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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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