Rory Week – Rory’s Reads

Supported by Greenhaven Road Capital, finding value off the beaten path.

This post was part of a week of posts about Rory Sutherland. I learned many things, but broadly Sutherland speaks about four big ideas; creative thinking is hard but worth it, rationality is the wrong model, framing and choice architecture change decisions, and butterfly effects are easiest using psychology. There’s also a Rory’s reads post.

I was going to try to read all of these and give you just the good stuff but there were too damn many. Here you go, as affiliate links and with limited commentary.

Poor Economics by Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee. Sutherland suggested this book because the authors found out that a little can do a lot. In marketing, for Sutherland, the ideal is to create a large effect with a small effort. Virgin Airlines does this, he says. Their salt and pepper shakers are miniature planes and embossed on the bottom it says “pinched from Virgin Atlantic.” This creates delight, says Sutherland.

Duflo and Banerjee found that if they offered poor people small incentives they were more likely to do things that were good for them. A small bag of lentils was enough incentive for mothers to get their children vaccinated. Cultural norms – repeated in television – made people act certain ways and not others. In Brazil for example, birth control became more popular when people saw it on their soap operas. In the United States and the United Kingdom, Sutherland said the same thing happened with the term “designated driver.” Duflo and Banerjee also found that nudges work well. Obstacles mean friction.

Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. “A tremendous book.” “I’m a big fan.” I’ve written a post about Richard Thaler and also enjoyed his book/biography Misbehaving

Obliquity by John Kay. Successful companies and brands are driven by mission. “Jobs, Knight, Kellogg, Ford – they’re all barking basically. But because they are barking they pursued something bigger than the simple pursuit of short-term profit.”

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. “If you read nothing else read his Nobel Prize acceptance speech.”

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely.

Ludwig von Mises is one of Sutherland’s favorite economists. Here’s the Mises Institute, Wikipedia, EconLib.

Buckminster Fuller. Tim Ferriss likes Fuller too but I don’t know where to begin. If you do, leave a comment.

How to Solve It by George Polya. “You’re a fan of How to Solve it?” Sutherland asked Daniel Kahneman. “Yes, of course,” he replied. Polya lays out a four-step process for figuring out any problem. Understand the problem, devise a plan, execute the plan, look back. To understand the train problem means to think in terms of better not necessarily faster.

Risk Savvy or Gut Feelings by Gerd Gigerenzer. Which book Sutherland suggests he didn’t say. In both Gigerenzer makes the case that our intuitive judgments aren’t so irrational and he offers other explanations than Thaler and Kahneman.

Why Everyone Else is a Hypocrite by Robert Kurzban. I just started this, it’s similar to Gigerenzer.

The Company of Strangers by Paul Seabright.

The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt.

The Darwin Economy by Robert Frank.

The Armchair Economist by Steven Landsburg. “It’s a really, really good read.”

The Drunkard’s Walk by Leonard Mlodinow.

Spent by Geoffrey Miller. “Alongside Steve Harrison’s, this is one book on marketing and advertising you should read this year.” Miller’s book is about the biological signaling that consumerism creates. This book was much more than “the peacock shows his lovely feathers” because Miller tries to drill down to what the foundational levers of our actions are.

Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt. Malcolm Gladwell has also recommended this book.

The Rational Animal by Douglas Kenrick.

Books on statistics and probability.

“An awful lot of maths is a total waste of time, when on earth in life do you need to know the surface area of a cone? But the stuff involving statistics and probability, I would argue that should be taught as a mandatory at school. People instinctively are bad at it, you know, they’re bad at working out probabilities, likelihood, statistical significance, all that kind of stuff.”

“To make the point, I think statistics and probability should be taught extensively.”


What? Not enough? Sutherland suggests more on Twitter.

This week was a bit of an experiment. If you liked it please let me know on Twitter, mikedariano.

Want this week’s series in pdf? –> sutherlandpdf

Want this week’s series as a podcast? –> Soundcloud or Overcast or iTunes.

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