Having too much choice can be paralysing. This was demonstrated in a famous experiment about jam, which may have inspired the “rule of three” much loved by behavioural economists – the idea that when you give people three price options, whether it’s three quality tiers, three product bundles, or just three different versions, most of us default to the middle one. A McKinsey consultant said it was the reason they now practise the 3 x 3 Rule, Read More

Books | September 2020

This book explains how ordinary, decent people end up doing really bad stuff at work, while others find it easy to turn a blind eye to the wrongdoing. The best, or worst, stories are about how a cumulation of little steps can lead to disaster. In the case of the Texas City oil refinery disaster, it was an accumulation of non-steps: people not daring to question, or to answer back, or to tell the truth that they knew wasn’t welcome. Read More

Books | July 2020

The business case for diversity has largely been made, as has the moral case. But has it really been believed and internalised? Here, Syed demonstrates the true impact and value of diversity, explaining how it actually works. Once you’ve read this book, you will want to seek out the right kinds of diversity for the right kinds of problems and challenges, and you’ll be able to respond convincingly to the standard objection that recruiting for diversity inevitably leads to a dilution of standards. Read More

Books | June 2020

Here is a brilliant story-teller reporting on two exceptional people doing breakthrough work: their lives, their work, their friendship. It’s an accessible and enjoyable grounding if you’re new to behavioural economics, and it’s unmissable for anyone who’s already into BE and wants to understand where it came from. BE got big for marketers around ten years ago with Nudge, embraced by US and UK governments to change behaviour in areas like income tax, pension planning, Read More

Books | September 2018

It’s easy to project altruistic motives onto young, Gap-clad, seemingly naïve, computer-gaming geeks who appear to care more about coding than about money. This book makes a strong case that it’s the rest of us – including governments – who are the naïve ones. Taplin spent his life in music and film, and started an early legal content-streaming business. He uses personal stories to show how the internet’s biggest jockeys Google (with YouTube) Facebook and Amazon have built their profits from the pockets and creativity of others. Read More

Books | February 2018

Why can’t we learn from failure? Because even in a no-blame culture it is human to deceive ourselves, and we don’t even know we’re doing it. It’s hard to change a belief we’re invested in, as Syed illustrates with true stories of miscarriages of justice, in which bad verdicts were maintained despite clear evidence they were wrong.

This book is recommended reading for anyone trying to learn, improve or innovate at work. In a well-researched book full of engrossing examples, Read More

Books | October 2016

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent, said Eleanor Roosevelt. Jez Rose is not so succinct. His book is about the idea that other people can’t make you feel things or react in prescribed ways. You can control how you feel and how you will respond. Between stimulus and response there’s a gap in which to choose. That’s where you can “flip the switch”.

The obvious way to “flip the switch” Read More

Books | September 2016

This book promises “practical techniques for a sharper mind”. If you believe, as the author does, that a sharper mind means being able to remember stuff, then it delivers. It walks you through easy, step-by-step exercises to build your ability to remember. The author is a US memory champion, so we can believe him when he says you have to study and practise, as he does.

Why bother? The examples in the introduction aren’t convincing, Read More

Books | August 2016

“Learn how to read others and communicate with confidence” says the subtitle. It’s a useful reminder to be conscious of your own body language and that of others, but if there is a universal body language you can learn to read and to speak, this little book only does pidgin level. Approach it as a refresher of the basics you already know. It doesn’t reveal any great secrets, but there are a few useful tips to help you maximise positive impact. Read More

Books | August 2016

The best reason to read this short book is to spend time in the company of the author. Dan Ariely is funny and wise, thought-provoking and outspoken, prejudiced and playful, and not afraid to stick his neck out (for example, on the merits of marriage, and how to decide whether to get married). The book is an entertaining collection from his Wall Street Journal advice column, each question and response complemented by a witty cartoon. Read More

Books | March 2016