Problem Solving


The framing effect

The framing effect is a cognitive bias where people decide on options based on whether they are presented in a positive or negative way. Do you prefer your yoghurt with 10% fat or 90% fat-free?

Knowing about the framing effect is vital. It is one of the most significant biases in decision making and particularly important in health care and financial decisions.

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Problem Solving

  • Consider the current frame: Be aware of marketing language when you are shopping for a product.
  • Reverse the frame: Take the current frame and state it in the opposite way.
  • Reframe the options: There may be more than two alternatives. Would it result in a loss, a gain, or a neutral impact?
  • Think like an outsider: It can help you to be as impartial as possible. What if the decision did not personally impact you?
  • Take your time: Studies show that thinking fast increases your chance of falling prey to the framing effect.

The framing effect happens when decision-makers choose opposite solutions for identical problems based on how the issues are presented to them.
For example:

  • Time and money management: A study found that 93% of students registered early when presented with a penalty fee for late registration, vs 67% doing so when it was presented as a discount for early registration.
  • Economics: More people will support an economic policy where the employment rate is highlighted (10% employment rate) than if the unemployment rate is emphasised (90% unemployment rate).

One needs to pick and choose books that can make us quickly implement the advice provided by the book. If the stuff written in the book resonates with you and you want to instantly try it out in the practical world(like waking up at 5:00 am after reading The 5 am Club), then you are more likely to benefit from it.

Anything worth reading is worth reading twice, or even again and again. Just like a great song sounds better after you have listened to it a few times, a great book will give you new insights every time you read it. You will find older passages and ideas relevant to you which were ignored when you first read the book. This is because you would be at a different point in your life.

Returning to great ideas cements it in our minds.

An idea is useful only if we can find it when we need it, and the best way for saving ideas is to keep notes of what we read, using Deepstash of course!

Important messages, insights and points need to be saved and reread, as it is the only way they will be in your long-term memory. Otherwise, most of the stuff we read is forgotten the next day.

Reading Books Is Like Changing Your Past
  • Gaining knowledge isn’t the only reason we have to read books.
  • A good book read with curiosity and an open mind can change our life.
  • Reading books is like updating the software inside your brain, and a good book gives us new ways to interpret our past and present life.
  • It is also a good idea to quit reading books that serve no purpose, as the opportunity cost is high.
  • Life is short and should be spent reading the best books possible.
  • Read the good ones more than once.
James Clear

“Learning one new idea won’t make you a genius, but a commitment to lifelong learning can be transformative.”

One can make use of Deepstash and summarize a book using the Feynman note-taking technique. Write a few paragraphs about the book as if you are explaining it to someone who has not heard about it.

Explaining an idea to a beginner is the best way to learn and also reveals the gaps in our thinking.

A book is not an island, but a ‘knowledge tree’ with branches that can be linked to other knowledge trees, forming a connection beyond what the book offers us. When we read something that reminds us of something else, we get a spark that connects to other ideas, forming new fractal insights that are unique to our mind.

Reading just one book and forming a belief system is plain stupidity. A book is not a commandment by itself but something that opens up our mind towards new ways of thinking. A mind needs to be subjected to diverse books, otherwise, it forms a personal belief system based on little or no experience.

Even one subject has to be seen by the lens of various authors to be understood.

Learning isn't just the process of storing information, but it is also a process where we can prepare particular actions for certain contexts. Learning is cue-driven and context-based, as much as habit-formation.

By seeing habits-as-learning, we then recognize that what we do is not only a matter of self-discipline but also of exploration and experimentation. When we begin to see learning and habits for what they are we can then use this knowledge to learn better and make better habits.

When we mention habits, we automatically think of routine behaviors done to achieve a certain outcome, whereas learning is thought to be more of a conscious process.

Habitual actions have a strong default and it is strikingly similar to that of learning. For example, when you encounter a familiar problem, the predominant tendency is to apply the techniques you've learned before. When solving a problem in a novel way, it takes effort... the same way on breaking out of a habitual groove.

The Neuroscience of Habits and Learning
  • When habits form, they form a strong sequence of connections with neurons that downstream synapses in which were the later ones being fired with a higher probability than the first.
  • Learning happens when associations of one long-term memory become tightly coupled with another.

Though they may be seen as broad categories that are nuanced, they overlap considerably instead of being two separate domains.

Learning = Habits

We know that learning is about knowledge, information, and skills; while habits are routines, behaviors, and actions. But the two are actually quite similar to each other.

Habit and learning have the same equation used when dealing with specific situations:

  • Habit: "When X happens, I do Y."
  • Learning: "When A is mentioned, in context of whatever is asked of A, I produce the correct answer that is B."

Both habit and learning are complicated with varying responses but often have an automated response.

It’s never been easier to learn new skills than in the present age. One can become a polymath by simply identifying the key skill sets that are doable and interesting (depending on one’s background and inclination) and learning them by taking up online courses. It’s not about the degree or certification, but the actual learning.

Example: If you are a programmer, you could become a polymath by learning about User Experience and Design of applications.

Our present education systems are domain and subject specific, making it hard for us to explore multiple domains. Most of us give in to the rigidity of developing a certain skill, unable to build complementary skills and learning agility.

We need to connect knowledge of different domains and make it fluid, accessible and flexible. Then, just like a kaleidoscope design pattern, we will become unique and beautiful.

The new reality of success: embracing a diverse range of skills and experiences to thrive in the increasingly complex world.

Great men like Benjamin Franklin, Steve Jobs and Leonardo Da Vinci were not masters, but had a ‘talent stack’ of a range of skills. These Polymaths were having cross-discipline expertise, which turned out to be infinitely better than having complete knowledge of one single field of work.

Make Yourself Rare

In this age, make yourself indispensable by being ‘pretty good’ in two or more skillsets, making yourself among the top 25 percent with some amount of effort. That’s easier than putting in 10,000 hours in one skill to attain mastery.

Taking the example of Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comic strip and the author of many books. He is not the best cartoonist, and not the funniest person. However, he can draw better than many of us, and is funny enough. These two skill sets (1 and 1) create a talent stack and become 11, instead of 2.

Zat Rana

"The world is most interesting when we can see the complex patterns that connect its different parts to one another. And we can’t truly do that unless we look beyond the boundaries and the compartments of singular disciplines and singular ways of thinking about reality."

  • Identify the problem and write it down.
  • Reverse the problem. Ask how you can cause the problem (instead of how you can solve the problem)
  • Brainstorm the reverse problem to produce reverse solution ideas. Accept all ideas at this stage.
  • Now reverse your brainstormed ideas into solution ideas for the original problem or challenge.
  • Evaluate these solution ideas. Can you see a potential solution?
Reverse Brainstorming

Reverse brainstorming is used when it is difficult to identify solutions to the problem directly. It involves combining brainstorming and reversal techniques.

Start with one of two reverse questions.

  • Instead of asking "How do I solve or prevent this problem?" ask, "How could I cause the problem?"
  • Instead of asking "How do I achieve these results?" ask, "How could I achieve the opposite?"

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