💎 On taste freeze in music (somewhere around age thirty-three)

When Spotify looked at its music-streaming data, it found that teens listen to contemporary and popular music almost exclusively. As listeners age, their tastes expand. They spend more time listening to obscure bands and album tracks that were not hits. As the years go by, some take up jazz or world music or classical. But somewhere around age thirty-three, most stop listening to contemporary hits at all. The phenomenon even has a name—taste freeze. Men are more susceptible to it than women. Another fun fact: become a parent, and your “music relevance” takes a hit equivalent to ageing four years.

Excerpt from: Head in the Cloud by William Poundstone

💎 On the power of expectations (of students)

A quick digression on expectations (we’ll return – almost as a recurring theme — to the importance of teaching and teachers later). In 1968 Robert Rosenthal conducted an experiment in America where teachers were told that randomly selected pupils had actually performed in the top 20 per cent of a test that identified ‘potential’. This was, of course, untrue. But here’s the thing: when those pupils’ IQs were tested at the end of the year, they had increased relative to everybody else. Expectations improved performance.

Excerpt from: How Britain Really Works: Understanding the Ideas and Institutions of a Nation by Stig Abell

💎 On the biggest long term change in society being the growth in choice (not the internet)

In a few hundred years, when the history of our time will be written from a longterm perspective, it is likely that the most important event historians will see is not technology, not the Internet, not e-commerce. It is an unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time -literally – substantial and rapidly growing numbers of people have choices. For the first time, they will have to manage themselves. And society is totally unprepared for it.

Excerpt from: Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker

💎 On the gap between experts’ confidence and the accuracy of their forecasts (they’re little better than coin tossers)

Philip Tetlock has done one of the most comprehensive studies of forecasters, their accuracy, and their excuses. When studying experts’ views on a wide range of world political events over a decade, he found that, across the vast array of predictions, experts who reported they had 80 percent or more confidence in their predictions were actually correct only around 45 percent of the time. Across all predictors, the experts were little better than coin tossers.

Excerpt from: The Little Book of Behavioral Investing: How not to be your own worst enemy by James Montier

💎 On the danger of proxy measures unrelated to the end goal (‘number of views’, ‘likes’, ‘shares’, ‘engagement’)

Advertising agencies and marketing departments alike need to break their bad habit of placing too much emphasis on proxy measurements. Just because it’s possible to measure something, it doesn’t mean that something has value and is worth measuring.

Today there’s far too much emphasis on soft measures such as ‘number of views’, ‘likes’, ‘shares’, ‘engagement’ or even (dare we say it) creative awards. One problem is that development of advertising is often skewed towards improving these short-term measures in order to show some measurable progress. However, this is often at odds with what is best for the business long-term.

Another problem is that placing emphasis on these kinds of measures breeds distrust from other parts of the client business towards marketing and advertising, because they don’t represent real proof of any commercial progress. They are false proxies that really only serve to massage the egos of those involved, not actual measurements of success or growth that the rest of the business can identify with or actually use.

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

💎 On the word person being derived from the Latin word for a mask worn by an actor (we’re all actors)

(It’s not insignificant that the word ‘person’ derives from the Latin word for a mask worn by an actor.) In Goffman’s view, we’re all actors who have half-forgotten that we’re acting. Most of the time we play a double game, aware that others are performing for us and yet believing in the performance at the same time.

Excerpt from: Born Liars: Why We Can’t Live Without Deceit by Ian Leslie

💎 On the world we have come to inhabit is more like Huxley’s vision than Orwell’s (information drowned in a sea of irrelevance)

Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.

The future we have come to inhabit is Huxley’s. The question is not whether or not curation is needed. It’s how we build a system that financially accommodates the new diversity of activity.

Excerpt from: Curation: The power of selection in a world of excess by Michael Bhaskar

💎 On the burden of (self-imposed) rationality limiting what we think we can do

When I recently talked to Paul Smith here about advertising in the late 1970s, he remarked that the great virtue of the time was that no one demanded the same tedious logic be applied to every message. Hofmeister had a bear on the logo – that was enough. Hovis wasn’t even northern – but let’s pretend it is…. Hamlet had a message which was surely generic to all tobacco – indeed which was truer of cigarettes than cigars (cigars are rarely consumed at moments of stress).

And so on….

Freed from the wearisome burden of self-imposed rationality, and by the tyranny of consistency, there’s no limit to what we might do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exceprt from: The Win Without Pitching Manifesto by Blair Enns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

💎 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

💎 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

💎 On science progressing “one 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

 

💎 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

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

💎 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

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

💎 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: The Smart Thinking Book: 60 Bursts of Business Brilliance by Kevin Duncan

💎 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.

‘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

💎 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

💎 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