• Austin Brailey

Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas that don't make Sense

To fund the war effort against France in 1813, Princess Marianne appealed to all wealthy and aristocratic women to swap their gold ornaments for base metal. In return they were given iron replicas of the gold items of jewellery they had donated, stamped with the words "Gold gab ich fur eisen"...

"I gave gold for iron".

At social events thereafter, wearing and displaying the iron replica jewellery and ornaments (proving wealth AND selflessness) became a far better indication of status than wearing gold itself.

We don’t value things; we value their meaning.

*Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don't Make Sense*, by Rory Sutherland is one of those books you see referenced everywhere, and there's a reason for that... it's good stuff.

The thrust is that "logic should be a tool, not a rule", and in order to be brilliant you must be 'irrational'.

🎩So much has been written about the book already, but here are a few of my key takeaways 🎩

🪄 Whether something makes sense in theory matters less than whether it works in practice.

🪄 What often matters most to those making a decision in business or government is not a successful outcome, but their ability to defend their decision, whatever the outcome may be.

🪄 It's much easier to be fired for being illogical than it is for being unimaginative (so everyone ends up producing the same boring stuff).

🪄 Since entrepreneurs don’t have to defend their reasoning every time they make a decision, they are free to experiment with solutions that are off-limits to others within a corporate or institutional setting.

🪄 Sometimes our behaviour is nonsensical because we evolved for conditions different to those we now find ourselves in.

🪄 ‘Context’ is often the most important thing in determining how people think, behave and act; this simple fact dooms many universal models from the start.

🪄 In coming up with anything genuinely new, unconscious instinct, luck and simple random experimentation play a far greater part in the problem-solving process than we ever admit.

🪄 Regardless of what we say, we are much bothered by the uncertainty of waiting than by the duration of a wait (why train departure boards and Uber make us feel good).

🪄 ‘Find one or two things your boss is rubbish at and be quite good at them.’ Complementary talent is far more valuable than conformist talent.

🪄 "I have never seen any evidence that academic success accurately predicts workplace success."

🪄 Often, we would rather win an argument than be right.

🪄 Logic is what makes a successful engineer or mathematician, but psycho-logic is what has made us a successful breed of monkey that has survived and flourished over time.

🪄 If you confine yourself to using rational argument to encourage rational behaviour, you will be using only a tiny proportion of the tools in your armoury.

Buy the book here:

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