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The best books of the year summarised by Kevin Duncan. For training or speaking, do get in touch. More detail at greatesthitsblog.com


  1. 13 FROM 13 THE BEST BOOKS OF 2013
  2. WHAT IS IT?          A library of over 200 books A blog A series of printed books iphone and ipad apps One-page summaries One-sentence summaries Training programmes Speeches A fertile source of new ideas
  4. MALCOLM GLADWELL David And Goliath Competition isn’t always as lopsided as it seems, because being at a disadvantage could actually be an advantage.
  5. MALCOLM GLADWELL David And Goliath  People fundamentally misunderstand the meaning of advantages and disadvantages.  The book uncovers the hidden rules that shape the balance between the weak and the mighty, and the powerful and the dispossessed.  It is sub-titled Underdogs, misfits and the art of battling giants.  Underdogs develop hidden talents to gain an advantage. Often they are tougher and more ingenious than supposedly more powerful people.  Conversely, having advantages can sometimes prove a disadvantage. Rich parents have everything, but can struggle to provide a moral or financial compass for their children.  As such, a degree of misfortune can be a tremendous asset – what the author calls desirable difficulty or relative deprivation.
  6. TO SELL IS HUMAN Dan Pink Selling is no longer solely the domain of salespeople, because we are all trying to move each other in some way or another.
  7. TO SELL IS HUMAN Dan Pink  We are all in sales now - trying to ‘move’ the other’s point of view  We spend 40% of our time ‘Non-sales selling’. The forces behind it are:  Entrepreneurship  Elasticity (flexible skills)  Ed-Med (the two fastest-growing industries)  The rules now are:  Attunement: being in harmony with people  Buoyancy: a resilient outlook  Clarity: making sense of murky problems and solving them
  8. THE NEW DIGITAL AGE Schmidt & Cohen Soon most of the world will be online, and so technology will influence almost every personal and state activity.
  9. THE NEW DIGITAL AGE Schmidt & Cohen  Technology is no panacea for the world’s ills, but smart use of it can make a world of difference.  The virtual world will not overtake the existing world order, but it will complicate almost every behaviour.  States will have to practice two foreign policies and two domestic policies – one for the virtual world and one for the physical world – and they may appear contradictory.  With the spread of connectivity and mobile phones around the world will give citizens more power than at any other time in history.  The internet is among the few things humans have built that they don’t truly understand.  Soon everyone on earth will be connected – there are 2bn online with 5bn more set to join.  Virtual statehood reduces the importance of scale and provides everyone with a voice. A world with no delete button creates many legislative dilemmas
  10. QUIET Susan Cain Introverts have a powerful role to play in a world that can’t stop talking, so nurture them and pay attention to what they say.
  11. QUIET Susan Cain  It’s time for everyone to listen, and understand the power of introverts. Quiet can be good.  Business, and society in general, predominantly favours ‘loud’ people. That usually means being ‘outgoing and fun’, being able to pitch well, and offering up a ‘takeaway box’ of what you are going to contribute.  And yet around a third of us are introverts. Where it gets confusing is that many true introverts often behave in an unnaturally (for them) extrovert way (particularly at work) simply in order to fit in, but this usually makes them very uncomfortable.  They can also be extremely convincing at it, particularly if they are high Self-Monitors – they have a keen awareness of what they like and regularly finetune their behaviour, but there can also be Behavioural Leakage, in which tell-tale introvert signs, such as a quick glance, can be detected by the most observant.
  13. DECODED Phil Barden Decision science is not smoke and mirrors – it can be applied in a practical way if properly understood.
  14. DECODED Phil Barden  Our autopilot (implicit, system 1) has a far greater bearing on purchasing decisions than many think. Behavioural economics has been saying this for some time. This is effortless, automatic, fast action.  The pilot (system 2, explicit) is the rational, apparently controlled process that is usually mentioned in research as a reason to buy – this is often misleading since people can’t even explain it themselves.  What fires together wires together: the autopilot brain receives 11 million bits of information a second. There are three main purchasing principles: 1. Tangibility: tangible signals trigger heuristics 2. Immediacy: the autopilot prefers immediate rewards, not future ones 3. Certainty: autopilot prefers safe, certain choices  Purchasing involves a decision between reward (ownership) and pain (price): the brain offsets the two to create a ‘net value’. trigger pain signals.
  15. CONTAGIOUS Jonah Berger Your product or idea is more likely to catch on if you give it social currency, make it useful and emotional, and wrap it in an engaging narrative.
  16. CONTAGIOUS Jonah Berger You can increase the chances of your idea catching on by following six steps: Social currency: we share things that make us look good Triggers: top of mind leads to tip of tongue Emotion: when we care, we share Public: if it’s built to show, it’s built to grow Practical value: it has to be news you can use Stories: things built into narratives are more engaging
  17. DECISIVE Chip and Dan Heath You can make better choices by widening your options, testing your assumptions, attaining distance before deciding, and preparing to be wrong.
  18. DECISIVE Chip and Dan Heath Widen your options Reality-Test your assumptions Attain distance before deciding Prepare to be wrong  Stage 1 means avoiding a narrow time frame, multitracking (considering more than one option simultaneously), and finding someone who has already solved your problem.  Stage 2 involves considering doing the opposite, zooming in and zooming out (big picture and detail), and ooching (a Southern US word for running small experiments to test theories).  Stage 3 includes overcoming short-term emotion and honouring your core priorities.  Stage 4 is bookending the future (setting a range of outcomes from very bad to very good) and setting up tripwires.
  19. MAKERS Chris Anderson The internet is transforming the way we manufacture – we can all be makers now.
  20. MAKERS Chris Anderson  Astonishing developments in technology, such as 3D printing and open hardware, are combining with a new frame of mind to generate a new maker economy.  This could all lead to a third industrial revolution, in which a series of cottage industries begin to replace conventional large-scale manufacture.  Being able to do something on a desktop changes everything.  We’re all designers now - we might as well get good at it.  Suddenly the old rules of production aren’t true:  Variety is free: it costs no more to make every product different than to make them all the same  Complexity is free: minutely detailed products with fiddly components are fine because computers don’t care how many calculations they have to do  Flexibility is free: changing a product after starting production is simply a case of changing the instruction code – the machines stay the same
  21. THE ART OF THINKING CLEARLY Rolf Dobelli You can make better choices by understanding the cognitive biases to which we all succumb.
  22. THE ART OF THINKING CLEARLY Rolf Dobelli Social proof: if other people do something foolish, so do we. Sunk cost fallacy: investment or ownership warps our estimate of value. Confirmation bias: we use as evidence what we want to see. Story bias: a good narrative makes us fall for things. Illusion of control: you control less than you think. Paradox of choice: the more choice we have, the less we make a decision. Coincidence: there is an inevitably about unlikely events. Gambler’s fallacy: there’s no balancing force of the universe. Winner’s curse: curb enthusiasm - your ‘luck’ will change. Loss aversion: bad events strike harder than good ones. Hedonic treadmill: be careful what you wish for – it’s never that satisfying when you get there. Affect heuristic: you’re a slave to your emotions and always make shortcuts.
  24. INSIDE THE BOX Boyd & Goldenberg Thinking outside the box is usually impractical – inside the box is where practical and exciting innovation lies.
  25. INSIDE THE BOX Boyd & Goldenberg The best business innovations are right in front of you. Creativity can be taught. It’s practical thinking, not divine inspiration that causes innovation. Systematic Inventive Thinking involves: Subtraction: list the product’s main components; remove an essential one, partially or fully; visualise the result (no matter how strange); ask what are the benefits or new markets for the new version. Division: list the components; divide the product functionally or physically; visualise the new version; look for benefits and markets. Multiplication: make the list; make copies of a component; change one of the essential attributes of the copy; visualise and look for benefits. Task Unification: give a component an additional task, either internal or external; look for new benefits. Attribute Dependency: work out what is dependent on what else (this is much more complicated).
  26. PREDATORY THINKING Dave Trott Nothing exists in limbo and context is everything, so you need to out-think the problem by changing a piece of it.
  27. PREDATORY THINKING Dave Trott Creative is an adjective not a noun – you have to think about it all the time and make ideas happen. Life is a zero-sum game – you can’t have more than 100% of anything. 90% of advertising doesn’t work – it’s not even noticed, let alone remembered. You can run from it or you can learn from it – learning isn’t the same as being taught. Less really is more – when his son combines his two favourite foods (Twiglets and strawberry ice cream), it doesn’t tastes twice as good. Taste is the enemy of creativity – if it’s comfortable, it won’t be distinctive enough. Form follows function – get the brief right first, and then the rest flows properly. The human mind is our medium – we see things not as they are, but as we are.
  28. IMAGINE Jonah Lehrer Ideas come from sheer persistence, but only when we relax, so if you work hard enough on something, and focus on not being focused, there will eventually be an unconcealing.
  29. IMAGINE Jonah Lehrer  Muses, higher powers and creative ‘types’ are myths  Creativity is not a ‘gift’ that only some possess – it’s a catch-all for distinct thought processes that we can all learn to use more effectively.  It’s only after we’ve stopped searching for an answer that it arrives.  Breakthroughs follow a ‘stumped phase’.  Trying to force insights can often prevent them– ideas arrive when the mind is distracted or relaxed.  Focus on not being focused.  Ideas occur best in ‘third places’ – neither the home nor the office.
  30. WHERE GOOD IDEAS COME FROM Steven Johnson Go for a walk, cultivate hunches, write things down, but leave things a bit messy so that unexpected links can be made - better thinking will follow.
  31. WHERE GOOD IDEAS COME FROM Steven johnson 1. The Adjacent Possible: coined by scientist Stuart Kauffman, this refers to the nearest next steps that can be made. 2. Liquid Networks: ocean life is so fertile because liquid enables things to flow between each other easily and cross-fertilize. Recreate this liquidity to solve problems. 3. The Slow Hunch: Aha! moments are unusual. Most great ideas start with a hunch and slowly develop. If you write down the rough idea, it is more likely to emerge. 4. Serendipity: when we dream, the brain is having a clearout. Unrelated thoughts often come together in ‘generative chaos’. 5. Error: high productivity ultimately leads to high quality. 6. Exaptation: something extracted from elsewhere is adapted for a new purpose. Gutenberg’s printing press was an adapted wine press. 7. Platforms: coral reefs, beaver dams, GPS – things built on other things are a great basis for innovation.
  32. HOW TO USE • • • • • • • Be inquisitive Make the time Understand the lines of argument Take a view Inform your work Enjoy the debate Ask Kevin to speak or train
  33. KEVIN DUNCAN More detail at: www.greatesthitsblog.com Ask Kevin to speak or train: 07979 808770 kevinduncanexpertadvice@gmail.com Twitter: @kevinduncan