Book Review: The Upside of Irrationality

Hi there! Another kind-of-a-book-review coming your way! After my last review on the Art of Innovation, I read The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely! I was drawn to this book by its title. I have to admit that I like the notion of irrationality, although I frequently pride myself for being a rational and logical human being.

There’s something creative about irrationality and maybe something innovative. This may be an explanation about why this book was the next one I read after reading about innovation..! Well, this was a weird book, I’ll tell you! It was good-weird and actually special, like one-of-a-kind special! It was one of these books that you start reading it and you kind of get the gist, but then half way through it you kind of think that it’s about something completely different and towards the end you change your mind again.

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And in the end, you feel like you have read 2-3 books at the same time, you feel kind of disoriented and unsure about your takeaways but at the same time you feel so full, like you just had a 4-course meal or sth! This book is about work, about love, about friends, life, etc. And it’s about entrepreneurship as well! Yes it is! At least from where I am looking at it…

First of all, reading about what Dan Ariely has been going through was really inspirational and educating for me. It also gave me the sense that this is a book that I should definitely read through. People that have that kind of strength to get through such difficult times, are always worthwhile your time. Reading through the book, definitely confirmed my assumption.

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My highlights of the book, as I usually reflect upon them, were:

  • The experiment about how motivation and bonuses work and how the manual VS cognitive tasks require different incentives,
  • The quote from Upton Sinclair “It’s difficult to get a man to undestand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it”,
  • The experiment with the Bionicles, as it explained a lot of some of the work arrangements I have found myself into through the years. It’s also a useful lesson for any aspiring leader/enterpreneur/boss,
  • The pride of ownership as it was explained through the IKEA effect was really essential for me to understand how pricing should work in a product that you launch,
  • The Not-Invented-Here bias and how it should not be used/applied in a startup environment where all ideas should be welcomed and discussed openly,
  • The case of how revenge works and how experiments about revenge showcase our basic need for revenge in work-life settings. I loved the DoubleTree Club Hotel example,
  • The hedonic treadmill (or adaptation) and how it can be applied to a number of products and experiences,
  • The dating example and the way that people rank the attributes of the people they find attractive based on their own looks. Some amazing experiments there that could be generalized for products or experiences in general I guess,
  • Finally, the way that short-term emotions can affect short-term decisions and in turn, long-term decisions and actual behaviours.
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Thinking about the book, I can’t help by thinking about the sketch above. I think that overall, this was a book about self-discovery of the author. But through this self-discovery, lots of lessons came out for humans in general. Most of the time my mind feels exactly like the picture above. And that’s not because of the classic segmentation of the brain into the left and right hemisphere, blah blah, but because I find myself being sometimes, really organized and logical and at the same time irrational, chaotic and intuitive. And after reading this book, I really feel more and more that it’s ok to be like that and that from this state you can get too many nice things going on, if you manage to balance the urges…

This is a book that will help aspiring entrepreneurs a lot. It’s not about the techniques and tricks for a startup, or these validation boards, mind maps, etc. This is a book about knowing yourself and maybe also about knowing your customers. Recognizing the driving forces or brakes of the human nature is as important for everyone in business as it is to know a thing or two about economics. If you don’t relate to the human nature, no product will ever be good enough. Get the book, read it and share it!


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