Richard Zeckhauser’s contributions to decision science are immeasurable. His wisdom has been distilled in a recent book, “Maxims for Thinking Analytically: The Wisdom of Legendary Harvard Professor Richard Zeckhauser.” The book was written by his colleague Dan Levy, with substantial contributions from many of his students, collaborators, and others.
Zeckhauser’s influence on CHDS is substantial. Many CHDS students take his course, Analytic Frameworks for Policy, which is required for all health policy PhD students in the decision science track. He has served as a dissertation advisor for several CHDS faculty and students, in addition to co-authoring papers with Milt Weinstein, James Hammitt, Lisa Robinson, and others. He combines incredible wit and profound insights in ways that often lead to entirely different perspectives. His work covers a vast array of topics, including climate change, fine art, investments, and the game of bridge to name just a few, along with health and medicine. Perhaps most importantly, he teaches us how to think more rationally and analytically, in both our personal and professional lives.
The book includes a series of one-sentence maxims that capture key principles for clear and effective thinking, along with practical examples. Chapters address “thinking straight,” “tackling uncertainty,” “making decisions,” “understanding policy,” and “living fully.” In combination, these maxims have important implications for approaching problems more productively.