When the ACLU wins a lawsuit to protest overcrowded prisons, within 3 years the states prison population looks pretty much the same. Why?  Because the released prisoners go out and commit crimes usually there's a 5-10% spike in violent crimes in these communities and soon the prisons are full again….

 But that's not all that's interesting about  crime rates. The authors reveal that nearly 50% of property crimes and 25% of violent crime rate increases in the 60's were directly correlated to television and more specifically the amount of television watched between birth and four years of age. Really?  

How can India have 35 million less females/women?  Where are these missing undervalued human beings? 

It's true that The American Disabilities Act  was passed to safeguard people with disabilities, in reality it created a net contraction in jobs for people with disabilities.

 Economics and incentives are even behind the age ole institution of prostitution and escort services. 

Really simple solutions usually outperform complex expensive solutions. It's hard to believe all those women died in childbirth all those years because medical practitioners were passing disease from dead cadavers to women in labor. All because the simple act of hand-washing between visits to the morgue and the maternity ward.Really?

And here in my backyard, in Bellevue Washington there is a place called Intellectual Ventures that incubates world changing solutions and inventions. Did you know there might be a cost effective solution for global warming- that's fairly simple and won't take generations or everyone in the world holding hands simultaneously?

Super Freakonomics was a great reminder to me that, I can never hope to  find the answer unless I am  willing to ask the questions and some of the questions appear silly, or I may feel a little silly asking them. But that's really the heart of this book. Life isn't quite what we expect and it certainly isn't always as we thought nor are things as they look. It's important for leaders to engage in the art of questioning most everything.

So what  questions are you asking? What assumptions are you making? Might you and I be blinded by the hidden side of things? Might we not necessarily know what we don't know? Have we become complacent assuming we know or understand or worse yet become committed to overly complex and difficult solutions and albeit ignoring the simple and profound?

I for one , am more committed than ever after reading this book to remaining a student of human behavior. A scientist asks questions, so to does a leader and social engineer. Curiosity is the trait which I most want to flame into a brilliant fire so that I too may uncover the hidden side of things, understand the motivations and incentives impacting behavior and gain insight into possible unintended consequences of my leadership and actions.

Questions. They matter; especially if you've committed to adding value and solutions to people!

So throw me a few questions that intrigue you~!

Photo Question Marks, originally uploaded by Don Moyer.

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