Are Your Lights On

I can’t remember who recommended this book to me — I had the impression I’d first read about it on Paul Graham’s site but when I searched through I couldn’t find it anywhere.

The book is shallow. It puts way too much effort into being funny, and not enough into actually saying something useful. Many of the lessons gleaned from elaborate concocted tales of protagonists with weird names are better communicated in a simple sentence.

Lessons learned

Nothing new, frankly. Maybe I just know more about problem solving than the average reader. Still, there are a few things worth highlighting in this short book. Read on.

Notable notes

The solver should, early in the game, try to answer the question Who has a problem? and then, for each unique answering party, to ask What is the essence of your problem?

This is taken for granted (that the party or person affected by the problem) is known — but he shares several examples that make you question whether that’s true at all. Important to establish this from the get go.

Don’t mistake a solution method for a problem definition — especially if it’s your own solution method

Humans beings are so adaptable, they’ll put up with almost any sort of misfit — until it comes to their consciousness that it doesn’t have to be that way.

Don’t solve other people’s problems when they can solve them perfectly well themselves.

If a person is in a position to do something about a problem, but doesn’t have the problem, then do something so he does.

Ah yes, the classic case where you have someone with the authority to fix a problem — but who just doesn’t care because they’re unaffected by it. Your job would be to make it visceral.