πŸ’Ž On our want for the familiar done differently (not something truly new)

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

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

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

πŸ’Ž On the danger of ignoring small data sets (almost killing Nokia)

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

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

πŸ’Ž On the surprising benefits of restrictions (for new ideas)

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

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

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

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

πŸ’Ž On Alka-Seltzer and the importance of making a product’s function clear (in the tagline)

For example, people knew that Alka-Seltzer was taken for an upset stomach, but market research showed that nobody knew how many they should be taking — so most people just took one. But when viewers saw the infamous “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is” ads, purchases of Alka-Seltzer nearly doubled overnight. The tagline that sold the product became indivisible from the products function because it told consumer something they did not know.

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

πŸ’Ž On why rough layouts sell the idea better than polished ones (develop and change as you progress)

There is either too much to worry about or not enough to worry about. They are equally bad.

It is a fair accompli.

There is nothing for him to do. It’s not his work, it’s your work. He doesn’t feel involved.

If he doesn’t like the face of the girl in your rendering, or the style of the trousers worn by the man on the right, or your choice of the car he’s driving, he will reject it.

He won’t see the big idea. He will look at the girl’s face and thing, ‘I don’t like her, this doesn’t feel right.’

It is very difficult for him to imagine anything else if what you show him has such detail.

Show the client a scribble.

Explain it to him, talk him through it, let him use his imagination.

Get him involved.

Because you haven’t shown the exact way it’s going to be, there’s scope to intercept it and develop and change as you progress.

Work with him rather than confronting him with your idea.

Excerpt from: It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be: The world’s best-selling book by Paul Arden by Paul Arden

πŸ’Ž On science progressing β€œone funeral at a time” (the old guard)

Instead of a gradual, evolving progression, Kuhn describes a bumpy, messy process in which initial problems with a scientific theory are either ignored or rationalized away. Eventually so many issues pile up that the scientific discipline in question is thrown into a crisis mode, and the paradigm shifts to a new explanation, entering a new stable era.

Essentially, the old guard holds on to the old theories way too long, even in the face of an obvious-in-hindsight alternative. Nobel Prize-winning physicist Max Planck explained it like this in his Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers: “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing it opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it,” or, more succinctly, “Science progresses one funeral at a time”.

Excerpt from: Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models by Gabriel Weinberg and Lauren McCann

 

πŸ’Ž On the weakness of the arguments for targeting Millennials (it’s a lack of perspective)

Next, it’s argued that Millennials represent the future. What they do now, everyone will be doing one day. This is probably the weakest argument of all. Our job is to sell to society as it is now. Not as it will be in 10 years’ time. Young people change behaviour as they grow older, so they’re not always a reliable guide to the future. We need to distinguish ‘life-status effect’ from ‘cohort effect’. Just because young people watch less TV than average, TV viewing is not necessarily bound to decline in the future. Young people have always watched less TV than older viewers because they go out more.

We suspect that advertising’s obsession with youth is partly due to lack of perspective. We all tend to assume the average person is someone like us. And people who work in advertising are mostly young. Now there’s less TGI analysis and fewer focus groups going on, young planners are often disbelieving of how old the people buying their brands actually are (TGI reveals, for example, that the average new car buyer in the UK is 56).

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

πŸ’Ž On how a German village dealt with the problem of neo-Nazis (by reframing the problem)

So the local community has formed a group called EXIT, to help educate and de-radicalise young people, to encourage them to leave the group and help them find better lives.

But EXIT needs funding.

So the townspeople have decided, since they can’t stop the neo-Nazis marching, to use the march for their own ends.

Instead of resisting the march they are now encouraging the march.

Because they are using the march to raise money.

For every metre the neo-Nazis march, local businesses are donating ten euros to EXIT.

So the neo-Nazis will now be marching to fund EXIT.

The further they march, the more money EXIT gets.

If the neo-Nazis don’t like it they can stop marching.

Whichever way they decide, it’s a result for the local community.

Whether the neo-Nazis march or not, the little village wins.

The inhabitants now treat the march as something to enjoy and have fun with.

Every 100 metres there are signs stencilled on the ground, thanking the marchers for the money they’re raising:

YOU HAVE RAISED 1,000 EUROS FOR EXIT.

YOU HAVE RAISED 2,000 EUROS FOR EXIT.

YOU HAVE RAISED 3,000 EUROS FOR EXIT.

And so on.

By the time the neo-Nazis reach the cemetery they’ve marched a kilometre, which means they’ve raised 10,000 euros for EXIT.

So there is a huge rainbow sign thanking them, and the locals throw rainbow confetti over them.

Excerpt from:Β Creative Blindness (And How To Cure It): Real-life stories of remarkable creative vision by Dave Trott

πŸ’Ž On the power of surprise to fight crime (by the London Met)

However, smart-thinking cops have found other innovative ways to tackle the problem. In 2012, Met Police officers used a borrowed No. 2 London bus to sneak up on a gang of street gamblers on Westminster Bridge. Normally, the lookouts alert the street gamblers well in advance but, on this occasion, they hadn’t anticipated the 30-plus officers who jumped out on them as the bus came alongside. More than 25 gamblers were detained and 12 were charged with gaming offences.

Excerpt from: Why Did the Policeman Cross the Road?: How to solve problems before they arise by Stevyn Colgan

πŸ’Ž On the Theory of Omission (why copywriting isn’t like writing a book)

A book may take months to write.

Thats okay because people can take weeks to read it, savouring each word.

Copywriting isn’t like that.

Copy has to compete for attention.

We can’t assume that every word will be pored over, like a book.

That’s what made Ernest Hemingway different as a writer.

Hemingway trained as journalist.

Before he became a novelist, he worked on the Kansas City Star.

He learned the paper’s style, it became his guide to writing:

‘Use short sentence. Use short paragraphs. Use vigorous English.’

He learned to get the most from the least, to prune language.

Later in life Hemingway would call this style ‘The Iceberg Theory’.

By stating the bar minimum, you let the reader’s imagination add the part unsaid, the part below the surface.

In writing classes at universities it’s now known as ‘The Theory of Omission’.

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

πŸ’Ž Beware fool’s gold white space (when assessing new markets)

Fool’s gold looks like gold, but it isn’t.

It’s usually some other yellow mineral like pyrite or chalcopyrite.

White space is blank, and when it’s on a strategist’s market map, it makes them think there’s a gap to be exploited.

But they might be wrong, particularly when it comes to innovations.

‘Fool’s gold white space’ is an apparent gap in the market, but in truth it’s a failure masquerading as a viable opportunity.

Many an innovator has been fooled by it.

So next time you come across what appears to be an unoccupied area, ask yourself two questions.

Why is this space unoccupied?

What do they know that we don’t?

Excerpt from:Β The Smart Thinking Book: 60 Bursts of Business Brilliance by Kevin Duncan

πŸ’Ž On the inaccuracy of forecasters (those who don’t know they don’t know)

Every day, experts bombard us with predictions, but how reliable are they? Until a few years ago, no one bothered to check. Then along came Philip Tetlock. Over a period of ten years, he evaluated 28,361 predictions from 284 self-appointed professionals. The result: in terms of accuracy, the experts fared only marginally better than a random forecast generator. Ironically, the media darlings were among the poorest performers; and of those the worst were the prophets of doom and disintegration. Examples of their far-fetched forecasts included the collapse of Canada, Nigeria, China, India, Indonesia, South Africa, Belgium and the E.U. None of these countries has imploded.

β€˜There are two kinds of forecasters: those who don’t know, and those who don’t know they don’t know,’ wrote Harvard economist J.K.Galbraith.

Excerpt from: The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli

πŸ’Ž On the danger of seeing patterns in random events (you’re probably imagining them)

In 1948, a man called B. F. Skinner put hungry pigeons into glass boxes. We’ve all done it. He had a feeder attached to each box through which pigeon food (fag ends and sick, presumably – I’ve never been sure) was dropped every fifteen seconds. The pigeons were observed for a while to see what would happen.

While research assistants hid behind one-way mirrors and made fun of the birds, congratulating each other on their hysterical but offensive club-footed, retarded, help-I’m-trapped-inside-a-box pigeon impressions, the birds themselves developed some interesting behaviours. As these fat, grey, warbling, puffed-up, disease-spreading scientists watched, they noticed that the pigeons were trying to work out what had to be done to release the food. Although the food was arriving entirely independently of their actions, an early drop would inevitably occur at the same time the bird made a particular gesture, such as bobbing its head or pecking at the roof of the box. The bird seemed to presume that this action had caused the arrival of the food, so each pigeon began to act out a ritual inside its box consisting of repeated actions misguidedly designed to trigger more food. Some would walk around in circles, others would peck repeatedly in the corner, and so on.

Excerpt from: Tricks of the Mind by Derren Brown

πŸ’Ž On the importance of protecting time (the one thing with which it is right to be stingy)

Think of all the ways people steal your time. Seneca, the Roman Stoic philosopher, wrote, ‘People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time, they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.’ Though Seneca was writing more than 2,000 years ago, his words are just as applicable today. As he noted, people protect their property in all sorts of ways – locks, security systems and storage units – but most do little to protect their time.

Extract from: Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life by Nir Eyal

πŸ’Ž On following the rules of business (or not)

Control Tower: ‘Maybe we ought to turn on the search lights now?’

Kramer: ‘No… that’s just what they’ll be expecting us to do.’

Most of business is run according to conventional logic. Finance, operations and logistics all operate through established best practice – there are rules, and you need to have a good reason to break them. But there are other parts of a business that don’t work this way, and marketing is one of them: in truth, it’s a part of business where there’s never best practice, because if you follow a standard orthodoxy your brand will become more like your competitors’, thus eroding your advantage. The above joke from Airplane! (1980) appears when the air traffic controller is trying to follow protocol, by turning on the lights on the runway for the approaching plane; Kramer, a war veteran, is frightened of being too predictable.” It underlines a serious point.

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

πŸ’Ž On the importance of giving people a sense of control (and the potential for taxation)

They invited students to a lab at Harvard University and asked them to rate pictures of various home interiors. In exchange for their time, they were given $10, but told that they were required to pay a “lab tax” of $3. The instruction was to put $3 in an envelope and hand it to the experimenter before they left. The students were not thrilled by this plan. Only half complied; the other half either left the envelope empty or gave less than the required amount.

Another group of participants, however, was told that they could advise the lab manage on how to allocate their tax money. They could suggest, for example, that their taxes would be spent on beverages and snacks for future participants. Astonishingly, merely giving participants a voice increased compliance from about 50 percent to almost 70 percent! That is dramatic. Imagine what such an increase in compliance would mean for your country, if it were translated to federal taxes.

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

πŸ’Ž On data not having to be big to be useful (the sample is most important)

George Gallup, who essentially invented the idea of the opinion poll in the 1930s, came up with a fine analogy for the value of random sampling. He said that if you have a large pan of soup, you do not need to eat it all to find out if it needs more seasoning. You can just taste a spoonful, provided you have given it a good stir.

Excerpt from: The Art of Statistics: Learning from Data by David Spiegelhalter

πŸ’Ž On even seemingly inconsequential bits of friction in changing behaviour (to prevent suicides)

The extraordinary reductions in suicide resulting from changes in levels of carbon monoxide might have happened by accident, but the insight can be used to make deliberate changes that have reduced suicides. For example, a number of countries have introduced legal restrictions on the number of paracetamol tablets and similar everyday medications that can be bought in one go. There is not much to stop the determined buyer from going into several stores in a row and buying more pills, but it has been shown that in the UK alone such measure were associate with around 70 fewer suicides a year as a result of paracetamol ingestion (a 42 percent reduction), and an even bigger reduction of 61 per cent of patients needing a liver transplant as a result of damage from paracetamol. Similarly, there is evidence that where such pills are required to be sold in pop-out packs, rather than loose in a bottle, this also reduces suicide rates since the pills have to be taken out one at a time. A little friction, it turns out, is not always a bad thing.

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

πŸ’Ž Don’t tell people, show them (how escalators became “normal”)

Then someone had a brilliant idea: proof always works better than a claim.

Don’t tell people, show them.

William ‘Bumper’ Harris was an employee who’d lost a leg in an accident.

He was told to come to Earl’s Court station and ride up and down the escalator.

Just that, ride up and down, nothing else.

People at the bottom would see a one-legged man with crutches nonchalantly hop onto the escalator and ride it to the top.

Then he’d turn around, and people at the top would see a one-legged man with crutches nonchalantly hop onto the other escalator and ride it to the bottom.

‘Bumper’ Harris just did that all day.

When frightened passengers saw him do it they were reassured an ashamed.

Reassured that if a one-legged man could do it anyone could.

And ashamed that they were ever frightened in the first place.

After a day of ‘Bumper’ riding up and down, everyone was using the escalator as if it was the most normal thing.

And once that happened, the problem disappeared.

Escalators became as accepted as the have been ever since.

The lesson was, it’s better to show people than to tell people.

Excerpt from: Creative Blindness (And How To Cure It): Real-life stories of remarkable creative vision by Dave Trott

πŸ’Ž On how messages while drunk can have disproportionate effect (in promoting safe sex)

A group of Canadian psychologists led by Tara MacDonald recently went into a series of bars and asked the patrons to read a short vignette. They were to imagine that they had met an attractive person at a bar, walked him or her home, and ended up in bed — only to discover that neither of them had a condom. The subjects were then asked to respond on a scale of 1 (very unlikely) to 9 (very likely) to the proposition: “If I were in this situation, I would have sex.” You’d think that the subjects who had been drinking heavily would be more likely to say they would have sex — and that’s exactly what happened. The drunk people came in at 5.36, on average, on the 9-point scale. The sober people came in at 3.91. The drinkers couldn’t sort through the long-term consequences of unprotected sex. But then MacDonald went back to the bars and stamped the hands of some of the patrons with the phrase “AIDs kills.” Drinkers with the hand stamp were slightly less likely than the sober people to want to have sex in that situation: they couldn’t sort through the rationalization necessary to set aside the risk of AIDS. Where the norms and standards are clear and obvious, the drinker can become more rule-bound that his sober counterpart.

Excerpt from: Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell

πŸ’Ž On perspective blindness and the difficulties we have in adopting other people’s perspective (when buying gifts)

Why do guests do this? In 2011, Francesca Gino from Harvard and Frank Flynn from Stanford conducted an experiment to find out. They recruited ninety people and then allocated them to one of two conditions. Half became ‘senders’ while the other half became ‘receivers’. The receivers were then asked to go to Amazon and come up with a wish list of gifts priced between $10 and $30. Meanwhile, the senders were allocated to either choose a gift from the wish list, or a unique gift.

The result were emphatic. The senders expected that recipients would prefer unique gifts – ones they had chosen themselves. They supposed that recipients would welcome the personal touch. But they were wrong. Recipients would welcome the personal touch. But they were wrong. Recipients, in fact, much preferred gifts from their own list. The psychologist Adam Grant reports the same pattern with friends giving and receiving wedding gifts. Senders prefer unique gifts; recipients prefer gifts from their wedding list.

Why? It hinges upon perspective blindness. Senders find it difficult to step beyond their own frame of reference. They imagine how they would feel receiving the gift that they have selected.

Excerpt from: Messengers: Who We Listen To, Who We Don’t, And Why by Stephen Martin and Joseph Marks

πŸ’Ž On the technique of assumption reversal for generating new perspectives and ideas (e.g Uber)

Michael Michalko, a former US army officer who has become a leader in creativity, advocates ‘assumption reversal’. You take the core notions in any subject or proposal, and simply turn them on their head. So, suppose you are thinking of starting a restaurant. The first assumption might be: ‘restaurants have menus’. The reversal would be: ‘restaurants have no menus’. This provokes the idea of a chef informing each customer what he bought that day at market, allowing them to select a customised dish. The point is not that this will necessarily turn out to be a workable scheme, but that by disrupting conventional thought patterns, it might lead to new associations and ideas.

Or, to take a different example, suppose you are considering starting a new taxi company. The first assumption might be: ‘taxi companies own cars’. The reversal would be: ‘taxi companies own no cars’. Twenty years ago, that might have sounded cray. Today, the largest taxi company that has ever existed doesn’t own cars: Uber.

Excerpt from: Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking by Matthew Syed

πŸ’Ž On the danger of not recognising the theories that guide your actions (as John Cleese notes)

John Cleese, the British comedian, put it this way: ‘Everybody has theories. The dangerous people who are not aware of their own theories. That is, the theories on which they operate are largely unconscious.’

Excerpt from: Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking by Matthew Syed

πŸ’Ž On the benefits of efficiency and the dangers of pursuing it too far (it’s worth being a little messy)

Sometimes (often actually) in business, you do know where you’re going, and when you do, you can be efficient. Put in place a plan and execute. In contrast, wandering in business is not efficient… but it’s also not random. It’s guided – by hunch, gut, intuition, curiosity … it’s worth being a little messy and tangential to find out way there. Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency .. The outsized discoveries – the ‘non-linear’ ones – are highly likely to require wandering.

Excerpt from: Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking by Matthew Syed

πŸ’Ž On the absence of an authority figure liberating others to express their genuine opinions (leadership comes at a sociological price)

A clever study by the Rotterdam School of Management analysed more than three hundred real-world projects dating back to 1972 and found that projects led by junior managers were more likely to succeed than those with a senior person in charge. On the face of it, this seems astonishing. How could a team perform better when deprived of the presence of one of its most knowledgeable members?

The reason is that this leadership comes at a sociological price when linked to a dominance dynamic. The knowledge squandered by the group when a senior manager is taken out of the project is more than compensated for by the additional knowledge expressed by the team in his absence.

Excerpt from: Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking by Matthew Syed

πŸ’Ž On nothing in life being as important as you think it is while you are thinking about it (the focusing illusion)

I’ve been to several scientific conferences at which Professor Kahneman has spoken; and, when Daniel Kahneman talks, people listen. I am invariably among them. So I took special notice of his answer to a fascinating challenge to put to him not long ago by an online discussion site. He was asked to specify the one scientific concept that, if appreciated properly, would most improve everyone’s understanding of the world. Although in response he provided a full five-hundred-word essay describing what he called “the focusing illusion,” his answer is neatly summarized in the essay’s title: “Nothing in life is as important as you think it is while you are thinking about it.”

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

πŸ’Ž On communication taking more of our time when technology makes it more efficient (Jevons’s paradox)

Today, information technology is changing the world making it more idea intensive, better connected, and ultimately more urban. Improvements in information technology seem to have increased, rather than reduced, the value of face-to-face connections, which might be called Jevons’s Complementarity Corollary. The nineteenth-century English economist William Stanley Jevons noted that more fuel-efficient steam engines didn’t lead to less coal consumption. Better engines made energy use effectively less expansive, and helped move the world to an industrial era powered by coal. The term Jevons’s paradox had come to refer to any situation in which efficiency improvements lead to more, not less consumption — one reason why low-calorie cookies can lead to larger waistlines and fuel-efficient cars can end up consuming more gas. Jevons’s paradox applied to information technology means that as we acquire more efficient means of transmitting information, like e-mail or Skype, we spend more, not less, time transmitting information.

Excerpt from: Triumph of the City by Edward Glaeser

πŸ’Ž Sometimes words aren’t enough to change behaviour (demonstrations are more powerful)

At a school in the USA, the girls in their early teens had just discovered lipstick.

They would go into the female toilets to apply it.

Then, giggling, they’d leave imprints of their lips on the large mirror.

This made a lot of extra work for the cleaning staff.

The head teacher asked the girls to stop.

Of course, they ignored her.

So she took the girls to the toilets for a demonstration.

She said, ‘It takes a lot of work to clean the lipstick off the mirror.’

She said to the janitor, ‘Please show the girls how much work it takes.’

The janitor put the mop in the toilet, squeezed off the excess water and washed the mirror.

Then put the mop in the toilet again, and repeated the process. From that day on there was no more lipstick on the mirror.

That’s choice architecture.

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

πŸ’Ž On problem solving using variation, survivability and selection (Palchinsky principles)

What Palchinsky realised was that most real-world problems are more complex than we think. They have a human dimension, a local dimension, and are likely to change as circumstances change. His method for dealing with this could be summarised as three ‘Palchinsky principles’: first, seek out new ideas an try new things; second, when trying something new, do it on a scale where failure is survivable; third, seek out feedback and learn from your mistakes as you go along. The first principle could simply be expressed as ‘variation’; the third as ‘selection’.

Excerpt from: Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure by Tim Harford

πŸ’Ž On behavioural economics being an odd term (it’s just economics)

Behavioural economics is an odd term. As Warren Buffett’s business partner Charlie Munger once said, ‘If economics isn’t behavioural, I don’t know what the hell is.’ It’s true: in a more sensible world, economics would be a sub-discipline of psychology. Adam Smith was as much a behavioural economist as an economist – The Wealth of Nations (1776) doesn’t contain a single equation. But, strange though it may seem, the study of economics has long been detached from how people behave in the real world, preferring to concern itself with a parallel universe in which people behave as economists think they should.

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