💎 A Tip for Writing in the Active, not the passive voice (by Zombies)

There’s a neat trick – first suggested, as far as I can discover, by the American academic Rebecca Johnson – for identifying a passive construction in case of doubt. Try adding ‘by zombies’ after the verb. If you can do so, you’re looking at the passive voice.

‘Everyone loves by zombies’, America’s Got Talent, is recognisably not English. ‘America’s Got Talent is loved by zombies’ is not only a grammatical sentence, but probably true.

One of the oldest and most persistent writer’s tips is that you should prefer the active to the passive voice; or, in its extreme form, that you should always avoid the passive.

Excerpt from: Write to the Point: How to be Clear, Correct and Persuasive on the Page by Sam Leith

💎 On exclamation marks (Like laughing at your own joke!)

‘Like laughing at your own joke,’ said F. Scott Fitzgerald of this most gaudy of punctuation marks. He had a point. Overusing exclamation marks makes you sound hectoring and overexcited. That idea of laughing at your own joke – of paying yourself a compliment – has been there from the beginning. When they arrived in the language in the fourteenth century, David Crystal tells us, they were called the ‘point of admiration’ – and later, the ‘admirative point’ and the ‘wonderer’. It’s since Dr Johnson that we’ve had ‘exclamation’ – shifting the emphasis from admiration to the expression of strong feeling.

Excerpt from: Write to the Point: How to be Clear, Correct and Persuasive on the Page by Sam Leith

💎 On the danger of only evaluating projects on what is easy to quantify

A question was given to a bunch of engineers about fifteen years ago: How do we make the journey to Paris better? They came up with a very good engineering solution, which was to spend £6 billion building completely new tracks from London to the coast and knocking about forty minutes off the 3.5 hour journey time. It strikes me as a slightly unimaginative way of improving a train journey to merely make it shorter. Now, what is the hedonistic opportunity cost of spending £6 billion pounds on railway tracks? Here’s a thought; what you could do is employ the world’s top male and female supermodels, pay them to walk the length of the train handing out free Château Pétrus for the entire duration of the journey. … At which point you’ll still have about £5 billion left in change, and people will ask for the trains to be slowed down.

Excerpt from: Transport for Humans: Are We Nearly There Yet? by Pete Dyson and Rory Sutherland

💎 If you give people a sense of control (even an illusory one) they’re happier with their decisions

It is not only humans who like to choose: animals prefer to have a choice as well. In fact, they choose to choose even if having a choice does not change the outcome. If rats need to select between two paths that lead to food—one path is a straight line and the other subsequently requires them to select whether to go right or left—they choose the latter path. Pigeons do the same thing. Give a pigeon two options: the first is a button to peck that results in grain being dispensed, and the second is two buttons from which it needs to select one to peck in order to receive the same grain, and the bird will pick the option with two buttons. The pigeons quickly learn that the seeds are no different; yet they prefer the seeds that were obtained by making a choice.

Excerpt from: The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals About Our Power to Change Others by Tali Sharot

💎 On reading your copy out loud and ‘where you falter, alter’

Peggy Noonan, who wrote speeches for Ronald Reagan has said: ‘Once you’ve finished the first draft of your speech – stand up and speak it aloud. Where you falter, alter.’ That applies especially to speeches, of course: in that case you’re trying to produce something that’s hard to stumble over when spoken aloud. Tongue-twisters such as ‘red lorry, yellow lorry’ are easier on the page than in the mouth. But it is also good advice to the prose writer. There is a developmental connection between reading aloud and reading silently – and there is a neurological one too.

Excerpt from: Write to the Point: How to be Clear, Correct and Persuasive on the Page by Sam Leith

💎 The friend of creative work is alertness, and nothing focusses your attention like stepping on to unfamiliar ground

In 1958, a young psychologist by the name of Bernice Eiduson began a long-term study of the working methods of forty mid-career scientists. For twenty years, Professor Eiduson periodically interviewed the scientists and gave them a variety of psychological tests, as well as gathering data on their publications. Some of the scientists went on to great success: there were four Nobel Prize winners in the group and two others widely regarded as Nobel-worthy. Several other scientists joined the National Academy of Sciences. Others had disappointing careers.

In 1993, several years after Bernice Eiduson’s death, her colleagues published an analysis of this study, trying to spot patterns. A question of particular interest was: what determines whether a scientist keeps publishing important work throughout his or her life? A few highly productive scientists produced breakthrough paper after breakthrough paper. How?

A striking pattern emerged. The top scientists switched topics frequently. Over the course of their first hundred published papers, the long-lived high-impact researchers switched topics an average of 43 times. The leaps were less dramatic than the ones Erez Aiden likes to take, but the pattern is the same: the top scientists keep changing the subject if they wish to stay productive.

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

💎 On the underrated value of ‘interstitial time’

There’s a popular subgenre of books about writing known informally as ‘writer porn’, in which famous authors describe their daily routines, which pens they use and, especially, the secluded mountain-top cabins where they work each morning for six blissfully undisturbed hours. I don’t think I’ve ever actually met such an author, but for anyone whose job is even slightly ‘creative’, they stir envy: we’d all love such big chunks of time in which to focus. Instead, our lives are plagued with what the blogger Merlin Mann, at 43folders.com, calls ‘interstitial time’ – small chunks of minutes spent waiting at the doctor’s surgery, or for someone who’s late, or for a meeting postponed at short notice.

It feels like time wasted. But it needn’t be. The poet William Carlos Williams, for example, wrote much of his oeuvre on the backs of prescription pads during gaps in his workday as a paediatrician.

Excerpt from Help!: How to Become Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done by Oliver Burkeman

💎 On life being understood backwards but lived forward – what’s obvious in retrospect is often hard to see at the time

As the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard noted in his journal in 1843, ‘It is perfectly true, as the philosophers say, that life must be understood backwards. But they forget the other proposition, that it must be lived forwards.” The day-by-day business of living feels, at this particular moment, spectacularly distant from the ways in which I and others will come to comprehend these events.

Yet this is just an extreme version of something that is always true. Human understanding is always both provisional and belated. Many things that appear obvious in retrospect were anything but obvious at the time, because the clarity we experience when looking back in time is utterly unlike the cloud of uncertainty that surrounds day-today existence. The world is far more complex than any stories we can tell about it; far more mysterious, far harder to predict.

Excerpt from: How to Think: Your Essential Guide to Clear, Critical Thought by Tom Chatfield

💎 Why failures to act tend to haunt us more than failed actions

But in his book If Only, the psychologist Neal Roese argues that when it comes to real-life choices, ‘if you decide to do something and it turns out badly, it probably won’t still be haunting you a decade down the road. You’ll reframe the failure, explain it away, move on, and forget it. Not so with failures to act’. You’ll regret them for longer, too, because they’re ‘imaginatively boundless?’ you can lose yourself for ever in the infinite possibilities of what might have been. In other words: you know that thing you’ve been wondering about doing? Do it.

Excerpt from Help!: How to Become Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done by Oliver Burkeman

💎 Give me the freedom of a tight brief

Joyce uses the analogy of a playground. 12 Researchers found that when you put up a fence around a playground, children will use the entire space—they’ll feel safe to play all the way to the edges. But if those walls are removed, creating a wide-open playground, the space the children choose to play in contracts: they stay toward the middle and they stick to each other, because that’s what feels safe. This, Joyce suggests, is what happens in the creative process. When there are no clear limits in the brief itself, we aren’t sure what boundaries to explore and push against. We end up without the necessary focus and passion of which Marissa Mayer speaks. In fact, one of Joyce’s surprise findings was that in the absence of explicit constraints, the unconstrained teams created more conflict, stemming from all the different unarticulated assumptions and implicit constraints that team members created in their own heads, as if to fill the void.

Excerpt from: A Beautiful Constraint: How To Transform Your Limitations Into Advantages, and Why It′s Everyone′s Business by Mark Barden and Adam Morgan

💎 An explanation as to how groups (and companies) make decisions which are favoured by none of their members

The article is called “The Abilene Paradox’, and it’s by the management theorist Jerry Harvey; it begins with a personal anecdote set not at Christmas but during a stiflingly hot Texas summer. Harvey and his wife were staying with her parents, and relaxing one afternoon when his father-in-law suggested a trip to Abilene, 50 miles away, for dinner. Harvey was appalled at the thought of driving ‘across a godforsaken desert, in a furnace-like temperature … to eat unpalatable food. But his wife seemed keen, so he kept his objections to himself.

The experience was as terrible as he’d predicted. Later, trying to be upbeat, he said, “That was a great trip, wasn’t it?’ but one by one, each family member confessed they’d hated they had agreed to go only because they believed it was what the others wanted. “Listen, I never wanted to go to Abilene”, Harvey’s father-in-law said. “I just thought you might be bored?”

Excerpt from Help!: How to Become Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done by Oliver Burkeman

💎 The happiness benefits of closing down our options

Once, in an experiment, the Harvard University social psychologist Daniel Gilbert and a colleague gave hundreds of people the opportunity to pick a free poster from a selection of art prints. Then he divided the participants into two groups. The first group was told that they had a month in which they could exchange their poster for any other one; the second group was told that the decision they’d already made had been final. In follow-up surveys, it was the latter group — those who were stuck with their decision, and who thus weren’t distracted by the thought that it might still be possible to make a better choice — who showed by far the greater appreciation for the work of art they’d selected.

Excerpt from: Four Thousand Weeks: Embrace your limits. Change your life by Oliver Burkeman

💎 On how expectations can become self fulfilling

When the new school year started, teachers at Spruce Elementary learned that an acclaimed scientist by the name of Dr Rosenthal would be administering a test to their pupils. This ‘Test of Inflected Acquisition’ indicated who would make the greatest strides at school that year. In truth it was a common or garden IQ test, and, once the scores had been tallied, Rosenthal and his team cast them all aside. They tossed a coin to decide which kids they would tell teachers were ‘high-potentials’. The kids, meanwhile, were told nothing at all. Sure enough, the power of expectation swiftly began to work its magic. Teachers gave the group of ‘smart’ pupils more attention, more encouragement and more praise, thus changing how the children saw themselves, too. The effect was clearest among the youngest kids, whose IQ scores increased by an average of twenty-seven points in a single year. The largest gains were among boys who looked Latino, a group typically subject to the lowest expectations in California.’ Rosenthal dubbed his discovery the Pygmalion Effect, after the mythological sculptor who fell so hard for one of his own creations that the gods decided to bring his statue to life. Beliefs we’re devoted to — whether they’re true or imagined — can like-wise come to life, effecting very real change in the world. The Pygmalion Effect resembles the placebo effect (which I discussed in Chapter 1), except, instead of benefiting oneself, these are expectations that benefit others.

Excerpt from: Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman

💎 On big impacts not requiring sophisticated technology

Did the simple act of painting lines on roads save hundreds of thousands of lives? In their book Reducing Global Road Traffic Tragedies, Gerald Balcar and Bo Elfving argue that it did. The first American centre line appeared near Detroit in 1911; the man responsible for it claimed a leaky milk van leaving a white streak inspired him. Over the next few decades, road engineers began to favour yellow centre lines, which were made reflective by adding glass beads to paint. But edge lines remained rare outside cities.

What changed that were studies from the 195os showing that painted edge lines cut road accidents, especially fatal ones. In the early 1970s Potters Industries (which made the glass beads, and employed Mr Balcar) calculated that driving on a rural road at night was six times deadlier than driving on an urban road during the day. Cars were running off the roads largely because drivers could not see their edges. As edge lines and marked intersections proliferated, and Americans began wearing seat-belts, the takes death rate began to fall.

Excerpt from: Unconventional Wisdom: Adventures in the Surprisingly True by Tom Standage

💎 On originality lying on the far side of unoriginality

The final principle is that, more often than not, originality lies on the far side of unoriginality. The Finnish American photographer Arno Minkkinen dramatises this deep truth about the power of patience with a parable about Helsinki’, main bus station. There are two dozen platforms there, he explains, with several different bus lines departing from each one — and for the first part of its journey, each busk leaving from any given platform takes the same route through the city as all the others, making identical stops. Thinly’. each stop as representing one year of your career, Minkkinen advises photography students. You pick an artistic direction — perhaps you start working on platinum prints of nudes — and you begin to accumulate a portfolio of work. Three years (or bus stops) later, you proudly present it to the owner of a gallery. But you’re dismayed to be told that your pictures aren’t as original as you thought, because they look like knock-offs of the work of the photographer Irving Penn; Penn’s bus, it turns out, had been on the same route as yours. Annoyed at yourself for having wasted three years following somebody else’s path, you jump off that bus, hail a taxi, and return to where you started at the bus station. This time, you board a different bus, choosing a different genre of photography in which to specialise. But a few stops later, the same thing happens: you’re informed that your new body of work seems derivative, too. Back you go to the bus station. But the pattern keeps on repeating: nothing you produce ever gets recognised as being truly your own.

What’s the solution? ‘It’s simple,’ Minkkinen says. ‘Stay on the bus. Stay on the fucking bus.’ A little further out on their journeys through the city, Helsinki’s bus routes diverge, plunging off to unique destinations as they head through the suburbs and into the countryside beyond. That’s where the distinctive work begins. But it begins at all only for those who can muster the patience to immerse themselves in the earlier stage — the trial-and-error phase of copying others, learning new skills and accumulating experience.

Excerpt from: Four Thousand Weeks: Embrace your limits. Change your life by Oliver Burkeman

💎 How empathising can lead to immoral decisions

Take the following study carried out by another psychologist. In this experiment, a series of volunteers first heard the sad story of Sheri Summers, a ten-year-old suffering from a fatal disease. She’s on the waiting list for a life-saving treatment, but time’s running out. Subjects were told they could move Sheri up the waiting list, but they’re asked to be objective in their decision. Most people didn’t consider giving Sheri an advantage. They understood full well that every child on that list was sick and in need of treatment. Then came the twist. A second group of subjects was given the same scenario, but was then asked to imagine how Sheri must be feeling: Wasn’t it heartbreaking that this little girl was so ill? Turns out this single shot of empathy changed everything. The majority now wanted to let Sheri jump the line. If you think about it, that’s a pretty shaky moral choice. The spotlight on Sheri could effectively mean the death of other children who had been on the list longer.

Excerpt from: Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman

💎 Rather than trying to clear the decks, instead decline to clear the decks and instead focus on what’s of greatest consequence

In my days as a paid-up productivity geek, it was this aspect of the whole scenario that troubled me the most. Despite my thinking of myself as the kind of person who got things done, it grew painfully clear that the things I got done most diligently were the unimportant ones, while the important ones got postponed — either forever or until an imminent deadline forced me to complete them, to a mediocre standard and in a stressful rush. The email from my news-paper’s IT department about the importance of regularly changing my password would provoke me to speedy action, though I could have ignored it entirely. (The clue was in the subject line, where the words ‘PLEASE READ’ are generally a sign you needn’t bother reading what follows.) Mean-while, the long message from an old friend now living in New Delhi and research for the major article I’d been planning for months would get ignored, because I told myself that such tasks needed my full focus, which meant waiting until I had a good chunk of free time and fewer small-but-urgent tasks tugging at my attention. And so, instead, like the dutiful and efficient worker I was, I’d put my energy into clearing the decks, cranking through the smaller stuff to get it out of the way — only to discover that doing so took the Whole day, that the decks filled up again overnight anyway, and that the moment for responding to the New Delhi email or for researching the milestone article never arrived. One can waste years this way, systematically postponing precisely the things one cares about the most.

What’s needed instead in such situations, I gradually came to understand, is a kind of anti-skill: not the counter-productive strategy of trying to make yourself more efficient, but rather a willingness to resist such urges — to learn to stay with the anxiety of feeling overwhelmed, of not being on top of everything, without automatically responding by trying to fit more in. To approach your days in this fashion means, instead of clearing the decks, declining to clear the decks, focusing instead on what’s truly of greatest consequence while tolerating the discomfort of knowing that, as you do so, the decks will be filling up further, with emails and errands and other to-dos, many of which you may never get round to at all. You’ll sometimes still decide to drive yourself hard in an effort to squeeze more in, when circumstances absolutely re-quire it. But that won’t be your default mode, because you’ll no longer be operating under the illusion of one day making time for everything.

Excerpt from: Four Thousand Weeks: Embrace your limits. Change your life by Oliver Burkeman

💎 On work expanding to fill the time available

The same goes for chores: in her book More Work for Mother, the American historian Ruth Schwarty Cowan shows that when housewives first got access to ‘laboursaving’ devices like washing machines and vacuum cleaners, no time was saved at all, because society’s standards of cleanliness simply rose to offset the benefits; now that you could return each of your husband’s shirts to a spotless condition after a single wearing, it began to feel like you should, to show how much you loved him. Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion, the English humorist and historian C. Northcote Parkinson wrote in 1955, coining w became known as Parkinson’s law. But it’s not merely a joke and it doesn’t apply only to work. It applies to everything that needs doing. In fact, it’s the definition of what needs doing that expands to fill the time available.

Excerpt from: Four Thousand Weeks: Embrace your limits. Change your life by Oliver Burkeman

💎 There is no moment in the future when you’ll magically be done with everything

The same logic, Abel points out, applies to time. If you try to find time for your most valued activities by first dealing with all the other important demands on your time, in the hope that there’ll be some left over at the end, you’ll be disappointed. So if a certain activity really matters to you – a creative project, say, though it could just as easily be nurturing a relationship, or activism in the service of some cause – the only way to be sure it will happen is to do some of it today, no matter how little, and no matter how many other genuinely big rocks may be begging for your attention. After years of trying and failing to make time for her illustration work, by taming her to-do list and shuffling her schedule, Abel saw that her only viable option was to claim time instead – to just start drawing, for an hour or two, every day, and to accept the consequences, even if those included neglecting other activities she sincerely valued. If you don’t save a bit of your time for you, now, out of every week,’ as she puts it, ‘there is no moment in the future when you’ll magically be done with everything and have loads of free time.’ This is the same insight embodied in two venerable pieces of time management advice: to work on your most important project for the first hour of each day, and to protect your time by scheduling ‘meetings’ with your-self, marking them in your calendar so that other commitments can’t intrude. Thinking in terms of ‘paying yourself first’ transforms these one-off tips into a philosophy of life, at the core of which lies this simple insight: if you plan to spend some of your four thousand weeks doing what matters most to you, then at some point you’re just going to have to start doing it.

Excerpt from: Four Thousand Weeks: Embrace your limits. Change your life by Oliver Burkeman

💎 Don’t remove a seemingly foolish long-standing custom or institution until you understand its intended purpose

This rule is known as Chesterton’s fence, after G. K. Chesterton, the British writer who proposed it in an essay in 1929. Imagine you discover a road that has a fence built across it for no particular reason you can see. You say to yourself, “Why would someone build a fence here? This seems unnecessary and stupid, let’s tear it down.” But if you don’t understand why the fence is there, Chesterton argued, you can’t be confident that it’s okay to tear it down. Long-standing customs or institutions are like those fences, he said. Naive reformers look at them and say, “I don’t see the use of this; let’s clear it away.” But more thoughtful reformers reply, “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

Excerpt from: The Scout Mindset: The Perils of Defensive Thinking and How to Be Right More Often by Julia Galef

💎 Why seeking perfection may be an imperfect strategy (a Golf lesson)

In golf, perfection is represented by a hole in one. I mean, even I know that. But recently I was fascinated to discover that most professional players don’t aim for that particular metric. Instead, they try to leave the ball stiff: a foot or so beneath the hole. This gives them a chance of an easy putt uphill, whereas if they try to be too precise, there’s a risk they end up above the hole with a more difficult downhill shot.

Occasionally, the ball will go straight in, but this is usually the unintentional result of a bad shot! Likewise, a less accomplished player will sometimes aim for the flag, but any direct hits will be greatly outnumbered by misses. That’s why you’ve never heard of the world record holder for holes in one (Texan player Mancil Davies has achieved 51 but has never got beyond journeyman status because of the erratic nature of his technique).

The point is that the top pros don’t aim for perfection every time. They aim to get 90% of the way there because they know that – over the course of a round, a tournament or a career – this will produce better results than shooting for 100%.

Excerpt from: Go Luck Yourself: 40 ways to stack the odds in your brand’s favour by Andy Nairn

💎 An unintended consequence of Uber

Among other things, Uber has made it far easier for party-goers to get home safely. A study published in 2017 found that after Uber’s arrival in Portland, Oregon, alcohol-related car crashes declined by 62%. But at the same time, the spread of ride-hailing apps may have tempted people to drink to excess, knowing that they won’t beat the wheel. A study published in November 2019 by three economists – Jacob Burgdorf and Conor Lennon of the University of Louisville, and Keith Teltser of Georgia State University – found that the widespread availability of ride-sharing apps had indeed made it easier for the late-night crowd to binge.

By matching data on Uber’s availability with health Surveys from America’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the authors found that on average alcohol consumption rose by 3%, binge drinking (in which a person downs four or five-drinks in two hours) increased by 8%, and heavy drinking (defined as three or more instances of binge drinking in a month) surged by 9% within a couple of years of the ride-hailing company coming to town. Increases were even higher in cities without public transport, where the presence of Uber led average drinking to rise by 5% and instances of binge drinking to go up by around 20%. (heavy drinking still rose by 9%.) Remarkably, excessive drinking had actually been in decline before Uber’s appearance, giving further evidence that the firm’s arrival affected behavior.

Excerpt from: Unconventional Wisdom: Adventures in the Surprisingly True by Tom Standage

💎 On the importance of an eclectic mix of stimuli if we’re to have an interesting point of view

Talking of which, another strategist called Russell Davies does a talk on “How to be interesting”. And guess what metaphor he uses – albeit in a very different way?

“We need to have lots of random hooks and loops,” he says. “If we read the same old books, we get to know more about the thing we know lots about already. We need to subscribe to magazines that we wouldn’t normally subscribe to; we need to go to places that we wouldn’t normally go to, eat at places that may not be our kind of place. We stay interesting when we don’t just stay in our groove. We keep pushing; we leave what we know behind for a bit. Velcro goes in many different directions in order to make a connection. If we are interested in new ideas so should we.”

Excerpt from: Go Luck Yourself: 40 ways to stack the odds in your brand’s favour by Andy Nairn

💎 On the danger of taking answers to surveys at face value

to discount with WEIRD logic. “We can ask a consumer what’s most important for them when they pick out an insurance policy, and people will give us the standard answers: it’s the cost, the expected return, the service, that people are friendly, and all of that,” Glottrup said. “But when we pose the second line of questioning-what did you pay in costs last year, what was your return, when was the last time you actually used our service? – people will go blank. They will have no answer [so] these things simply cannot be the reason.”

Excerpt from: Anthro-Vision: How Anthropology Can Explain Business and Life by Gillian Tett

💎 On the creative benefits of thinking like a child

Einstein was a great fan of this technique. He said that: “To stimulate creativity, one muse develops the childlike inclination for play.” Researchers at the North Dakota State University agree. They conducted an experiment where they asked 76 undergraduates what they would do if college were cancelled for the day. The interesting bit was that half of them were encouraged to think as if they were seven years old. These students were found to give much more creative responses than the control group.

Excerpt from: Go Luck Yourself: 40 ways to stack the odds in your brand’s favour by Andy Nairn

💎 The law of least effort

A general “law of least effort “applies to cognitive as well as physical exertion. The law asserts that if there are several ways of achieving the same goal, people will eventually gravitate to the least demanding course of action. … Laziness is built deep into our nature.

Excerpt from: Friction: The Untapped Force That Can Be Your Most Powerful Advantage by Roger Dooley

💎 It’s as if the less we know, the more we try and dress things up in complicated sounding terms

Another of the wise men whose voice appears in these pages, the physicist Richard Feynman, once remarked that many fields have a tendency for pomposity, to make things seem deep and pro­ found. It’s as if the less we know, the more we try to dress things up with complicated-sounding terms. We do this in countless fields, from sociology to philosophy to history to economics – and it’s def­initely the case in business. I suspect that the dreariness in so much business writing often stems from wanting to sound as though we have all the answers, and from a corresponding unwillingness to recognize the limits of what we know. Regarding a particularly self­ important philosopher, Feynman observed:

It isn’t the philosophy that gets me, it’s the pomposity. If they’d just laugh at themselves! If they’d just say, “I think it’s like this, but von Leipzig thought it was like that, and he has a good shot at it, too”.

Excerpt from: The Halo Effect: How Managers let Themselves be Deceived by Phil Rosenzweig

💎 Interesting test in Estonia to reduce speeding

Time is money. That, at least, is the principle behind an innovative scheme being tested in Estonia to deal with dangerous driving. During trials that began in 2019, anyone caught speeding along the road between Tallinn and the town of Rapla was stopped and given a choice. They could pay a fine, as usual, or take a ‘timeout’ instead – waiting going when stopped. In other words, they could pay the fine in time rather than money.

The aim of the experiment was to see how drivers perceive speeding, and whether loss of time might be a stronger deterrent than loss of money. The project is a collaboration between Estonia’s Home Office and the police force, and is part of a program designed to encourage innovation in public services. Government teams propose a problem they would like to solve – such as traffic accidents caused by irresponsible driving – and work under the guidance of an innovation unit. Teams are expected to do all fieldwork and interviews themselves.

Excerpt from: Unconventional Wisdom: Adventures in the Surprisingly True by Tom Standage

💎 How economics affects culture – in the 1950s average duration of US pop songs dropped to 2:30

We’ve been here before, where the business affected the show (or the tail wagged the dog). The first iteration of the phonograph could only hold about two to three minutes of music. It is said Puccini used to deliberately write arias that could be cut into three-minute segments that could fit on one side of a 78-rpm disc, arguably making him the first ever pop writer. Elderton notes that during the late 1950s and early 1960s, the average duration of American pop songs fell to 2 minutes and 30 seconds. As the mafia owned and controlled jukeboxes across America, they insisted that a record was limited to 2 minutes 30 seconds, allowing them to boost their take-per­ machine considerably.

Excerpt from: Tarzan Economics: Eight Principles for Pivoting through Disruption by Will Page