“A checklist is a type of informational job aid used to reduce failure by compensating for potential limits of human memory and attention.”

Solving a difficult problem is by its definition difficult. Many times we need to think of it in different terms and view it from many different angles in order to solve it. A broad and multidisciplinary education can help us to solve such problems, but there is the problem of human memory. The limits of human memory prevent us from recalling all the great ideas that we have learned and we need to apply to solving such a problem. A checklist helps us to overcome the limitations of human memory and it will make sure that we can apply all the ideas that we have learned over time.

The checklist that follows is a summary of great ideas I have learned during the years and can be applied in problem solving. The ideas are taken from many diverse disciplines. This list is work in progress as I study and learn more over the years. The items on the list are not in any particular order.


1) Social proof
You need to consider what effect does social proof have on the behaviour of the people involved.

2) Incentive caused bias
You need to consider what incentives are in effects for the people involved.

3) First conclusion bias
Many times people get stuck at their first solution that they discover and they do not want to change their thinking. People do not bother to change their default options for something better.

4) Creeping determinism
In retrospect what was going to happen was inevitable. When you look at the past many things look easier to explain from the present, even though you would not be able to predict them at the time.

5) Confirmation bias
We tend to favour information that agrees with our opinion.

6) Pavlovian association
When one behaviour leads to another.

7) Scarcity
People are motivated by what they stand to lose if they don’t act now.

8) Deprival super reaction syndrome (near miss)
When something we like is taken away or threatened to be taken away, we get upset. We feel the loss even if the item was not ours and it was given to us for free. People feel grater pain from loss than from gain.

9) Crowd psychology / Group thinking
Do not be swept by the excitement of the group and sacrifice individual thinking.

10) Principle of reciprocation
People are exchanging favours.

11) Recency bias
Events that happened recently are easier to recall.

12) Vividity bias
Events that are very vivid and colourful are easier to recall.

13) Operant conditioning
A behaviour is followed by a consequence and the nature of the consequence modifies the organism’s tendency to repeat the behaviour in the future.

14) Authority bias
People are more likely to believe something is they think that the person saying it in an expert.

15) Endowment effect
Explains why lotteries are a lot more successful if you allow people to choose their own numbers.

16) Commitment and Consistency
By committing to a small step at the time, you do not realise the slippery slope you are on.

17) Liking
Tend to agree/disagree with people we already like/dislike.

18) Envy
People are jealous of their neighbours.

19) Influence from mere association tendency
People tend to believe in a behaviour that was a result of another action, even if the actions were unrelated.

20) Pain avoiding psychological denial
People refuse to see the reality because it is painful.

21) Stress influence tendency
People’s behaviour is affected when under stress.

22) Twaddle tendency
People have a tendency to have an opinion about everything, even when they know nothing about the subject.

23) Reason respecting tendency
People respond better to something when they know the underlying reasons. Explain the why.

24) Serpico effect
Bad behaviour is driving away good one. Gresham’s law is commonly stated as “Bad money drives out good.”

25) Shoot the messenger syndrome
People do not want to deliver bad news because they are afraid they will be punished.

26) Action bias
People tend to want to do something.

27) Gambler’s ruin
Desperate fears after losing a lot of money induces people to take enormous risks with the rest of their money.


1) Self-interest
You need to consider that people have a strong self-interest.

2) Survivor bias
We tend to look at the winners and learn from them and we tend to forget about all the others who tried and failed.

3) Evolution
Experiment with new things to find what works. Many times things work by accident.

4) Natural selection
Only the organisms that are most fit for the environment will survive.

5) Doubt-Avoidance tendency
The brain is programmed to quickly remove doubt by reaching some decision.

6) Curiosity tendency
People are curious to explore and learn new things.

7) Contrast-based perception
People measure things in a relative scale to other things.

8) Boiling frog syndrome
If changes are very small, they are hard to perceive.

9) Red-queen syndrome
Many organisms need to keep evolving to just stay in place and not lose their advantage in nature.


1) Iatrogenics
Sometimes the carer is causing harm to the patient.

2) Redundancy
The human body has a lot of redundant system to be able to survive in many climates.


1) The law of large numbers
The average of the results obtained from a large number of trials should be close to the expected value, and will tend to become closer as more trials are performed.

2) Additive or Multiplicative system
A multiplicative system is as strong as the weakest link, because any string of numbers multiplied by zero equals zero. In an additive system each individual component plays a smaller role and it cannot bring down the whole system.


1) Autocatalysis
A single chemical reaction is said to have undergone autocatalysis, or be autocatalytic, if the reaction product itself is the catalyst for that reaction.


1) Backup system
Many times there is a need for a backup system.

2) Breakpoints
Certain things can take a lot of strain until a certain point. When you exceed this point they break. This is the breakpoint.

3) Margin of safety
Buy an asset for a price that is below its value.


1) Critical mass
Sometimes you have to keep increasing the quantity of a property until you get the desired effect.

2) Thermodynamics model of equilibrium
Things tend to move towards a state of equilibrium.

3) Positive feedback
An event feeds on itself to grow.

4) Conservation of energy
You cannot get something from nothing.

5) Reaction
Newton’s 3rd law, for every action there is a reaction.

6) Friction coefficient
How much effort is required to move something (e.g. change a customer from one brand to another).

7) Runaway feedback
(think of a nuclear reaction gaining steam), to explain why small problems can become large problems or small advantages can become large ones.


1) Scale
Size does matter and affects results in a positive and negative way.

2) The curse of size
The larger the number you have the more you have to work to grow that number.

3) Pareto principle
Roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

4) Compound interest
Causes exponential growth as time passes.

5) Law of demand and supply
The demand will rise/fall according to the supply and vice versa.

6) Tragedy of the commons
Individuals, acting independently and rationally according to each one’s self-interest, behave contrary to the whole group’s long-term best interests by depleting some common resource.

7) Sunk-cost effects
Feel reluctant to change a policy when we have invested so much in it.

8) Institutional Imperative
Corporation do what their competitors are doing, so they are not left out.

9) Value versus price
Price is what you pay and value is what you get.

10) Agency Costs
A type of internal cost that arises from, or must be paid to, an agent acting on behalf of a principal. Agency costs arise because of core problems such as conflicts of interest between agent and the principal.

11) Marginal Utility
The additional satisfaction or benefit (utility) that a consumer derives from buying an additional unit of a commodity or service.

12) Opportunity cost
By choosing to do something you give up the option to do something else. The cost of something is what you give up to get it.

13) Zero-sum games
In certain areas if one player wins someone else has to lose.


1) Kantian Fairness tendency
People are fair towards other people who might not even know. That is why people wait in line.

2) Excessive self-regard tendency
People think that they are better than average.


1) Problem of induction
How do we know that what we have observed from given objects and events suffices to enable us to figure out their other properties?

2) Narrative fallacy
Everyone loves a good story. People cannot argue with a story as they argue with facts.

3) Silent evidence
We do not observe all the others who tried and failed and they are not part of history.

4) Domain specificity
React to a piece of information on its logic merit and not on the framework that it surrounds it. Do not take the escalators to go to the gym.

5) Tendency to act
Do not confuse been busy with been productive. Sometimes the best thing is not to act.

6) Creeping normalcy
A major change can be accepted as the normal situation if it happens slowly, in unnoticed increments, when it would be regarded as objectionable if it took place in a single step or short period. If a change is very small it is not perceived by the brain.


Thinking process
1) Checklist
Have the steps in a checklist manner so you can go through them.

2) Simplify
Simply problems by deciding big “no-brainer” questions first.

3) Easy solutions
Sometimes there is an easy solution to a problem and there is no need for complications.

4) Invert
Turn a problem on its head and look at the opposite of it. Thinking backwards and forwards (was caused it, what did not stop it). Sometimes it is better to avoid stupidity than search for brilliance.

5) Synthesis
You need to combine pieces across many disciplines to solve a problem even if the problem belongs to a single discipline. Man with a hammer syndrome. Need to have multiple models to deal with problems. Do not bend reality to fit your only model.

6) Why?
Always ask why, why, why.

7) And then what?
You need to look for the next steps and what follows. Consider the effects of the actions you plan to take and then the effects of the effects and then their effects and even more effects.

8) 2 speed thinking
Find the causes that cause a certain thing to happen. Then think about all the psychological biases that distort this predictable outcome.

9) Errors in logic
Remember that “A implies B” does not necessary mean that “B implies A”. “Absence of evidence” is different from “evidence of absence”.

10) Parkinson’s law
Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

11) Bayes’ rule
Posterior odds = Prior odds x Likelihood ratio

12) Self-deception
You must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.

13) Use it or lose it tendency
People tend to lose skills that they do not practice on a regular basis.

14) Lollapalooza tendency
You get extreme consequences from confluences of human tendencies acting in favour of a particular outcome.

15) Guard against biases
Start the answer by “part of the reason…..” to guard yourself from availability heuristic and first conclusion bias.

16) Analogical Reasoning
What does this remind me of and why does it remind me of it?

17) Weak links
What three of four things can destroy this idea?