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    # Metadata

    • Author: Rory Sutherland
    • Full Title: Alchemy
    • Category:

    # Highlights

    I have chosen psycho-logic as a neutral and non-judgemental term. I have done this for a reason. When we do put a name to non-rational behaviour, it is usually a word like ‘emotion’, which makes it sound like logic’s evil twin. ‘You’re being emotional’ is used as code for ‘you’re being an idiot’. If you went into most boardrooms and announced that you had rejected a merger on ‘emotional grounds’, you would likely be shown the door. Yet we experience emotions for a reason – often a good reason for which we don’t have the words. ( Location 251)

    If you are wholly predictable, people learn to hack you. ( Location 351)

    There are two separate forms of scientific enquiry – the discovery of what works and the explanation and understanding of why it works. These are two entirely different things, and can happen in either order. ( Location 385)

    Our very perception of the world is affected by context, which is why the rational attempt to contrive universal, context-free laws for human behaviour may be largely doomed. ( Location 540)

    Unfortunately, many of your friends and colleagues, and most of all your finance director or your bank manager, won’t like any of these new non-sensical ideas, even the valuable ones. That’s not because they are expensive – most of them are very cheap indeed. No, he* will hate them because they don’t sit comfortably with his narrow, reductive worldview. But that’s the whole point – his narrow economic worldview has dominated decision-making for far too long. ( Location 570)

    ‘The trouble with market research is that people don’t think what they feel, they don’t say what they think, and they don’t do what they say.’* Trivers and Kurzban explained the evolutionary science behind that conundrum: we simply don’t have access to our genuine motivations, because it is not in our interest to know. ( Location 687)

    For a business to be truly customer-focused, it needs to ignore what people say. Instead it needs to concentrate on what people feel. ( Location 722)

    The reason we do not ask basic questions is because, once our brain provides a logical answer, we stop looking for better ones; with a little alchemy, better answers can be found. ( Location 755)

    Once we are honest about the existence of unconscious motivations, we can broaden our possible solutions. It will free us to open up previously untried spaces for experimentation in resolving practical problems if we are able to discover what people really, really want,* rather than a) what they say they want or b) what we think they should want. ( Location 781)

    All progress involves guesswork, but it helps to start with a wide range of guesses. ( Location 807)

    If a problem is solved using a discipline other than that practised by those who believe themselves the rightful guardians of the solution, you’ll face an uphill struggle no matter how much evidence you can amass. ( Location 890)

    It seems likely that the biggest progress in the next 50 years may come not from improvements in technology but in psychology and design thinking. Put simply, it’s easy to achieve massive improvements in perception at a fraction of the cost of equivalent improvements in reality. ( Location 964)

    This innovation came from the founder’s flash of insight (while watching a James Bond film, no less*) that, regardless of what we say, we are much bothered by the uncertainty of waiting than by the duration of a wait. The invention of the map was perhaps equivalent to multiplying the number of cabs on the road by a factor of ten – not because waiting times got any shorter, but because they felt ten times less irritating. ( Location 970)

    The opposite of a good idea can also be a good idea. ( Location 113)

    The problem with logic is that it kills off magic. ( Location 116)

    Test counterintuitive things only because no one else will. ( Location 117)

    As far as evolution is concerned, if a behaviour is beneficial, we can attach any reason to it that we like. ( Location 1076)

    One of the great contributors to the profits of high-end restaurants is the fact that bottled water comes in two types, enabling waiters to ask ‘still or sparkling?’, making it rather difficult to say ‘just tap’. ( Location 1129)

    So said Alan Kay, one of the pioneers of computer graphics. It is, perhaps, the best defence of creativity in ten words or fewer. I suspect, too, that the opposite is also true: that an inability to change perspective is equivalent to a loss of intelligence.* ( Location 1136)

    To put it another way, the problem with logic is that it kills off magic. Or, as Niels Bohr* apparently once told Einstein, ‘You are not thinking; you are merely being logical.’ ( Location 3906)

    Remember, if you never do anything differently, you’ll reduce your chances of enjoying lucky accidents. ( Location 3911)

    • Note: The accidents in my designs often lead to new creative directions.

    Large organisations are not set up to reward creative thinking. ( Location 3929)

    UBI is an example of a political thought experiment involving ‘scenting the soap’, in other words lending unconscious emotional appeal to a rational behaviour by changing not what it is but how it feels. ( Location 4039)

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