Populist books provide an important role in the processes of "thinking about things." They are simple, understandable in ways that resonant with the those not familiar with a topic, and are hopefully gateway sources to then next level of understanding. Populist books have a down-side as well. They are usually simplified versions of the underlying topic, devoid of the details, which unfortunately have mathematics that may be beyond the casual reader.
I've written about the issues with populist books before. There is a new set of issues that needs to be addressed. The Think Fast Act Slow book is a recent example of a populist book. It has useful materials, but leaves out all the ground work and heavy lifting needed to put these ideas to work.
In graduate school, there are several things you learn before starting your thesis work. Do a literature search. You're bright idea may have already been done. Or worse your bright idea is a cockamamy idea on day one. If everyone tells you it's a cockamamy idea, you may be able to show the world they're wrong. To do that you need to get through a peer review and a test of your idea by strangers using actual data that holds up to ruthless testing by others. There have been a few of those, most have gone on to win the Nobel Prize.
So if you hear some idea that doesn't quite make sense, ask for the data that supports that idea, so you can do independent testing. Better yet if that idea is an obvious violating of the basic principles - either of physics (cold fusion) or of economics (#NoEstimates) ask those proposing the idea for direct evidence of its applicability that can also be independently tested.
Here's a list of supporting papers need to put the populist ideas to work from my library. Goggle will find these for you:
- Anchoring and Adjustment in Software Estimation, Jorge Aranda and Steve Easterbook
- Judgement under Uncertainty Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman
- The Fragile Basic Anchoring Effect, Noel Brewer and Gretchen Chapman
- The Anchoring-and-Adjustment Heuristic Nicholas Epley and Thomas Gilovich
- Review of Tversky and Kahneman (1974): Judgement under uncertainty: Heuristics and Baises
- Reference points and redistribution preferences: Experiment evidence, Jimmy Cjarrité, Raymond Fisman, and Ilyana Kuziemko
- Availability: A heuristic for judging frequency and probability, Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman
- Attention and Effort, Daniel Kahneman
- Assessing Range of Probabilities, Strategic Decision and Risk Management, Stanford Certificate Program, Decision Analysis for the Professional, Chapter 12.
- Anchoring Unbound, Nicholas Epley and Thomas Gilovich
- Anchoring and Adjustment in Software Project Management: An Experimental Investigation, Timothy Costello, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California
These are a small sample of the background that needs to be examined after read the populist book.
With this example, you can move beyond populist ideas - no matter how valid - to technical ideas and start putting them to work and testing the outcomes for their efficacy in your domain.
Here's a starting point for that effort in Populist versus Technical View of Problems