Posts in Excerpts

Hans Rosling on the danger of generalising too far

Hans Rosling on the danger of generalising too far

February 15, 2019 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “Hans Rosling on the danger of generalising too far”

During the Second World War and the Korean War, doctors and nurses discovered that unconscious soldiers stretchered off the battlefields survived more often if they were laid on their fronts rather than on their backs. On their back, they often suffocated on their own vomit. On their fronts, the vomit could exit and their airways remained open. This observation saved many millions of lives, not just of soldiers. The “recovery position” has since become a global best practice, taught in every first-aid course on the planet. (The rescue workers saving lives after the 2015 earthquake in Nepal had all learned it.)

But a new discovery can easily be generalised too far. In the 1960s, the success of the recovery position inspired new public health advice, against most traditional practices, to put babies to sleep on their tummies. As if any helpless person on their back need just the same help.

The mental clumsiness of a generalisation like this is often difficult to spot. The chain of logic seems correct. When seemingly impregnable logic is combined with good intentions, it becomes nearly impossible to spot the generalisation error. Even thought the data showed that sudden infant deaths went up, not down, it wasn’t’ until 1985 that a group of paediatricians in Hong Kong actually suggested that the prone position might be the cause.

Excerpt from: Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World – And Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund

Change the name and you change the fortunes

Change the name and you change the fortunes

February 13, 2019 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “Change the name and you change the fortunes”

A clear but somewhat narrow majority of Americans today support eliminating the so-called “estate tax,” and a slightly higher percentage would back the elimination of the “inheritance tax,” but more than 70 percent would abolish the “death tax”. Sure, some object that the term “death tax” is inflammatory, but think about it. What was the event that triggered its collection?

Excerpt from: Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear by Frank Luntz

Confirmation bias: Charlie Munger on why the mind is a lot like the human egg

Confirmation bias: Charlie Munger on why the mind is a lot like the human egg

February 11, 2019 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “Confirmation bias: Charlie Munger on why the mind is a lot like the human egg”

The experiments prove that it’s hard to overturn negative opinions. Rejecters of your brand are difficult to convince because they interpret your message through a lens of negativity.

As the legendary stock market investor, Charlie Munger, said:

“The human mind is a lot like the human egg, in that the human egg has a shut-off device. One sperm gets in, and it shuts down so that the nnext one can’t get in. The human mind has a big tendency of the same sort.”

Excerpt from: The Choice Factory: 25 behavioural biases that influence what we buy by Richard Shotton

The brain as a pattern making machine - it fills in the blanks without us knowing based on what it expects to be there

The brain as a pattern making machine – it fills in the blanks without us knowing based on what it expects to be there

February 8, 2019 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “The brain as a pattern making machine – it fills in the blanks without us knowing based on what it expects to be there”

In one telling study, research participant heard sentences with the first part of a key word omitted (which we indicate by “*”), and with different endings of the sentence presented to different participants. Thus, some participants heard “The *eel was on the axle,” and others heard “The *eel was on the orange”. In both cases, the participants reported hearing a coherent sentence – “The wheel was on the axle” in the first case and “The peel was on the orange” in the second – without ever consciously registering the gap. Nor did it register that they themselves had provided the “wh” or “p” they “heard” in order to make sense of the sentence.

Excerpt from: The Wisest One in the Room: How You Can Benefit from Social Psychology’s Most Powerful Insights by Thomas Gilovich and Lee Ross

How not to Plan: 66 ways to screw it up

The power of framing your request: how Danny Boyle got 60,000 people to keep a secret

February 6, 2019 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “The power of framing your request: how Danny Boyle got 60,000 people to keep a secret”

In a social media-driven and 24-hour news world, how on earth do you give 60,000 people a preview of what millions can’t wait to see… yet manage to persuade them to keep schtum about it for five days? The answer: you choose your words smartly. Danny Boyle, London 2012 Olympics Artistic Director, displayed a genius understanding of both human nature and the power of the right word when he asked the lucky attendees of his Opening Ceremony dress rehearsal to “#SaveTheSurprise”. Because amazingly, everyone did. How different would it have been, though, if instead had Danny asked them to “Keep It Secret”? The words seem so similar. But the canny choice of the word “surprise” rather than “secret” made all the difference. Everyone wants to know and tell a secret. We can’t help ourselves. It’s human nature. But no-one wants to spoil a surprise, or have a surprise spoiled. The persuasive power of the words we choose… Choose them carefully.

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

Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behaviour

On how the act of labelling or branding changes the elements we notice about an experience

February 4, 2019 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “On how the act of labelling or branding changes the elements we notice about an experience”

Psychologist Franz Epting explained: “We use diagnostic labels to organise and simplify. But any classification that you come up with,” cautioned Epting, “has got to work by ignoring a lot of other things — with the hope that the things you are ignoring don’t make a difference. And that’s where the rub is. Once you get a label in mind, you don’t notice things that don’t fit within the categories that do make a difference.”

Except from: Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behaviour bu Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman

Smart way of reframing the irritating noise of planes flying overhead

Smart way of reframing the irritating noise of planes flying overhead

February 1, 2019 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “Smart way of reframing the irritating noise of planes flying overhead”

When the US Air Force faced opposition to its flying over residential neighbourhoods someone had the bright idea of circulating much more information about the different aircraft being flown. Though that didn’t reduce the noise level, it certainly change the reactions to it – and as any cognitive psychologist will tell you, most perception is interpretive. “Look – it’s the new F15!” feels very different from, “it’s another bloody plane flying overhead”.

As an aside, as battles continue over airport expansion in the UK and elsewhere, I’m inclined to think that a similar techniques might be used to persuade potentially affected residents as to the benefits of a new runway or airport by offering them generous annual vouchers for flights and holidays around the world from the airport. Rather like the US Air Force’s approach, it might dramatically change how you feel about the noise and be more effective than cash alone. “That’s my holiday to Barbados this year!” you’d think as a plane roars over, giving you a personal and positive interest in the outcome of expansion rather than simply seeing it as an irritation.

Excerpt from: Inside the Nudge Unit: How small changes can make a big difference by David Halpern

The Choice Factory: 25 behavioural biases that influence what we buy

Why using claimed data in general to understand your audience can be misleading

January 30, 2019 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “Why using claimed data in general to understand your audience can be misleading”

An example from Seth Stephens-Davidowitz illustates the problem. He looked at the gender of Katy Perry Facebook fans and found that they were overwhelmingly female. However, Spotify listening data revealed the gender split was much more balanced: Perry was in the top ten artists for both genders. If the music label used the Facebook data to target their advertising they’d be way out.

Does that mean the new data streams are junk and best ignored?

Not at all. Observed data is an improvement on claimed data, but it’s still flawed. To understand customers we need a balanced approach, using multiple techniques. If each technique tells us the same story then we can give it greater credence. If they jar then we need to generate a hypothesis to explain the contradiction.

Let’s go back to the Katy Perry example. A simple explanation would be that while both genders enjoy listening to her, far more women are comfortable expressing that publicly. If a record label wants to sell Katy Perry songs or encourage streaming, then Spotify data would be ideal. However, if they want to promote her concerts, it would be better to use the Facebook numbers. Neither data set is right in any absolutist sense – they are right in certain circumstances.

Excerpt from: The Choice Factory: 25 behavioural biases that influence what we buy by Richard Shotton

Inside the Nudge Unit: How small changes can make a big difference

If you want to change behaviour, get people early before their habits harden

January 28, 2019 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “If you want to change behaviour, get people early before their habits harden”

In the policy world, a good example comes from a programme known as the Nurse Family Partnership (NFP), originally developed and tested by David Olds in the USA. The programme involves a nursing practitioner befriending and supporting a young at-risk mother from the pre-natal stage through the child’s second birthday. It is a well-validated programme that has been shown to reduce violence and abuse of the child, improve educational attainment and even reduce the child’s rate of offending at the age of 15 compared with children from a similar background who did not participate in the programme (at least in the USA).

A less well known but fascinating detail of the NFP is that Olds noted when we introduced it into the UK was that the programme worked much better with mothers having their first child. This isn’t a marginal detail. It is an expensive programme, and so it is incredibly important to make sure that is focuses on the right people, and at the right time, to whom it will make a difference – young, first time mothers.

In general, we might take as an opening mantra something like “learn it first, learn it right”

Excerpt from: Inside the Nudge Unit: How small changes can make a big difference by David Halpern

Talk Like TED: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World's Top Minds

Why TED Talks are 18 Minutes Long

January 25, 2019 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “Why TED Talks are 18 Minutes Long”

It is long enough to be serious and short enough to hold people’s attention. It turns out that this length also works incredibly well online. It’s the length of a coffee break. So, you watch a great talk, and forward the link to two or three people. It can go viral, very easily. The 18-minute length also works much like the way Twitter forces people to be disciplined in what they write. By forcing speakers who are used to going on for 45 minutes to bring it down to 18, you get them to really thing about what they want to say. What is the key point they want to communicate? It has a clarifying effect. It brings discipline.

Excerpt from: TED Talks: The official TED guide to public speaking by Chris Anderson

One Step Ahead: Notes from the Problem Solving Unit

On the Power of Aligning Incentives

January 23, 2019 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “On the Power of Aligning Incentives”

Here’s another example: in World War 2, US paratroopers had a problem with the fact that, allegedly, one in twenty chutes failed in some way. The soliton was to require the packers and inspectors to regularly jump out of airplanes using parachutes chosen at random from the store. The quality of packing then rose to 100 per cent and stayed there. “The packers are all jumpers,” explained on NCO to Stars and Stripes magazine: ” We try to have each man jump once a month. That’s a pretty food way to keep them honest on the tables.”

Excerpt from: One Step Ahead: Notes from the Problem Solving Unit

Messy: How to Be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World

On the Power of Diversity to Solve Problems

January 21, 2019 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “On the Power of Diversity to Solve Problems”

What is more, the effect was large: groups that has to accommodate an outsider were substantially more likely to reach the correct conclusion — they did so 75 per cent of the time, versus 54 per cent for a homogeneous group and 44 per cent for an individual.

Excerpt from: Messy: How to Be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World by Tim Harford

The Communication Book: 44 Ideas for Better Conversations Every Day: 50 Ideas for Better Conversation Every Day

On the Power of Brevity

January 18, 2019 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “On the Power of Brevity”

No one knows wether the story’s true, but it is a good one anyway. Ernest Hemingway was sitting having a drink with some writer friends at Luchow’s restaurant in New York. They were taking about this and that, and eventually moved on to what the ideal length of a good novel might be. Hemingway claimed that he could write a novel in six words: the others each bet ten dollars that he couldn’t. Whereupon Hemingway wrote: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” on a napkin. Six words, behind which lies a tragedy. Those who don’t gulp when they read this must have hearts of stone.

Excerpt from: The Communication Book: 44 Ideas for Better Conversations Every Day: 50 Ideas for Better Conversation Every Day by Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschäppeler

Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing

On Breaking Sales Records Using the Anchoring Bias

January 16, 2019 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “On Breaking Sales Records Using the Anchoring Bias”

Years ago, when The Tonight Show rules late-night TV and when the all the guests weren’t celebrities promoting their latest book, movie, or TV show, host Johnny Carson interviewed the Girl Scout who sold the most cookies that year. This young lady, Markita Andrews, set a cookie sales record that was never broken. What was her technique? In addition to hard work, she used a framing strategy to make her customers view the purchase as a trivial expense.

Markita’s strategy was simple When she knocked on a door, she would firs ask for a $30,000 donation to the Girl Scouts. Naturally, she had no takers on that request. But then she’d ask if they would at least buy a box of Girl Scout cookies. and just about everyone would.

Excerpt from: Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing by Roger Dooley

Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behaviour

Why We Often Continue with Failing Projects for Far Too Long

January 14, 2019 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “Why We Often Continue with Failing Projects for Far Too Long”

“To withdraw now is to accept a sure loss,” he writes about digging oneself deeper into a political hole, “and that option is deeply unattractive.” When you combine this with the force of commitment, “the option of hanging on will therefore be relatively attractive, even if the chances of success are small and the cost of delaying failure is high.”

Excerpt from: Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behaviour by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman

Product Gems 2: 109 Science Experiments That Demonstrate How to Build Products People Love

How Labour Leads to Love

January 11, 2019 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “How Labour Leads to Love”

When instant cake mixes were introduced in the 1950s as part of a broader trend to simplify the life of the American housewife by minimising manual labour, housewives were initially resistant. The mixes made cooking too easy, making their labour and skill seem undervalued.

Learning this, Betty Crocker, one of the leading manufacturers of mixes, changed their recipe to require adding an egg. This simple change caused sales to skyrocket. Infusing the task with labour appeared to be a crucial ingredient in the product’s success.

When people create products with their own labour, their effort increases their perception of the end product’s valuation. And while some labour is enjoyable and allows for product customisation—both of which might increase valuation—research suggests that labour alone can be sufficient to induce greater liking and value associated with the results.

Excerpt from: Product Gems 2: 109 Science Experiments That Demonstrate How to Build Products People Love by David Greenwood

Product Gems 2: 109 Science Experiments That Demonstrate How to Build Products People Love

On the Power of Uncertainty to Increase Investment

January 9, 2019 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “On the Power of Uncertainty to Increase Investment”

More than 22 million UK citizens, about one-third of the population, have invested over £68 billion in premium bonds despite the interest rate they offer is well below that offered by other savings products. The reality is, unless you win one of the very large prizes, you will be worse off holding premium bonds than investing elsewhere.

So why are they so popular? It’s down to uncertainty. Uncertainty creates more positive, exciting experiences. We get excited by the unknown. Uncertainty increases one’s investment of effort, time, and money in pursuing rewards—even when the outcome is likely to be worse than more certain alternatives.

Excerpt from: Product Gems 2: 109 Science Experiments That Demonstrate How to Build Products People Love by David Greenwood

Product Gems 1

On the Power of Doing Good to Boost Sales

January 7, 2019 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “On the Power of Doing Good to Boost Sales”

In the mid-1990s, there was a shortage of organic cotton—cotton that Patagonia relied on to make its products. While other companies might source non-organic alternatives in the interim, Chouinard’s’ response was “if we have to be in business using an evil product like traditionally grown cotton, we don’t deserve to be in business”.

The big ‘a-ha’ for Chouinard was that you could do something good for the environment that was also good for your business. Patagonia became California’s first B Corporation in January 2012. At the time, the company was turning over $600m in annual revenues and employed around 2000 people.

Patagonia continues to donate 10% of its profits to small-scale environmental campaigns where $10,000-$15,000 can make a real difference. Their Worn Wear initiative encourages the repair, recycling and resale of garments. The company once took a full-page advert in the New York Times with the tagline: “don’t buy this jacket, unless you really need it”.

Excerpt from: Product Gems 1: 101 Science Experiments That Demonstrate How to Build Products People Love by David Greenwood

Little Bets: How breakthrough ideas emerge from small discoveries

Creativity is just connecting things

January 4, 2019 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “Creativity is just connecting things”

“Creativity is just connecting things,” Jobs told Wired Magazine. “When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had a synthesise new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people… Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and the end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem.”

Excerpt from: Little Bets: How breakthrough ideas emerge from small discoveries by Peter Sims

The Wisest One in the Room: How You Can Benefit from Social Psychology's Most Powerful Insights

On the Importance of Social Proof

January 2, 2019 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “On the Importance of Social Proof”

As Harvard social psychologist Joshua Greene put it, “The best way to get people to do something is to tell them their neighbours are already doing it.”

Excerpt from: The Wisest One in the Room: How You Can Benefit from Social Psychology’s Most Powerful Insights by Thomas Gilovich and Lee Ross

The Choice Factory: 25 behavioural biases that influence what we buy

Obsessing Over Easily Quantified Data Often has Damaging Results

December 31, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “Obsessing Over Easily Quantified Data Often has Damaging Results”

The obsession with easily quantified date crowds out the need for discretion and judgement.

Two examples illustrate the resulting issues. First is the experience of Terry Leahy who, when he was head of marketing at Tesco, analysed the performance of their gluten-free products. The sales data hinted it was an under-performing section – those that bought gluten-free goods only spent a few pounds on these items each shopping trip. A naive interpretation suggested de-listing them to free up valuable shelf space.

However, sceptical of the number, Leahy interviewed gluten-free shoppers and discovered that their choice of supermarket was determined by the availability of those products. They didn’t want to make multiple shopping trips, so the visited whoever had the specialist goods. After all, every shop had milk and eggs but only sone stocked gluten-free goods. Leahy used this insight to launch Tesco’s hugely successful “Free From” range long before the competition.

Excerpt from: The Choice Factory: 25 behavioural biases that influence what we buy by Richard Shotton

Words that Work Frank Luntz

On the Power of Asking a Question Rather than just Stating a Fact

December 28, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “On the Power of Asking a Question Rather than just Stating a Fact”

If unemployment and inflation are up and confidence in the future is down, telling voters that life has gotten worse, while clearly factual, is less effective than asking voters “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” Ronald Reagan asked Jimmy Carter and the tens of millions of debate listeners this devastating political question in their only face-to-face campaign encounter in 1980. No litany of economic data or political accusation could carry the power of a simple rhetorical question that for most Americans has an equally simple answer. “Are you better off” framed not just the debate, held only five days before the election, but the entire campaign, and it propelled Reagan from a dead even to ta nine-point victory over the incumbent Carter.

Excerpt from: Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear by Frank Luntz

How To Make Better Advertising And Advertising Better by Vic Polinghorne and Andy Palmer

On the Danger of Falling for the Idea of Brand Love

December 26, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “On the Danger of Falling for the Idea of Brand Love”

“Most of a brand’s customers think and care little about the brand, but the brand manager should care about these people because they represent most of the brand’s sales.” Professor Byron Sharp, How Brands Grow (Oxford University Press).

Even this customers who repeatedly buy from your brand most likely do so out of simple habit and the product delivering on their needs. Contrary to the moonshine widely peddled by many branding and advertising “experts”, it’s not because of some strong emotional bond.

When we exaggerated the role that the brand plays in people’s lives, it leads to self-important and phoney advertising. People are smart enough to realise this and know when they’re being patronised.

Excerpt from: How To Make Better Advertising And Advertising Better by Vic Polinghorne and Andy Palmer

Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear by Frank Luntz

On the Power of Reframing to Encourage Support for New Policies

December 24, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “On the Power of Reframing to Encourage Support for New Policies”

In effect, positioning an idea doesn’t merely “frame” it so that it carries a certain meaning; it actually defines the terms of the debate itself.

For example, by almost two-to-one, Americans say we are spending too much on “welfare” (42 percent) rather than too little (23 percent). Yet an overwhelming 68 percent of American think we are spending too little on “assistance to the poor,” versus a mere 8 percent who think we’re spending too much. Think about it: What is assistance to the poor? Welfare! So while the underlying policy in question may be the same, the definition — welfare versus assistance to the poor — and positioning make all the difference in public reaction. If the context is a government program itself, the process and the public hostility is significant. But if the context is the result of that government program, the support is significant.

Excerpt from: Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear by Frank Luntz

Barking up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong by Eric Barker

On Investing in Companies that Have Flaws

December 21, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “On Investing in Companies that Have Flaws”

… the venture capital business is 100 percent a game of outliers, it is extreme outliers… We have this concept, invest in strength versus lack of weakness. And at first that is obvious, but it’s actually fairly subtle. Which is sort of the default way to do venture capital, is to check boxes. So “really good founder, really good idea, really good products, really good initial customers. Check, check, check. Okay this is reasonable, I’ll put money in it.” What you find with those sort of checkbox deals, and they get done all the time, but what you find is that they often don’t have something that really makes them really remarkable and special. They don’t have an extreme strength that makes them an outlier. On the other side of that, the companies that have the really extreme strengths often have serious flaws. So one of the cautionary lessons of venture capital is, if you don’t invest on the basis of serious flaws, you don’t invest in most of the big winners.

Excerpt from: Barking up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong by Eric Barker

Post-Truth: How Bullshit Conquered the World by James Ball

On The Danger of Forgetting who the End User Is

December 19, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “On The Danger of Forgetting who the End User Is”

There’s another risk factor among the outlets that consider themselves to be “quality” journalism – that writers become more concerned with the opinion of other journalists than with the audience. This is a concern that dates back at least to the 1970s. “Journalists write for other journalists, the people they have lunch with rather than the reader,” an unnamed journalist said at the time, leading one academic to conclude: “Their image of the audience is hazy and unimportant… they care primarily about the reaction of the editor and their fellow-reporters.”

This tendency is exacerbated in US award culture, where the most prestigious prizes favour journalism written in great length – often 10,000 words or more and presented in a dense, discursive fashion. These piece are often, for a journalist like me, a joy to read and are often produced over the course of months. They are often the very best articles their outlets produce – but it’s not hard to argue that they’re not as accessible or impactful as they could be.

Excerpt from: Post-Truth: How Bullshit Conquered the World by James Ball

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

On the Power of Getting a Commitment

December 17, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “On the Power of Getting a Commitment”

Take, as proof, what happened when psychologist Thomas Moriarty staged thefts on a New York City beach to see if onlookers would risk personal harm to halt the crime. In the study, a research accomplice would put a beach blanket down five feet from the blanket of a randomly chosen individual – the experimental subject. After a couple of minutes on the blanked spent relaxing and listening to music from a portable radio, the accomplice would stand up and leave the blanket to stroll down the beach, A few minutes later, a second researcher, pretending to be a thief, would approach, grab the radio, and try to hurry away with it. As you might guess, under normal conditions, subjects were very reluctant to put themselves in harms way by challenging the thief – only four people did so in the twenty times that the theft was staged. But when the same procedure was tried another twenty times, with a slight twist, the results were drastically different. In these incidents before taking his stroll, the accomplice would simple ask the subject to please “watch my things,” which each of them agreed to do. Now, propelled by the rule for consistency, nineteen of the twenty subjects became virtual vigilantes, running after and stopping the thief.

Excerpt from: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

The Tyranny of Metrics

On the Downside of Spreadsheets and the Illusions they Create

December 14, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “On the Downside of Spreadsheets and the Illusions they Create”

The spreadsheet is a tool, but it is also a worldview — reality by the numbers… Because spreadsheets can do so many important things, those who use them tend to lose sight of the crucial fact that the imaginary businesses that they can create on their computers are just that — imaginary. You can’t really duplicate a business inside a computer, just aspects of a business. And since numbers are the strength of spreadsheets, the aspects that get emphasised are the one easily embodied in numbers. Intangible factors aren’t so easily quantified.

Excerpt from: The Tyranny of Metrics by Jerry Muller

How Clothes Shops Use the Contrast Principle to Boost Sales

December 12, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “How Clothes Shops Use the Contrast Principle to Boost Sales”

Those who employ it can cash in on its influence without any appearance of having structured the situation in their favor. Retail clothiers are a good example. Suppose a man enters a fashionable men’s store and says that he wants to buy a three-piece suit and a sweater. If you were the salesperson, which would you show him first to make him likely to spend the most money?

Clothing stores instruct their sales personnel to sell the costly item first. Common sense might suggest the reverse: If a man has just spent a lot of money to purchase a suit, he may be reluctant to spend very much more on the purchase of a sweater. But clothiers know better. They behave in accordance with what the contrast principle would suggest: Sell the suit first, because when it comes time to look at sweaters, even expensive ones, their prices will not seem as high in comparison. A man might bulk at the idea of spending $95 for a sweater, but if he has just bought a $495 suit, a $95 sweater does not seem excessive. The same principle applies to a man who wishes to buy the accessories (shirts, shoes, belt) to go along with his new suit.

Contrary to the commonsense view, the evidence supports the contrast-principle prediction. As sales motivation analysts Whitney, Hubin, and Murphy state, “The interesting thing is that even when a man enters a clothing stores with the express purpose of purchasing a suit, he will almost always pay more for whatever accessories he buys if he buys them after the suit purchase than before.”

Excerpt from: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

On the Mismatch Between Employers and Employees

December 10, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “On the Mismatch Between Employers and Employees”

A while back Inc. magazine asked executives at six hundred companies to estimate the percentage of their workforce who could name the company’s top priorities. The executives predicted that 64 percent would be able to name them. When Inc. then asked employees to name the priorities, only 2 percent could do so. This is not the exception but the rule. Leaders are inherently biased to presume that everyone in the group sees things as they do, when in fact they don’t This is why it’s necessary to drastically over-communicate priorities. The leaders I visited with were not shy about this.

Excerpt from: The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

Perfect Pitch Jon Steel

The Importance of Judging a Presentation by its Effect, not its Technical Excellence

December 7, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “The Importance of Judging a Presentation by its Effect, not its Technical Excellence”

In here delightful book, On Speaking Well, Peggy Noonan (who wrote speeches for former Presidents Bush and Reagan) tells a story about Coco Chanel that illustrates this important distinction. Chanel believed that the hallmark of a great dress was that it didn’t call too much attention to itself. Thus if a woman walked into a room wearing one of her dresses and everyone said, “What a fabulous dress!” she had failed. Success came when the woman walked into the room and people said, “You look fabulous!”

In the same way, a presenter fails if people say “What a great presentation!”.

Excerpt from: Perfect Pitch: The Art of Selling Ideas and Winning New Business by Jon Steel

The Small BIG Robert Cialdini

People Underestimate how Much Social Proof Affects their Behaviour

December 5, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “People Underestimate how Much Social Proof Affects their Behaviour”

At a busy New York City subway station we hired researchers to count the number of commuters who donated to a street musician as they walked past.

After a short time a small change was made to the situation that had an immediate and impressive impact. Just before an approaching (and unsuspecting) commuter reached the musician, another person (who was in on the act) would drip a few coins into the musician’s hat in view of the approaching commuter. The result? An eight-fold increase in the number of commuters who chose to make a donations.

In a series of post-study interviews with commuters who did donate, every one of them failed to attribute their action to the fact that they had just seen someone else give money first. Instead they provided alliterative justifications: “I liked the song he was playing”; “I’m a generous person”; and “I felt sorry for the guy.”

Excerpt from: The Small BIG: Small Changes that Spark Big Influence by Robert Cialdini, Noah Goldstein, and Steve Martin

 

The A-Z of Visual Ideas John Ingledew

On the Power of Asking Obvious Questions

December 3, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “On the Power of Asking Obvious Questions”

The barrier created by thinking “I may make a fool of myself if I ask this” can mean that starting points and new directions for thinking remain undiscovered. Always ask the questions that seem too obvious, or those you think you’re supposed to know the answers to. When industrial designer Kenneth Grange was briefed to develop new express trains for British Rail in the 1970s, a seeming naive question popped into his head; “What exactly are the buffers on the locomotive for?” Expecting to be told “They’re to stop the trains crashing into stations, stupid!”, instead he learnt that they were for shunting carriages  — a redundant activity from a bygone era.

Excerpt from: The A-Z of Visual Ideas: How to Solve any Creative Brief by John Ingledew

Barking Up the Wrong Tree by Eric Barker

On Overconfidence Being a Bigger Problem than Incompetence

November 30, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “On Overconfidence Being a Bigger Problem than Incompetence”

We all spend a lot of time complaining about incompetence, but as Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in a talk he gave at High Point University, overconfidence is the far bigger problem. Why? Incompetence is a problem that inexperienced people have, and all things being equal, we don’t entrust inexperienced people with all that much power or authority. Overconfidence is usually the mistake of experts, and we do give them a lot of power and authority. Plain and simple, incompetence is frustrating, but the people guilty of it usually can’t screw things up that bad. The people guilty of overconfidence can do more damage.

Excerpt from: Barking Up the Wrong Tree by Eric Barker

Barking Up the Wrong Tree by Eric Barker

The Power of Making it Personal

November 28, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “The Power of Making it Personal”

Emotions get people to change their behavior. In his show Crowd Control, Dan Pink tried to get people to stop illegally using handicapped parking spots. When Dan’s team changed the handicapped signs so they has a picture of a person in a wheelchair on them, illegal parking in the spots didn’t go down — it topped altogether. Seeing a person’s face, thinking about how someone else might feel, made all the difference.

Excerpt from: Barking Up the Wrong Tree by Eric Barker

Mazis study into a ban of phosphates in cleaners

The Unintended Consequence of Banning Things is that they may become more Desirable

November 26, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “The Unintended Consequence of Banning Things is that they may become more Desirable”

The second reaction to the the law was more subtle and more general than the deliberate defiance of the smugglers and hoarders. Spurred by the tendency to want what they could no longer have, the majority of Miami consumers came to see phosphate cleaners as better products than before. Compared to Tampa residents, who were not affected by the Dade County ordinance, the citizens of Miami rated phosphates detergents as gentler, more effective in cold water, better whiteners and fresheners, more powerful on stains. Affect passage of the law, they had even come to believe that phosphate detergents poured more easily than did the Tampa consumers.

Excerpt from: Consumer Reaction to Restriction of Choice Alternatives by Michael Mazis and Robert Settle

Rolf Dobelli

On Why we Should Seek out Disconfirming Evidence when Formulating a Theory

November 23, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “On Why we Should Seek out Disconfirming Evidence when Formulating a Theory”

No professionals suffer more from the confirmation bias than business journalists. Often, they formulate an easy theory, pad it out with two or three pieces of ‘evidence’ and call it a day. For example: “Google is so successful because the company nurtures a culture of creativity.” Once the idea is on paper, the journalist corroborates it by mentioning a few other prosperous companies that foster ingenuity. Rarely does the writer seek out disconfirming evidence, which in this instance would be struggling businesses that live and breathe creativity or, conversely, flourishing firms that are utterly uncreative. Both groups have plenty of members, but the journalist simply ignores them. If he or she were to mention just one, the storyline would be ruined.

Excerpt from: The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli

Richard Shotton Choice Factory

How Little Shoppers Notice when in Store

November 21, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “How Little Shoppers Notice when in Store”

One successful example was Sainsbury’s in 2004 who realised much supermarket shopping was done in a daze. “Sleep shopping” as they termed it. Shoppers were buying the same items week in, week out — restricting themselves to the same 150 items despite there being 30,000 on offer.

AMV BBDO, Sainsbury’s creative agency, went to great lengths to dramatise the extent of sleep shopping. They hired a man dressed in a gorilla suit and sent him to a Sainsbury’s to do his week’s shopping. They questioned shoppes as they were leaving the store and a surprisingly low percentage had noticed him. When shoppers are on autopilot it’s hard to grab their attention.

Excerpt from: The Choice Factory by Richard Shotton

Mcnamara fallacy

The McNamara Fallacy: The Danger of Ignoring What Can’t be Easily Measured

November 19, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “The McNamara Fallacy: The Danger of Ignoring What Can’t be Easily Measured”

The McNamara fallacy (also known as quantitative fallacy), named for Robert McNamara, the United States Secretary of Defense from 1961 to 1968, involves making a decision based solely on quantitative observations (or metrics) and ignoring all others. The reason given is often that these other observations cannot be proven.

“The first step is to measure whatever can be easily measured. This is OK as far as it goes. The second step is to disregard that which can’t be easily measured or to give it an arbitrary quantitative value. This is artificial and misleading. The third step is to presume that what can’t be measured easily really isn’t important. This is blindness. The fourth step is to say that what can’t be easily measured really doesn’t exist. This is suicide.”

– Daniel Yankelovich “Corporate Priorities: A continuing study of the new demands on business.” (1972)

The fallacy refers to McNamara’s belief as to what led the United States to defeat in the Vietnam War—specifically, his quantification of success in the war (e.g. in terms of enemy body count), ignoring other variables.

Excerpt from: McNamara fallacy, Wikipedia

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

How Scarcity of Goods and Exclusivity of Information Significantly Increases Sales

November 16, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “How Scarcity of Goods and Exclusivity of Information Significantly Increases Sales”

After we talked in my office one day about scarcity and exclusivity of information, he decided to do a study using his sales staff. The company’s customers—buyers for supermarkets or other retail food outlets—were phoned as usual by a salesperson and asked for a purchase in one of three ways. One set of customers heard a standard sales presentation before being asked for their orders. Another set of customers heard the standard sales presentation plus information that the supply of imported beef was likely to be scarce in the upcoming months. A third group received the standard sales presentation and the information about a scarce supply of beef, too; however, they also learned that the scarce-supply news was not generally available information—it had come, they were told, from certain exclusive contacts that the company had. Thus the customers who received this last sales presentation learned that not only was the availability of the product limited, so also was the news concerning it—the scarcity double whammy.

The results of the experiment quickly become apparent when the company salespeople began to urge the owner to buy more beef because there wasn’t enough in the inventory to keep up with all the orders they were receiving. Compared to the customers who got only the standard sales appeal, those who were also told about the future scarcity of beef bought more than twice as much.

Excerpt from: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli

Why Analysing Successful Brands and Looking for a Recipe for Success may be Misleading

November 14, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “Why Analysing Successful Brands and Looking for a Recipe for Success may be Misleading”

A quick hypothesis: say one million monkeys speculate on the stock market. They buy and sell stocks like crazy, and, of course, completely at random. What happens? After one week, about half of the monkeys will have made a profit and the other half a loss. The ones that made a profit can stay; the ones that made a loss you send home. In the second week, one half of the monkeys will still be riding high, while the other half will have made a loss and are sent home. And so on. After ten weeks, about 1,000 monkeys will be left — those who have always invested their money well. After twenty weeks, just one monkey will remain — this one always, without fail, chose the right stocks and is now a billionaire. Lets call him the success monkey.

How does the media react? They will pounce on this animal to understand its “success principles”. And they will find some: perhaps the monkey eats more bananas than the others. Perhaps he sits in another corner of the cage. Or, maybe he swings headlong through the branches, or he takes long, reflective pause while grooming. He must have some recipe for success, right? How else could he perform so brilliantly? Spot-on for twenty weeks — and that from a simple money? Impossible!

Also known as: Outcome Bias.

Excerpt from: The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli

The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli

On the Power of Loss Aversion in Healthcare

November 12, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “On the Power of Loss Aversion in Healthcare”

For this reason, if you want to convince someone about something, don’t focus on the advantages; instead highlight how it helps them dodge the disadvantages. Here is an example from a campaign promotion breast self-examination (BSE): two different leaflets were handed out to women. Pamphlet A urged: “Research shows that women who do BSE have an increased change of finding a tumour in the early, non treatable stage of the disease”. Pamphlet B said: “Research shows that women who do not do BSE have a decreased chance of finding a tumour in the early, more treatable stage of the disease.: The study revealed that pamphlet B (written in a “loss-frame”) generated significantly more awareness and BSE behaviour than pamphlet A (written in “gain-frame”).

Excerpt from: The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli

The Art of Thinking Clearly Rolf Dobelli

“Statistics Don’t Stir Us, People Do”

November 9, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on ““Statistics Don’t Stir Us, People Do””

In another experiment, psychologist Paul Slovic asked people for donations. One group was shown a photo of Rokia from Malawi, an emaciated child with pleading eyes. Afterward, people donated an average of $2.83 to the charity (out of $5 they were given to fill out a short survey). The second group was shown statistics about the famine in Malawi, including the fact that more than three million malnourished children were affected, The average donation dropped by 50%. This is illogical: you would think that people’s generosity would grow if they know the extent of the disaster. But we do not function like that. Statistics don’t stir us; people do.

The media have long known that factual reports and bar charts do not entice readers. Hence the guideline: give the story a face.

Excerpt from: The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli

You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice

Why We Often, Mistakenly, Think the Past was a Golden Age

November 7, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “Why We Often, Mistakenly, Think the Past was a Golden Age”

This argument — for example, “Why isn’t music as good as it used to be?” — reflects a historical selection bias, one colorfully described by the designer Frank Chimero. “Let me let you in on a little secret,” he writes. “If you are hearing about something old, it is almost certainly good. Why? Because nobody wants to talk about shitty old stuff, but lots of people still talk about shitty new stuff, because they are still trying to figure out if it is shitty or not. The past wasn’t better, we just forgot about all the shitty shit.”

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

Shotton Choice Factory

On the Danger of Interpreting Data at Face Value

November 5, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “On the Danger of Interpreting Data at Face Value”

Another example, this time involving Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, didn’t have such a happy ending. Opta data showed that his star defender, Jaap Stam, was making fewer tackles each season. Ferguson promptly offloaded him in August 2001 to Lazio — keen to earn a high transfer fee before the decline became apparent to rival clubs.

However, Stam’s career blossomed in Italy and Ferguson realised his error — the lower number of tackles was a sign of Stam’s improvement, not decline. He was losing the ball less and intercepting more passes that he needed to make fewer tackles. Ferguson says selling Stam was the biggest mistake of his managerial career. From then on he refused to be seduced by simplistic data.

These criticisms don’t mean you should disregard tracking data. Expecting any methodology to be perfect is to burden it with unreasonable expectations. Instead, you need to be aware that it merely provides evidence to which you need to apply your discretion and judgement.

Excerpt from: The Choice Factory: 25 behavioural biases that influence what we buy by Richard Shotton

Houston Airport Queues

Changing the Subjective Experience Rather than the Objective Reality

November 2, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “Changing the Subjective Experience Rather than the Objective Reality”

In the early 2000s, the management at Houston airport was dismayed by the number of passenger complaints it was receiving.

The main issue was delays at the baggage carousel: by this point passengers were often at the end of their tether and even trivial delays tested their patience.

In response, the airport approved a hefty budget for more baggage handlers. At first, the cash looked well spent as waiting times dropped to eight minutes, about average for an airport. But complaints remained stubbornly high.

The authorities considered hiring more baggage handlers but that was prohibitively expensive. Instead, the managers took a psychological approach: they focused on improving the subjective experience rather than the objective reality.

One fact they had discovered earlier became key: people spent about a minute walking to the carousel and eight minutes waiting. The authorities re-routed passengers after passport control so they had to walk further. This meant they spent about eight minutes walking to the carousel and just a minute waiting.

Even though the time they picked up their bags was the same, complaints plummeted. In the words of Alex Stone, who reported on the Houston redesign for the New York Times, “the experience of waiting is defined only partly by the objective length of the wait”. What matters more is perception and an unoccupied wait feels far longer than an occupied one.

Excerpt from: ‘Customer experience is as much about perception as reality’ in Marketing Week

Anchoring in Practice at Apple

October 31, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “Anchoring in Practice at Apple”

The same approach can be used to communicate initial product value. Steve Jobs used anchoring during the launch of the Apple iPad to such effect. At one of his fames launch presentations, he introduced the “rumoured cost” that was speculated to be $999. This information anchored the press to the notion this would be the high-priced product. However, when Jobs later in the event revealed the iPad to be priced at $499, this “anchoring and reveal” tactic created a notion of value for money.

Excerpt from: Northstar

Incognito by David Eagleman

The More Often We See a Statement, the More Likely we are to Believe it’s True

October 29, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “The More Often We See a Statement, the More Likely we are to Believe it’s True”

Another real-world manifestation of implicit memory is known as the illusion-of-truth effect: you are more likely to believe that a statement is true if you have heard it before – whether or not it is actually true. In one study, subjects rated the validity of plausible sentences every two weeks. Without letting on, the experimenters snuck in some repeat sentences (both true and false ones) across the testing sessions. And they found a clear result: if subjects had heard a sentence in precious weeks, they were more likely to now rate it as trie, even if they swore they has never heard it before.

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

Art of Creative Thinking

The Beatles and the Myth that Talent Alone is Enough

October 26, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “The Beatles and the Myth that Talent Alone is Enough”

To the USA, the Beatles were an overnight success, but in fact Lennon and McCartney had been playing together since 1957. In the clubs of Hamburg they performed/endured live non-stop shows for eight hours a day, seven days a week until two o’clock in the morning, and had to work incredibly hard to attract audiences from the many clubs in Hamburg competing for attention. Their abilities and confidence increased. By 1964 they had played roughly 1,200 times, totalling thousands of hours’ playing time, more than most rock bands play there entire careers. Those hours performing set the Beatles apart. They were addicted to practice, yet their rehearsing was not repetitive but adventurous. They didn’t play the classic rock songs of the time over and over until they sounded exactly like the originals, as other bands did; they experimented and improvised, constantly embellishing the standards until they made them their own. They understood there was nothing to be gained from mechanical reputation.

Excerpt from; The Art of Creative Thinking: 89 Ways to See Things Differently by Rod Judkins

One Plus One Equals Three by Dave Trott

Smart Nudge to Reduce Littering

October 24, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “Smart Nudge to Reduce Littering”

A writer at out agency, Rob DeCleyn, found another great example of choice architecture in his local paper.

A village in Kent had a problem with litter.

Sweet wrappers, crisp packers, soft drink cans and bottles were strewn all over the streets.

But the local shopkeeper didn’t complain or nag the children.

He just wrote their name on the crisp and sweet packets when they bought them.

That’s all, just the child’s name.

And the litter problem cleared up almost immediately.

That’s choice architecture.

The children could still choose to throw their wrappers in the street.

They didn’t have to put them in the litter bin.

The only difference was that now everyone would know whose litter it was.

Excerpt from: One Plus One Equals Three: A Masterclass in Creative Thinking by Dave Trott

Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries

The Power of Expectations to Shape our Experience of Products

October 22, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “The Power of Expectations to Shape our Experience of Products”

Pour a bottle of Gallo into an empty 50-year-old bottle of French Burgundy. Then carefully decant a glass in front of a friend and ask for an opinion.

You taste what you expect to taste.

Blind taste testings of champagne have often ranked inexpensive California brands above French ones. With the labels on, this is unlikely to happen.

You taste what you expect to taste.

Were it not so, there would be no role for advertising at all. Were the average consumer rational instead of emotional, there would be no advertising. At least not as we know it today.

Excerpt from: Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries

One Step Ahead: Notes from the Problem Solving Unit by Stevyn Colgan

Reducing Anti-Social Behaviour by Making the Alternative More Fun

October 19, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “Reducing Anti-Social Behaviour by Making the Alternative More Fun”

[…] in 2004, Preston council in Lancashire started to use boards with a peelable plastic film that could be cleaned every day and announced that the board helped reduce gum litter in the town by nearly 80 per cent. In the first year of their use Luton, Bedfordshire, the boards collected in excess of 75,000 pieces of used gum would otherwise have probably ended up on the pavement.

Excerpt from: One Step Ahead: Notes from the Problem Solving Unit by Stevyn Colgan

The Perils of Perception: Why We’re Wrong About Nearly Everything by Bobby Duff

On the Illusory Superiority Bias

October 17, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “On the Illusory Superiority Bias”

Second, more generally, we’re unduly negative when assessing others. That is, we suffer from an ‘illusory superiority bias’: we tend to think that we’re better than the average person when considering positive traits. Experiment after experiment has shown we rate our relationship happiness, leadership skills, IQ and popularity higher than those of our peers. Eight in ten of us deem our driving ability to be better than the average. To see how pervasive the illusory superiority bias is, we took a large, representative sample of the population in one of our surveys and asked half of the people what their chances were of being involved in a road accident, as either a road user of pedestrian, in the coming year, and asked the other half what the other’ chances were. There was a big difference. 40% in the first group picked the lowest probability option, while only 24% in the second group picked that option for others.

Excerpt from: The Perils of Perception by Bobby Duffy

Creative Thinking Rod Judkins Dr Seuss

How Constraints Can Inspire, Rather Than Hinder Creativity

October 15, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “How Constraints Can Inspire, Rather Than Hinder Creativity”

Dr Seuss’s editors bet him he couldn’t write a book with a limit of only fifty different words. Dr Seuss won the bet and in the process produced one of the highest-selling children’s books of all time Green Eggs and Ham. Van Gogh used a maximum of six colours when waiting. Picasso focused on one colour during his Blue Period. They imposed these limitations on themselves. They needed a framework, but it was their framework, one that suited them.

Excerpt from: The Art of Creative Thinking by Rod Judkins

Sex, lies and survey data

On the Danger of Uncritically Listening to Claimed Data

October 12, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “On the Danger of Uncritically Listening to Claimed Data”

If Rudder’s study hunted at lying, the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyle (NATSAL) categorically confirms it. The survey, conducted among 15,000 respondents by UCL and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is the gold standard of research. In 2010 it found that British heterosexual women admit to a mean of eight sexual partners, compared to twelve for men. The difference is logically impossible. If everyone is telling the truth the mean for each gender must be the same.

All of this foes to show that advertisers trying to understand their customers have a problem: if they listen uncritically to consumers, they’ll be misled.

Excerpt from: The Choice Factory: 25 behavioural biases that influence what we buy by Richard Shotton

John Major and Boris Yeltsin

An Example that Shows Communications Should be as Simple as Possible, but no Simpler

October 10, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “An Example that Shows Communications Should be as Simple as Possible, but no Simpler”

…I likes this exchange between John Major and Boris Yeltsin:

“JM: Well, Boris, in a word, how is Russia?

BY: Good.

JM: And in more than one word?

BY: Not good.”

Excerpt from: Lynn Barber’s review of A Life in Questions by Jeremy Paxman.

Win back productive time by banning talk of bike sheds

Win Back Productive Time by Banning Talk of Bike Sheds

October 8, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “Win Back Productive Time by Banning Talk of Bike Sheds”

“Bike-shedding” comes from a story by C. Northcote Parkinson (he of Parkinson’s Law). He tells the tale of a committee that has to approve the plans for a nuclear power station. Since they know very little about nuclear power stations they talk about it briefly and then just approve the recommendation put in front of them. Next they have to approve the plans for a bike shed. They all know about bike sheds. They’ve all seen one and used one. So they talk about the bike shed for hours, arguing about construction methods and paint choice and everything. This is why bike-shedding is also known as The Law of Triviality: “members of an organisation give disproportionate weight to trivial issues”. I’m sure this observation is familiar to you. Most branding conversations seem, to me, to be one long bike-shedding session. It’s not so terrible, it’s human nature. The difference is that software people have identified and named the pattern. That naming is an organisational hack that allows them to break out of it and get on with something more useful. (See also: Fredkin’s Paradox)

Excerpt from: The Marketing Society print title Market Leader

The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli

Brilliant Examples of How Poorly Set Targets Lead to Unintended Consequences

October 5, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “Brilliant Examples of How Poorly Set Targets Lead to Unintended Consequences”

In 1947, when the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered, archaeologists set a finder’s fee for each new parchment. Instead of lots of extra scrolls being found, they were simply torn apart to increase the reward. Similarly, in China in the nineteenth century, an incentive was offered for finding dinosaur bones. Farmers located a few on their land, broke them into pieces and cashed in. Modern incentives are no better: company boards promise bonuses for achieved targets. And what happens? Managers invest more energy in trying to lower the targets than in growing the business.

Excerpt from: The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli

Business for Punks: Break All the Rules – the BrewDog Way

Price Cutting is the Crack Cocaine of Business

October 1, 2018 Posted by Excerpts 0 thoughts on “Price Cutting is the Crack Cocaine of Business”

Like it or not, price cutting is the crack cocaine of business. You’re both the junkie and the dealer. Liker any drug, the insanely addictive short-term high will momentarily camouflage the long-term effects of underselling your product. And you will all too quickly get hooked. Your price-cutting habit will rapidly spiral out of control. Cut costs, make it cheaper, cut costs, make it cheaper. You’ll be trying to save money on production. Reducing the quality of your product, cutting corners, until you’ll eventually be cutting your own business’s throat. And then the slow truth of this self-induced vicious cycle dawns: you can’t make it any cheaper. You’ve slashed it until you have no margin left. And you’ve dumbed down your mission to boot. Game over, dude, all because you became a discount hobo.

Excerpt from: Business for Punks: Break All the Rules – the BrewDog Way by James Watt

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