๐Ÿ’Ž On our minds working on problems even when we’re not consciously thinking about them (John Cleese)

Graham and I thought it was rather a good sketch. It was therefore terribly embarrassing when I found I’d lost it. I knew Graham was going to be cross, so when I’d given up looking for it, I sat down and rewrote the whole thing from memory. It actually turned out to be easier than I’d expected.

Then I found the original sketch and, out of curiosity, checked to see how well I’d recalled it when rewriting. Weirdly, I discovered that the remembered version was actually an improvement on the one that Graham and I had written. This puzzled the hell out of me.

Again I was forced to the conclusion that my mind must have continued to think about the sketch after Graham and I had finished it. And that my mind had been improving what we’d written, without my making any conscious attempt to do so. So when I remembered it, it was already better.

Chewing this over, I realised it was like the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon: when you can’t remember a name, and you chase after it in your mind

Excerpt from: Creativity: A Short and Cheerful Guide by John Cleese

๐Ÿ’Ž The importance of leaving room for the audience to participate whether it’s a screenplay or an ad (arriving late and leaving early)

Goldman has never written a commercial in his life yet you’ll learn more from his storytelling on how to write for the screen than you will from some advertising expert. And you’ll learn in a memorable and entertaining way – what could be better? There is one piece of advice he offers, in particular, about writing a scene that I love. || It’s a piece of advice that could be well employed by most writers: ‘Come in late, leave early’. || And Goldman’s not talking about the hours you keep. His point is that most writers leave nothing for the audience to do โ€“ the writer over explains. || When you write a scene, and it could be a screenplay or it could be a television commercial, whatever you do, you must leave room for the audience to participate. You have to get them engaged in the process โ€“ that way you’ll get them wanting more. || With screenwriting you move from scene to scene, twisting, turning and surprising, so predictability is the death of a screenplay, as it is for those of us who write television commercials.

If I can work out what’s coming why bother watching? Surprise is a fundamental factor in making something memorable.

Excerpt from:ย Hegarty on Advertising: Turning Intelligence into Magic by John Hegarty

๐Ÿ’Ž Kleiner Perkin’s tactic for avoiding their staff developing entrenched positions in meetings (flip-flop)

Another renowned venture capitalist, Kleiner Perkins’s Randy Komisar takes this idea one step further. He dissuades members of the investment committee from expressing firm opinions by stating right away that they are for or against an investment idea. Instead, Komisar asks participants for a โ€œbalance sheetโ€ of points for and against the investment: โ€œTell me what is good about this opportunity; tell me what is bad about it. Do not tell me your judgment yet. I don’t want to know.โ€ Conventional wisdom dictates that everyone should have an opinion and make it clear. Instead, Komisar asks his colleagues to flip-flop!

Excerpt from: You’re About to Make a Terrible Mistake!: How Biases Distort Decision-Making and What You Can Do to Fight Them by Olivier Sibony

๐Ÿ’Ž Contingent rewards can reduce intrinsic motivation (we are motivated by uncertainty)

Mark Lepper, David Greene, and Richard Nisbett (1973) conducted research on this question. They divided children into three groups:

  1. Group 1 was the Expected group. The researchers showed the children the Good Drawing Certificate and asked if they wanted to draw in order to get the certificate.
  2. Group 2 was the Unexpected group. The researchers asked the children if they wanted to draw, but didn’t mention anything about a certificate. After the children spent time drawing, they received an unexpected drawing certificate.
  3. Group 3 was the Control group. The researchers asked the children if they wanted to draw, but didn’t mention a certificate and didn’t give them one.

The real part of the experiment came two weeks later. During playtime the drawing tools were put out in the room. The children weren’t asked anything about drawing; the tools were just put in the room and available. So what happened? Children in the Unexpected and Control groups spent the most time drawing. The children in Expected group, the ones to had received an expected reward, spent the least time drawing. Contingent rewards (rewards based on specific behavior that is spelled out ahead of time) resulted in less of the desired behavior if the reward was not repeated. Later the researchers went on to do studies like this, with adults as well as children, and found similar results.

Excerpt from: 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People (Voices That Matter)ย by Susan Weinschenk

๐Ÿ’Ž On how making people laugh boosts perceptions of competence and status

In one study, some of our colleagues from the Second city retreatโ€”Brad Bitterly, Maurice Schweitzer, and Alison Wood Brooksโ€”recruited participants to write and present testimonials for Visit Switzerland, a fictional travel company. What the group didnโ€™t know is that the first two โ€œparticipantsโ€ who read their testimonials were research assistants. Half of their prewritten testimonials were serious, the other half were funny (eg., serious testimonial โ€œThe mountains are great for skiing and hiking. Itโ€™s amazing!โ€ vs. humorous testimonial โ€œThe mountains are great for skiing and hiking, and the flag is a big plus!โ€). …*

When participants were asked to rate the presenters on a handful of qualities, those presenting the humorous testimonial were perceived as 5 percent more competent, 11 percent more confident, and 37 percent higher in status.

In other words, a six-word throwaway pun at the end of a testimonial meaningfully swung opinions.

Excerpt from: Humour, Seriously: Why Humour Is A Superpower At Work And In Life by Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas

๐Ÿ’Ž If it’s hard to read, it’s hard to do (make it easy)

Tuck your chin into your chest, and then lift your chin upward as far as possible. 6-10 repetitions.

Lower your left ear toward your left shoulder and then your right ear toward your right shoulder. 6-10 repetitions.

Excerpt from: 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People (Voices That Matter)ย by Susan Weinschenk

๐Ÿ’Ž Analysing successful brands can be misleading (survivorship bias)

The models whose success we admire are, by definition, those who have succeeded. But out of all the people who were “crazy enough to think they can change the world,โ€ the vast majority did not manage to do it. For this very reason, we’ve never heard of them. We forget this when we focus only on the winners. We look only at the survivors, not at all those who took the same risks, adopted the same behaviors, and failed. This logical error is survivorship bias. We shouldn’t draw any conclusions from a sample that is composed only of survivors. Yet we do, because they are the only ones we see.

Our quest for models may inspire us, but it can also lead us astray. We would benefit from restraining our aspirations and learning from people who are similar to us, from decision makers whose success is less flashy, instead of a few idols

Excerpt from: You’re About to Make a Terrible Mistake!: How Biases Distort Decision-Making and What You Can Do to Fight Them by Olivier Sibony

๐Ÿ’Ž On why partial knowledge is often victorious over full knowledge (it conceives things as simpler than they are)

Such misleading stories, however, may still be influential and durable. In Human, All Too Human, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche argues that โ€œpartial knowledge is more often victorious than full knowledge: it conceives things as simpler than they are and therefore makes its opinion easier to grasp and more persuasive.”

Excerpt from: The Myth of Experience: Why We Learn the Wrong Lessons, and Ways to Correct Them by Emre Soyer and Robin M Hogarth

๐Ÿ’Ž On flawed marketing language leading to flawed assumptions about how ads work (actively engage)

Finally, there are the words with inbuilt flawed assumptions. Step forward all those plans aiming to encourage ‘active engagement’, make ads more ‘persuasive’, ‘force reappraisal’, ‘strengthen the brand-consumer relationship’, ‘drive brand loyalty’, and so on. These words all sound harmless enough, but the assumptions and principles built into them are flawed. That means they knock marketing effectiveness off course. By and large, people don’t want to ‘actively engage’ or have ‘strong relationships’ with brands, advertising or even ‘consumer generated content’. And they don’t need to for marketing to be successful. Communication can work without ‘persuasion’ or ‘reappraisal. In fact, it needn’t actually ‘communicate’ much at all. And as we’ve said before, brand loyally is loudly an irrelevance.

Excerpt from: How not to Plan: 66 ways to screw it up by Les Binet and Sarah Carter

๐Ÿ’Ž On the danger of a theory free analysis of mere correlations (winter detector)

The ‘winter detector’ problem is common in big data analysis. A literal example, via computer scientist Sameer Singh, is the pattern-recognising algorithm that was shown many photos of wolves in the wild, and many photos of pet husky dogs. The algorithm seemed to be really good at distinguishing the two rather similar canines; it turned out that it was simply labelling any picture with snow as containing a wolf. An example with more serious implications was described by Janelle Shane in her book You Look Like a Thing and I Love You: an algorithm that was shown pictures of healthy skin and of skin cancer. The algorithm figured out the pattern: if there was a ruler in the photograph, it was cancer. If we don’t know why the algorithm is doing what it’s doing, we’re trusting our lives to a ruler detector.

Excerpt from: How to Make the World Add Up: Ten Rules for Thinking Differently About Numbers by Tim Harford

๐Ÿ’Ž On the lack of data proving the effectiveness of ad campaigns (designed to boost loyalty)

The advertising industry – whose only important asset is ideas โ€“ has learned nothing from this. We keep heading in the wrong direction. We keep bulking up everything in our arsenal except our creative resources. Then we take the people who are supposed to be our idea people and give them till 3 o’clock to do a banner.

Sure, we need people who are tech-savvy and analytical. But more than anything, we need some brains-in-a-bottle who have no responsibility other than to sit in a corner and feed us crazy ideas. We keep looking to โ€œtransformโ€ our industry but ignore the one transformation that would kill.

Excerpt from:ย How not to Plan: 66 ways to screw it up by Les Binet and Sarah Carter

๐Ÿ’Ž Short deadlines can be more effective at encouraging behaviour than long ones (Big Ben Problem)

The Big Ben Problem suggests that introducing a limited time window may encourage people to seize opportunities for treats. Imagine you’ve just gotten a gift certificate for a piece of delicious cake and a beverage at a high-end French pastry shop. Would you rather see the gift certificate stamped with an expiration date two months from today, or just three weeks from now? Faced with this choice, most people were happier with the two-month option, and 68 percent reported that they would use it before this expiration date. But when they received a gift certificate for a tasty pastry at a local shop, only 6 percent of people redeemed it when they were given a two month expiration date, compared to 31 percent of people who were given the shorter three-week window. People given two months to redeem the certificate kept thinking they could do it later, creating another instance of the Big Ben Problem

Except from:ย Happy Money: The New Science of Smarter Spending by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton

๐Ÿ’Ž One danger of the increasing move to digital payments is the reduction in the pain of payment (overspending)

This detachment also makes it harder to remember how much we’ve spent. When researchers asked thirty people to estimate their credit card expenses before opening their monthly bill, every single individual underestimated the size of their billโ€”by an average of almost 30 percent.

Except from:ย Happy Money: The New Science of Smarter Spending by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton

๐Ÿ’Ž On the power of sparking the audience (curiosity)

I can think of nothing an audience won’t understand. The only problem is to interest them; once they are interested they understand anything in the world.


Excerpt from: How to Make the World Add Up: Ten Rules for Thinking Differently About Numbers by Tim Harford

๐Ÿ’Ž Five pronged model for encouraging behaviour change (reduce)


When pushed, people push back. So rather than telling people what to do, or trying to persuade, catalysts allow for agency and encourage people to convince themselves.


People are attached to the status quo. To ease endowment, catalysts surface the costs of inaction and help people realize that doing nothing isn’t as costless as it seems.

Too far from their backyard, people tend to disregard. Perspectives that are too far away fall in the region of rejection and get discounted, so catalysts shrink distance, asking for less and switching the field.


Seeds of doubt slow the winds of change. To get people to un-pause, catalysts alleviate uncertainty. Easier to try means more likely to buy.


Some things need more proof. Catalysts find corroborating evidence, using multiple sources to help overcome the translation problem.

Excerpt from: Catalyst by Jonah Berger

๐Ÿ’Ž It’s better to express claims as facts (since facts are more believable than claims)

2. Since facts are more believable than claims, it’s better to express claims as facts.

In advertising, claim is often a euphemism for lie. Many of these euphemised lies are specially constructed to wiggle past lawyers and network censors. You can’t say your peanut butter has more peanuts, not without a notarised peanut count, but you can say someone will be a better mother if she serves it. At your arraignment all you have to do is plead Puffery. All charges are dropped. Puffery forgives everything. To lawyers and censors, it’s okay to lie as long as you lie on a grand enough scale. To everyone else, a lie is still a lie, and it’s almost always transparent. That’s why, instead of just asserting that BMW was a good investment, a BMW ad used the car’s high resale value to prove the point. And it did so, not by comparing the car to other cars but to other investments people in that target audience might make: โ€œLast year a car outperformed 318 stocks on the New York Stock Exchange.โ€

Excerpt from: D&Ad Copy Book by D&AD

๐Ÿ’Ž Six psychological biases that help explain why we fail to prepare for disasters

1. Myopia: a tendency to focus on overly short future time horizons when appraising immediate costs and the potential benefits of protective investments;
2. Amnesia: a tendency to forget too quickly the lessons of past disasters;
3. Optimism: a tendency to underestimate the likelihood that losses will occur from future hazards;
4. Inertia: a tendency to maintain the status quo or adopt a default option when there is uncertainty about the potential benefits of investing in alternative protective measures:
5. Simplification: a tendency to selectively attend to on subset of the relevant factors to consider when making choices involving risk; and
6. Herding: a tendency to base choices on the observed actions of others.

Excerpt from: The Ostrich Paradox: Why We Underprepare for Disasters by Robert Meyer and Howard Kunreuther

๐Ÿ’Ž On concise sentences (and “globs of verbal fat”)

Several kinds of verbiage are perennial targets for the delete key. Light verbs such as make, do, have, bring, put, and take often do nothing but create a slot for a zombie noun, as in make an appearance and put on a performance. Why not just use the verb that spawned the zombie in the first place, like appear or perform? A sentence beginning with It is or There is is often a candidate for liposuction: There is competition between groups for resources works just fine as Groups compete for resources. Other globs of verbal fat include the metaconcepts we suctioned out in chapter 2, including matter, view, subject, process, basis, factor, level, and model.

Excerpt from: The Sense of Style: The Thinking Personโ€™s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker

๐Ÿ’Ž Write for you (not I)

It helps if your copy has a natural, conversational style. To achieve this, as Jim Durfee has suggested, imagine you’re sitting opposite your prospect and then, in the guise of the brand you’re representing, write as you’d speak.

This means using language they’ll understand instantly. Which words are they? Well, of the 80 most-used words in the English language, 78 have an Anglo-Saxon root. These are the short, simple words we use every day.

There’s one short, simple word you should use a lot. Read your copy and check that โ€œyouโ€ appears three times more than โ€œIโ€ or โ€œweโ€. This helps you write about the subject from the reader’s perspective.

Excerpt from: D&Ad Copy Book by D&AD

๐Ÿ’Ž Our motivation to finish a task grows if we feel we have already made some starting steps (Goal Gradient Effect)

In one study, experimenters distributed coffee reward cards, with 10 stamps earning a free cup of coffee.

Condition 1: a 10-stamp card with no stamps filled.

Condition 2: a 12-stamp card with two stamps already filled in.

Participants in the second condition purchased more coffee and at a higher rate than participants in the first condition. Furthermore, participants accelerated their coffee consumption when they got closer to their prize.


Ensure the first step of any journey is simple to accomplish and continue to recognise progress along the way. Avoid making people feel they are starting afresh.

Excerpt from: The Unseen Mind by Ogilvy UK

๐Ÿ’Ž Concession Builds Commitment (door in the face technique)

In his research, Robert Cialdini (Cialdini 2006) stopped people on the st and asked them to chaperone a group of troubled youth on a one-day trin to the zoo. Only 17 percent of people said yes.

Some of the time he first asked people to spend two hours a week as a counselor for the youth for a minimum of two years (a larger request). In that case everyone said no. But if he then asked them to chaperone a group of troubled youth on a one-day trip to the zoo, 50 percent agreed. That’s nearly three times the 17 percent who agreed when they were only asked to chaperone. That’s concession working.

Cialdini also found an interesting side effect. Eighty-five percent of the people in the concession group actually showed up, compared with only 50 percent of the group that did not go through the concession process. Concession not only got people to say yes, it also increased their commitment to the action.

Excerpt from: 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People (Voices That Matter)ย by Susan Weinschenk

๐Ÿ’Ž If you’re transparent about the efforts that you’ve undertaken to create your product people will appreciate it more (The Labour Illusion)

While Kayak.co.uk searches the Web for your flight from London to Lanzarote, the site gives you a real-time update of the work it’s performing (now searching Iberia … now searching Aer Lingus … ). Research shows that waiting can increase satisfaction if customers get the impression that work is being done on their behalf during the delay. This โ€œlabor illusionโ€ is so powerful that it leads customers to prefer services that make them wait to services that provide the same quality immediately.

Except from:ย Happy Money: The New Science of Smarter Spending by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton

๐Ÿ’Ž The power of admitting imperfections (The pratfall effect)

And finally, imperfection can be aesthetically pleasing in its own right, as the success of Dove with its ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’ shows. The Japanese even have a word for this – wabi-sabi โ€“ a view that celebrates the allure of the imperfect and incomplete. The wobbly line, the cracked leather, the faded patina – all draw, rather than repel, us.
Standout, empathy, attractiveness and trust โ€“ these are all qualities that define successful brands. So maybe it’s time for brand owners to embrace the power of imperfection.

There are advertisers that get this, and their ‘bravery’ is rewarded by more powerful communications than their perfect ‘everyone looks awesome’ adland competitors. Think of the overweight construction worker pole dancer (Moneysupermarket), Southern Comfort’s Whatever’s Comfortable’ beach hero, or the sweating women in ‘This Girl Can’. Their imperfections draw us to them. The brands feel more authentic. And we trust them more because of it.

So where are the ‘flaws’ in the personality descriptors that we craft for our brand definitions? We seem terrified to consider them โ€“ tying ourselves up in knots and qualifications to avoid any chinks of vulnerability or imperfection. Aspirational yet accessible’, ‘Strong but warm’ โ€“ we’ve all written them.

Excerpt from:ย How not to Plan: 66 ways to screw it up by Les Binet and Sarah Carter

๐Ÿ’Ž The ten steps for a successful behavioural science intervention

1. Establish the scope.
2. Break the challenge into addressable parts.
3. Identify the target outcome.
4. Map the relevant behaviors.
5. Identify the factors that affect each behavior.
6. Choose the priority behaviors to address.
7.Create evidence-led intervention(s).
8. Implement the intervention(s).
9. Assess the effects.
10. Take further action based on the results

Excerpt from: Behavioural Insights by Michael Hallsworth

๐Ÿ’Ž Three ideas from psychology that explain why brainstorms tend to be ineffective (from social loafing to production blocking)

Research shows there are many psychological processes at work which together limit the effectiveness of brainstorming. ‘Social loafing’ โ€“ a group situation encourages and allows individuals to slack off. ‘Evaluation apprehension’ – we’re nervous of being judged by colleagues or looking stupid. ‘Production blocking’ โ€“ because only one person can speak at a time in a group, others can forget or reject their ideas while they wait. We’re also learning more about the power of our “herd’ tendencies. As humans, we have innate desires to conform to others with only the slightest encouragement. When asked to think creatively, these implicit norms are invisible but powerful shackles on our ability to think differently.

No wonder so few ideas emerge.

Excerpt from:ย How not to Plan: 66 ways to screw it up by Les Binet and Sarah Carter

๐Ÿ’Ž On the danger of statistical methods being used to control the world (rather than understand it)

Social scientists have long understood that statistical metrics are at their most pernicious when they are being used to control the world, rather than try to understand it. Economists tend to cite their colleague Charles Goodhart, who wrote in 1975: ‘Any observed statistical regularity will tend to collapse once pressure is placed upon it for control purposes. (Or, more pithily: ‘When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.’) Psychologists turn to Donald T. Campbell, who around the same time explained: โ€œThe more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.

Goodhart and Campbell were on to the same basic problem: a statistical metric may be a pretty decent proxy for something that really matters, but it is almost always a proxy rather than the real thing.

Excerpt from: How to Make the World Add Up: Ten Rules for Thinking Differently About Numbers by Tim Harford

๐Ÿ’Ž Higher happiness only correlates with increased spend in one category (leisure)

One ongoing U.S. study has tracked how much money adults over age fifty spend on just about everything, from refrigerators and rent to alcohol and art. When researchers link these spending choices to happiness, only one category of spending matters. And it’s not refrigerators, or even alcohol. It’s what the researchers label โ€œleisureโ€: trips, movies, sporting events, gym memberships, and the like. People who spend more of their money on leisure report significantly greater satisfaction with their lives. Not surprisingly the amount of money these older adults reported spending on leisure was dwarfed by the amount they spent on housing. But housing again turned out to have zero bearing on their life satisfaction.

Except from: Happy Money: The New Science of Smarter Spending by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton

๐Ÿ’Ž Why advertisers should fear indifference (rather than alienation)

Early in the โ€˜Love/Hate’ Marmite campaign, an ad showed a couple on a first date going back โ€˜for coffee’. After eating toast and Marmite in the kitchen, the girl returns to the sofa. They kiss. Her boyfriend retches violently at the Marmite taste.

Most people in research thought it was hilarious. But older Marmite users didn’t. You could say it โ€˜alienated them. But the ad ran. And the older users changed their view when they saw how popular it was. In fact, it turned out to be the ‘lift-off’ ad of the now-famous campaign, awarded for its creativity and for its results. Market research overestimates people’s resistance to change and boldness, and underestimates โ€˜herd effects’.

Alienation worry isn’t just wrong, it’s also dangerous. Because it can kill the bold, penetration-gaining ideas that you need for brand growth. So relax: it’s actually quite hard to win friends and alienate people.

Excerpt from:ย How not to Plan: 66 ways to screw it up by Les Binet and Sarah Carter

๐Ÿ’Ž Writers need to unearth the real point behind a story (not just regurgitate the facts)

Ephron still remembers the first day of her journalism class. Although the students had no journalism experience, they walked into their first class with a sense of what a journalist does: A journalists gets the facts and reports them. To get the facts, you track down the five Ws-who, what, where, when, and why.

As students sat in front of their manual typewriters, Ephron’s teacher announced the first assignment. They would write the lead of a newspaper story. The teacher reeled off the facts: โ€œKenneth L. Peters, the principal of Beverly Hills High School, announced today that the entire high school faculty will travel to Sacramento next Thursday for a colloquium in new teaching methods. Among the speakers will be anthropologist Margaret Mead, college president Dr. Robert Maynard Hutchins, and California governor Edmund ‘Pat’ Brown.โ€

The budding journalists sat at their typewriters and pecked away at the first lead of their careers. According to Ephron, she and most of the other students produced leads that reordered the facts and condensed them into a single sentence: โ€œGovernor Pat Brown, Margaret Mead, and Robert Maynard Hutchins will address the Beverly Hills High School faculty Thursday in Sacramento … blah, blah, blah.โ€

The teacher collected the leads and scanned them rapidly. Then he laid them aside and paused for a moment.

Finally, he said, “The lead to the story is “There will be no school next Thursdayโ€.

Excerpt from: Made to Stick: Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

๐Ÿ’Ž There is no such thing as a wholly original idea (but there is such a thing as unique combinations)

It is to be found in the exceptional human capacity to synthesize our experiences, influences, knowledge and feelings into one, unified, original entity. To have such an inbuilt facility that enables us to make seemingly random connections across a broad It has to be the single most important creative faculty we have, as Einstein observed when he said, โ€œCombinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought.’

The process our conscious and unconscious selves go through when editing, connecting and combining all that we know and feel into an original coherent thought happens over a period of time. It cannot be forced. It happens when we are awake and when we are asleep. It happens when we are thinking about something else entirely, or playing a game of tennis. It happens because a stimulus in our immediate surroundings โ€“ usually without our knowing

Excerpt from: Think Like an Artist: . . . and Lead a More Creative, Productive Life by Will Gompertz