💎 On turbo charged logic being a valid form of creativity (statistical modelling can be immensely creative)

In fact I eccentrically believe data analysis and really good statistical modelling can be immensely creative – because, just like a good creative team, well-worked data can reveal wonderfully unexpected, unasked for truths. In Freakonomics the guns vs swimming pools insight is arrived at numerically, but it is no less an astoundingly original thought for being uncovered by computers. Never forget this, folks: turbo-charged logic is a valid form of creativity.

Excerpt from: Rory Sutherland: The Wiki Man by Rory Sutherland

💎 On social proofs influence on music choice (markets do not simply aggregate pre-existing individual preference)

This was what the network scientist Duncan Watts and colleagues found in a famous 2006 experiment. Groups of people were given the chance to download songs for free from a Web site after they had listened to and ranked the songs. When the participants could see what previous downloaders had chosen, they were more likely to follow that behavior so popular songs became more popular, less popular songs became less so. These socially influenced choices were more unpredictable; it became harder to tell how a song would fare in popularity from its reported quality. When people made choices on their own, the choices were less unequal and more predictable; people were more likely to simply choose the songs they said were best. Knowing what other listeners did was not enough to completely reorder people’s musical taste. As Watts and his co-author Matthew Salganik wrote, “The ‘best’ songs never do very badly, and the ‘worst’ songs never do extremely well.” But when others’ choices were visible, there was greater chance for the less good to do better, and vice versa. “When individual decisions are subject to social influence,” they write, “markets do not simply aggregate pre-existing individual preference.” The pop chart, in other words, just like taste itself does not operate in a vacuum.

Excerpt from: You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice by Tom Vanderbilt

💎 On the fact were often we’re unaware of our motivations (lap dancers and fertility)

In another experiment, evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller quantified how sexually attractive a woman is to a man by recording the earnings of lap dancers in a strip club. And he tracked how this changed over their monthly menstruation cycle. As it turned out, men gave twice as much in tips when the dancer was ovulating (fertile) as when she was menstruating (not fertile). But the strange part is that the men weren’t consciously aware of the biological changes that attend the monthly cycle – that when she is ovulating, a surge of the hormone estrogen changes her appearance subtly, making her features more symmetrical, her skin softer, and her waist narrower. But they detected these fertility cues nonetheless.

Excerpt from: Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman

💎 On our memory of product experience being distorted under questioning (remember your last meal)

Trying to look backward, to the last remembered experience of a meal—if only to make a new choice—invites its own distortions. In one experiment, psychologists were able to change how much people liked something (in this case, a “microwavable Heinz Weight Watchers Tomato & Basil Chicken ready meal”) after they had eaten it—not, as has been done with rats, by physically manipulating their brains. Instead, researchers simply had subjects “rehearse” the “enjoyable aspects” of the meal. This, the idea goes, made those best moments more “accessible” in the memory, and thus they popped out more easily when people were later thinking about the meal. Voila! The food not only suddenly seemed better, the subject wanted to eat more of it.

Excerpt from: You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice by Tom Vanderbilt

💎 On the meaning of a message changing dependent on the source (reign of terror or honest farmers?)

The very meaning of the message, Asch (1948, 1952) insisted, changes as a function of the source to which it is attributed. Thus, to cite Asch’s classic example, an assertion to the effect that “a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing” is much more widely endorsed when attributed to Jefferson than to Lenin, because it has a different meaning in the former case than in the latter. When the statement comes from Thomas Jefferson, it conjures up images of honest farmers and tradespeople throwing off the yoke of corrupt and indifferent rulers. When it comes from Lenin, the images (at least to Americans) are quite different – a revolutionary reign of terror in which mobs run amok and harsh new authoritarians take the place of the old oppressors.

Excerpt from: The Social Animal by Elliot Aronson and Joshua Aronson

💎 On the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something (like birds)

Richard Feynman: “You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird…So let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing—that’s what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.”

Excerpt from: The Art of the Good Life: Clear Thinking for Business and a Better Life by Rolf Dobelli

💎 On the importance of everyone being a salesperson (you too)

I don’t want to be a salesman. I want to be an artist. I know it’s not easy, but it’s what I want.

If I can’t be an artist, at least I want to be helpful. I want to change things. I’ve seen the damage that crass consumerism can do. I don’t want to be a peddler. I am nobler than that.

You know what I mean, right? You agree, right

Well, here’s the thing. If you’re in advertising, you’re a salesman.

It doesn’t matter what you think you are or what you want to be. You’re a salesman. I don’t like it either.

One of the problems advertising has always faced is that there are a lot of people in business who don’t want to be salespeople.

Excerpt from: Marketers Are From Mars, Consumers Are From New Jersey by Bob Hoffman

💎 On differentiation preventing commodification (acknowledge that it is the availability of substitutes)

We will acknowledge that it is the availability of substitutes – the legitimate alternatives to the offering of our firm – that allows the client to ask, and compels us to give, our thinking away for free. If we are not seen as more expert than out competition then we will be viewed as one in a sea of many, and we will have little power in our relationships with clients and prospects.

Exceprt from: The Win Without Pitching Manifesto by Blair Enns

💎 On the power of a name (the Cornish sardine)

Caught off the Cornish coast before being salted and shipped all over Europe, they had been a delicacy for centuries, until the advent of domestic refrigeration and freezing caused the appetite for salted fish – at least outside of Portugal – fall away. “The market was dying fast as the little shops that sold them closed down,’ says Nick Howell of the Pilchard Works fish suppliers in Newlyn. ‘I realised I needed to do something about it.’ Fortunately, Nick though creatively. He discovered that what the Cornish often called the pilchard was related to the fish that was served, with lemon and olive oil, to British tourists in the Mediterranean as a fashionable sardine. So he changed the name from the pilchard, a name redolent of ration food, to the ‘Cornish sardine’. Next, a supermarket buyer who called to ask for French sardines was deftly switched to buying ‘pilchards from Cornwall’. A few years ago Nick successfully petitioned the EU to award Cornish sardines Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status, and the result was extraordinary: the Daily Telegraph reported in 2012 that sales of fresh sardines at Tesco had rocketed by 180 per cent in the past year, an increase that was partly explained by a huge increase in the sales of Cornish sardines.

Excerpt from: Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don’t Make Sense by Rory Sutherland

💎 On the dangers of everyday low pricing (as JCPenney and Macy’s found)

Every day, companies or governments wrongly make highly simplistic assumptions about what people care about. Two major US retailers, JCPenney and Macy’s, both fell foul of this misunderstanding when they tried to reduce their reliance on couponing and sales, and instead simply reduced their permanent prices. In both cases, the strategy was a commercial disaster. People didn’t want low prices – they wanted concrete savings. One possible explanation for this is that we are psychologically rivalrous, and we like to feel we are getting a better deal than other people. If everyone can pay a low price, the thrill of having won out over other people disappears; a quantifiable saving makes on feel smart, while paying the same low prices as everyone else just makes us feel like cheapskates. Another possible explanation is that a low price, unlike a discount, does not allow people any scope to write a more cheerful narrative about a purchase after the event – ‘I saved £33’, rather than ‘I spent £45’.

Excerpt from: Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don’t Make Sense by Rory Sutherland

💎 On the pratfall effect (and how it destigmatised low cost airlines)

When you think about it, it is rather strange how explicit low-cost airline are about what their ticket prices don’t include: a pre-allocated seat, a meal, free drinks, free checked luggage – such deficiencies help to explain and destigmatise the low prices. ‘Oh, I see,’ you can say, when you see a flight to Budapest advertised for £37, ‘the reason that low price is possible is because I won’t be paying for a lot of expensive fripperies that I probably don’t want anyway.’ It’s an explicit, well-defined trade-off, and one that we feel happy to accept.

Imagine if cheap airlines instead claimed: ‘We’re just a good as British Airways, but at a third of the price.’ Either nobody would believe them, or else such a claim would raise instant doubts. ‘Maybe the only reason they’re cheaper is because they don’t bother servicing the engines or training the pilots, or because the planes are scarcely airworthy.’

Excerpt from: Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don’t Make Sense by Rory Sutherland

💎 On the counter-intuitive benefits of a lack of experience (fear those who have never had a sword in their hand before)

The best swordsman in the world doesn’t need to fear the second-best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn’t do the sane thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn’t prepared for him.

Excerpt from: Digital Darwinism: Survival of the Fittest in the Age of Business Disruption by Tom Goodwin

💎 On selling something surprising (make it familiar). On selling something familiar (make it surprising)

But by using familiar form, TiVo mad people more comfortable adopting radical innovation, By hiding the technology in something that looked visually familiar, TiVo used similarity to make difference feel more palatable.

Many digital actions today visually evoke their analog ancestors. We click on the icon of a floppy disk to save documents and drag digital files to be thrown away in what looks like a waste bin. Visual similarity also shows up offline. High-end care often use fake wood grain on the dashboard and veggie burgers often have grill marks. All make the different seem more similar.

The opposite also holds. Design can be used to make incremental innovations feel more novel. When Apple introduced the iMac in 1998, it featured only minor technological improvements. But from a visual standpoint it was radically different. Rather than the same old black or grey box, the iMac was shaped like a gum drop and came in colors like tangerine or strawberry. The device was hugely successful, and design, rather than technology, created the needed sense of difference that encouraged people to purchase.

Excerpt from: Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces That Shape Behavior by Jonah Berger

💎 On problem solving among homogeneous groups being more enjoyable but less effective (lazy groupthink)

But does the lack of variety carry disadvantages, too? This is something that a group of researchers decided to test. They therefore set groups of frat-house members a test in the form of a murder mystery puzzle. First off, each student had to spend twenty minutes alone with a dossier of evidence. Then they were joined by two other member of their fraternity group for a twenty-minute discussion. Five minutes into their chat either a further member of their fraternity group would be brought in to help them or someone previously unknown to them.

The results were unequivocal. Those groups composed entirely of people from the same frat house found the experience far more enjoyable than those who had been joined by an outsider. They were also more confident and much more happier about the conclusion they finally came to. There was just one snag. Whereas the groups with the interloper got the answer correct 60 per cent of the time, for the homogeneous groups the figure was just 29 per cent – they were half as successful

And this shows one of the challenges of group diversity. It doesn’t always feel easy. It seems so much more straightforward for us to have team members around who adhere to whatever it happens to be the we think constitutes the ‘norm’. Yet this is dangerous. The fact is that it’s the inclusion of a different perspective that will militate against the lazy groupthink we’re so often guilty of.

Excerpt from: The Joy of Work: The No.1 Sunday Times Business Bestseller – 30 Ways to Fix Your Work Culture and Fall in Love with Your Job Again by Bruce Daisley

💎 On mistaking negativity for intelligence (anyone can say something nice)

In her study ‘Brilliant but Cruel’, Teresa Amabile, a professor at Harvard Business School, asked people to evaluate the intelligence of book reviewers using reviews taken from the New York Times. Professor Amabile changed the reviews slightly, creating two different versions: one positive and one negative. She made only small changes in terms of the actual words, for example changing ‘inspired’ to ‘uninspired’ and ‘capable’ to ‘incapable’.

A positive review might read, ‘In 128 inspired pages, Alvin Harter, with his first work of fiction, shows himself to be an extremely capable young American author. A Longer Dawn is a novella – a prose poem, if you will – of tremendous impact. It deals with elemental things – life, love and death, and does so with such great intensity that it achieves new heights of superior writing on every page.’

While a negative review might read, ‘In 128 inspired pages, Alvin Harter, with his first work of fiction, shows himself to be an extremely incapable young American author. A Longer Dawn is a novella – a prose poem, if you will – of negligible impact. It deals with elemental things – life, love and death, and does so with such little intensity that it achieves new depths of inferior writing on every page.’

Half the people in the study read the first review, the other half read the second, and both rated the intelligence and expertise of the reviewer. Even though the reviews were almost identical – the only difference being whether they were positive or negative – people considered the reviewers with negative versions 14 per cent more intelligent and as having 16 per cent more expertise in literature. Professor Amabile writes the ‘prophets of doom and gloom appear wise and insightful’. Anyone can say something nice – but it tales an expert to critique it.

Excerpt from: The Key to Happiness: How to Find Purpose by Unlocking the Secrets of the World’s Happiest People by Meik Wiking

💎 On our want for the familiar done differently (not something truly new)

The concept of sushi was introduced into the United States during the late 1960s, a period of whirlwind change in tastes — entertainment, music, fashion and food. At first, the idea of sushi did not bite. Keep in mind that the average family at the time was sitting down to a dinner of cuts of meats with sides of mashed potatoes swimming in gravy. The thought of eating raw fish was bewildering, even dangerous, in the minds of most restaurant goers. And then a chef by the name of Ichiro Mashita, who ran Tokyo Kaikan, a small sushi bar in downtown Los Angeles, had a clever idea. He asked, ‘What would happen if the strange ingredients were combined with familiar ingredients such as cucumber, crabmeat and avocado? Mashita also realized that Americans preferred seeing the rice on the outside and seaweed paper in the interior. In other word, the roll would feel more familiar if it was made ‘inside-out’.

Demand exploded. The Californian Roll was a gateway for many people to discover Japanese cuisine. Americans now consume $2.25-billion-worth of sushi annually. As Nir Eyal, the author of Hooked, writes, ‘The lesson of the California Roll is simple – people don’t want something truly new, they want the familiar done differently.’

Excerpt from: Who Can You Trust?: How Technology Brought Us Together – and Why It Could Drive Us Apart by Rachel Botsman

💎 On the danger of ignoring small data sets (almost killing Nokia)

The ethnographer Tricia Wang even suggested in her 2016 TEDxCambridge talk that quantifications bias created by big data led to the near death of Nokia as a handset manufacturer. All their data suggested that people would only spend a certain proportion of their salary on a phone handset, so the market for smartphones in the developing world would be correspondingly small. Wang noticed that, once people saw a smartphone, their readiness to spend on a handset soared. Her findings were ignored as she had ‘too few data points’. However, in reality, all valuable information starts with very little data — the lookout on the Titanic only had one data point… ‘Iceberg ahead’, but they were more important than any huge survey on iceberg frequency.

Excerpt from: Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don’t Make Sense by Rory Sutherland

💎 On the surprising benefits of restrictions (for new ideas)

We were designing stamps showcasing British fashion, but were struggling.

If we featured the clothes on well-known people, that would draw attention away from the garments. If we use models, that would be distracting too. Yet showcasing the clothes on hangers seemed lifeless.

The answer? To photograph the outfits on live models, whose faces were digitally removed. We had made the clothes come alive, saved on the make-up bills – and created something unique.

Excerpt from: Now Try Something Weirder: How to keep having great ideas and survive in the creative business by Michael Johnson