The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don't Make Sense
The hugely anticipated first book from the TED Talks star and advertising legend
‘A breakthrough book. Wonderfully applicable to everything in life, and funny as hell.’ Nassim Nicholas Taleb
To be brilliant, you have to be irrational
Why is Red Bull so popular – even though everyone hates the taste? Why do countdown boards on platforms take away the pain of train delays? And why do we prefer stripy toothpaste?
We think we are rational creatures. Economics and business rely on the assumption that we make logical decisions based on evidence.
But we aren’t, and we don’t.
In many crucial areas of our lives, reason plays a vanishingly small part. Instead we are driven by unconscious desires, which is why placebos are so powerful. We are drawn to the beautiful, the extravagant and the absurd – from lavish wedding invitations to tiny bottles of the latest fragrance. So if you want to influence people’s choices you have to bypass reason. The best ideas don’t make rational sense: they make you feel more than they make you think.
Rory Sutherland is the Ogilvy advertising legend whose TED Talks have been viewed nearly 7 million times. In his first book he blends cutting-edge behavioural science, jaw-dropping stories and a touch of branding magic, on his mission to turn us all into idea alchemists. The big problems we face every day, whether as an individual or in society, could very well be solved by letting go of logic and embracing the irrational.
“This is a breakthrough book: Mother Reality makes sense in her own way. She yields her secrets to practitioners, almost never to academics - something psychologists, economists and non-skin in the game people, no matter what they say, are functionally unable to grasp. And the book is funny as hell: I smiled and laughed at every paragraph. Furthermore, this is the first such treatise written by someone who had true contact with reality via something called a P/L. And this is wonderfully applicable to about everything in life, from how to announce airplane delays to how to handle unsold opera tickets. Buy two copies of this book in case one is stolen.”
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, scholar and former trader; author of the Incerto.
“Reading Alchemy was, as its title promised, the process of turning paper and print into gold. Veins of wisdom regarding human functioning emerge regularly and brilliantly from the pages. Don't miss this book.”
Robert Cialdini, bestselling author of Influence, Yes!, The Small BIG and Pre-suasion
“Revelatory and entertaining”
The Sunday Times
Robert Trivers, evolutionary biologist and author of Deceit and Self-Deception
“Sutherland’s book touches on many facets of life, but all come down to the importance of “psycho-logic”, or non-rational factors, in how we make decisions and how problems can be solved”
“Rory Sutherland is one of the all-time great raconteurs, polymaths, and ad men. But this book shows his hidden depths. Within this fun, quirky, hilarious page-turner, he develops a profound critique of technocratic hubris and fetishised economics. Sutherland helps us rediscover the profound wisdom behind everyday human reasoning, and invites us to explore the magic that happens when we trust a bit less in our focus groups and optimization models, and trust a bit more in our creative eccentricity.”
Geoffrey Miller, evolutionary psychologist, author of The Mating Mind, Spent, and What Women Want
“Brilliant, Brilliant, Brilliant … wonderfully heretical, naughty and funny … Uncommon sense on stilts”
Jules Goddard, Fellow of the Centre for Management Development at London Business School and co-author of Uncommon Sense, Common Nonsense
“Buy this book for the footnotes alone… As a committed devotee of rationalism, who thinks there is not enough of it in this world, I rationally ought to hate this book. Instead I loved it. It’s full of great insights.”
Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist
“Sutherland captivates in a narrative full of intellectual treats that explain much of the behaviours in the world around us. This illogically logical read is a must read for anyone who is in the people business!”
Dilip Soman, Canada Research Chair in Behavioural Science and Economics, University of Toronto
“Stimulating and funny”