Alchemy: The opposite of a good idea can also be a good idea

About this book

The surrounding world, meanwhile, is irreducibly complex and random. This means future success can’t be projected on any accounting spreadsheet. To strike gold, you must master the dark art and curious science of conjuring irresistible ideas: alchemy.

My thoughts

This book taught me to doubt reality.
Here are my Highlights that smart people don't like:

  • The opposite of a good idea can also be a good idea.
  • It doesn’t pay to be logical if everyone else is being logical.
  • The problem with logic is that it kills off magic.

The author is from the direct marketing industry meaning that he is good at selling products.

He wrote this book from his experiences, so it's persuading me. I'm also from the same industry. I believe the tactics and way of thinking are enough to believe.

While reading this book, I tried the tactics:

What if we discovered that greater leisure time would benefit the US economy, both in terms of money spent on leisure goods and also in greater productivity?

When I took a long vacation, I became more productive. I was a bit too busy to have Clear Thinking.

Also, the below made my mind move.

I would rather run a business with no mathematicians than with second-rate mathematicians.

The above is totally true. I'm not a good mathematician, so basically I don't look at the number too much even though I'm a marketer.

I made $2 million from digital marketing, so my skill is fairly enough. But I can say that the number is not that important. Focus on the psycho-logic is more important than the numbers.

Lastly, here is the thing.
Irrational behavior increases your followers:

If you are wholly predictable, people learn to hack you.

If you optimize your behavior to increase your followers, you will be like a smart bot that can't increase your followers.

Instead, just focus on psycho-logic to understand people's real desires so that you can be the only one. Then you'll get followers.

Great actions to increase your followers are the actions that are unpredictable but benefit the whole world or followers.

» Alchemy (Rory Sutherland)

My highlights

Solving problems using rationality is like playing golf with only one club.

When you demand logic, you pay a hidden price: you destroy magic.

Business, creativity and the arts are full of successful non-sense.

‘Hey, let’s try marketing a really expensive drink, that comes in a tiny can . . . and that tastes kind of disgusting.’ Yet that is exactly what one company did. And by doing so they launched a soft drinks brand that would indeed go on to be a worthy rival to Coca-Cola: that drink was Red Bull.

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.

It was surely relevant that Trump was filling sports halls wherever he campaigned, while Clinton was drawing sparse crowds. It’s important to remember that big data all comes from the same place – the past.

Some scientists believe that driverless cars will not work unless they learn to be irrational. If such cars stop reliably whenever a pedestrian appears in front of them, pedestrian crossings will be unnecessary and jaywalkers will be able to march into the road, forcing the driverless car to stop suddenly, at great discomfort to its occupants.

While in physics the opposite of a good idea is generally a bad idea, in psychology the opposite of a good idea can be a very good idea indeed: both opposites often work.

We tested a two-paragraph letter. Fortunately, I was right. What had emerged was that there were two ways to sell this product: with a very long letter – which was reassuring because it was long, and with a very short letter – which was reassuring because it was very short.

why people bought electric drills. ‘Well obviously you need to make a hole in something, to put up some shelves or something, and so you go out and buy a drill to perform the job,’ someone said, sensibly. Llewelyn Thomas, the copywriter son of the poet Dylan, was having none of this. ‘I don’t think it works like that at all. You see an electric drill in a shop and decide you want it. Then you take it home and wander around your house looking for excuses to drill holes in things.’ This discussion perfectly captures the divide between those who believe in rational explanation and those who believe in unconscious motivation; between logic and psycho-logic.

The trick I used was simple. Don’t look at the logistics of the problem, look at it from the perspective of a passenger. To reduce journey times by 40 minutes, you don’t have to reduce the amount of time people spend on the train – which is in any case the most enjoyable part of their journey – you could simply reduce the amount of time they waste waiting for the train. Provided their end-to-end journey is 40 minutes quicker, they’ve saved 40 minutes. This would be easy to do. At the moment, most people buy an advance ticket to travel from London to Manchester or Birmingham, which gives a considerable saving on the cost of the journey, but requires you to travel on a specified train – and if you miss this train, the ticket is worthless. As a result, people typically allow a wide margin of error in fear of missing their train, and turn up at Euston station about 45 minutes before their designated train is due to depart. In those 45 minutes, two earlier trains will typically leave the station, and these generally have empty seats on them.

» Alchemy (Rory Sutherland)