Reading List: It’s Not About the Shark

UPDATED: March 30, 2023
PUBLISHED: November 29, 2014
It's Not About the Shark

Research shows that when confronted with a problem, “What we do most of the time is crawl deep inside [it],” writes author David Niven. Allowing the problem to swallow us whole is a highly inefficient way to find a solution, says Niven, who has made his career translating serious research into simple, practical advice for everyday life.

To illustrate the point, Niven opens It’s Not About the Shark with an anecdote about a malfunctioning mechanical shark and a young filmmaker named Steven Spielberg. With an out-of-control budget for Jaws, Spielberg couldn’t repair the animatronic menace of the film. He didn’t even try. Instead he asked himself, “What would Alfred Hitchcock do?” The answer was to imply the danger rather than show it.

The author’s point is that getting tangled up in a problem restricts your capacity to come up with a creative solution. Niven opens each chapter with a story that illustrates resourcefulness and useful takeaways for problem-solving, plus a couple of suggestions to expand your creativity: Go watch a boring movie or try looking at the problem through someone else’s eyes. Niven bases his eighth book on “the science of solutions” but wisely avoids becoming ensnarled in academic jargon. The book won’t change your life, but it will help you find simpler solutions to tough problems, as the cover promises.

by David Niven, Ph.D.

St. Martin’s Press; $24.99

Find out what 5 questions you need to ask to reframe—and solve—the problem you face.