A Storytelling Coach More details here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ravishankar-iyer/
Matt Ridley likes to mention an old joke:
He adds to this:
This is a quote from a fascinating book that I'm reviewing this week.
Welcome to my content recommendations and reviews for Aug-21: a book, a podcast, articles and a couple of videos.
Let's get started.
It was while reading another book (The Second Machine Age) that I had come across a staggering chart.
That period - when world population just zooms up - is around 1770, the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. A time when it seemed that humankind decided to collectively turn on their innovation switch, leading to the greatest era of prosperity and health we have ever seen on the planet.
Sure, there was innovation before the 18th century. Agriculture, trade, writing... even fire - were all superb ideas that propelled us forward.
What the Industrial Revolution did was to slowly turn up the 'Innovation dial' on Earth towards maximum intensity... letting loose an explosion of ever-amazing discoveries and inventions.
Today, of course, that dial is turned up to full-on 'Beast' mode.
In this seminal book, Matt Ridley tells this fascinating story of Innovation - through the ages.
It is an astonishing piece of writing, in which, apart from breezing through innovation since the dawn of humankind, he covers areas as diverse as: Energy, Manufacturing, Health, Transport, Food, Communications and Computing.
And he does that by superbly combining two rare skills: the all-encompassing eye of an army commander with the precision of a hand-surgeon. Despite covering so much ground, the book is relatively short at just 400-odd pages.
Ridley has an impressive resume: he's an accomplished author with several bestselling books (mostly on science, especially genomics), a former science editor at The Economist, a business leader and also a member of the UK House of Lords.
My biggest takeaways from the book were the fascinating patterns that Ridley identifies on innovation.
Here are the five most striking ones (all quotes from the book):
1. The field is more important than the lab:
You don't need to be a 'scientist' or have fancy degrees to be an innovator. All you need is the next ingredient...
2. The importance of tinkering or trial-and-error in invention
Curious, patient and meticulous tinkering is probably the most important feature of innovators.
As a contrast, Ridley offers the cautionary tale of the nuclear energy sector as one impacted by the lack of opportunity to learn using trial-and-error:
3. You can't stop an idea whose time has come
Corollary: Sometimes the world may not be ready for a new idea
An idea is not a standalone thing. Like a cog, it needs to fit in the wider ecosystem. That ecosystem needs to be ready.
For instance, Ridley talks about wheeled suitcases:
I loved that last line - as an entrepreneur, you need not even ask: What can I invent? You can just explore - what idea is already out there, but was perhaps too early for its time?
4. Not all inventors end up wealthy
They may not have ended up wealthy, but probably many of them were doing it for the thrill of innovating itself. Having said that, there is a tenuous link between creating something new and useful... and being able to profit from it.
5. There's a long and hard road to turn a discovery/invention into an innovation
Paraphrasing Peter Thiel, you may have the product, but do you have the distribution?
Ridley mentions the case of penicillin, and how it took a lot of work after its (lucky) discovery to make it a global success:
Incidentally, startups are often told - create painkillers, not vitamins. Well, penicillin (an antibiotic) is as close as it gets to being a painkiller. And yet it struggled to get acceptance...
The book has several such high value lessons on how innovation actually happens. In addition to these lessons, it's also got a great set of storytelling techniques to learn from.
Here are four techniques that stood out for me: .
A good storyteller never lets a surprising fact go without a drumroll-type announcement.
For instance, instead of simply saying:
...here's what Ridley says:
The buildup he uses creates immense curiosity around the concept... and also makes you appreciate it more.
2. Clutter breaking insights
When you research such a wide array of material, you would naturally be pondering about them all the time. During such periods of reflection, you might come across a gobsmacking insight that suddenly explains a lot in a surprising yet simple way.
This is one such insight from the book:
Ponder on that a bit!
3. Surprise - using norm and variance
Which form of energy is the most dangerous? Is it:
Surely, your answer would be 'Nuclear'?
Surprise! It is the lowest, according to one study cited by Ridley:
4. Fascinating incidents
The chapter on food is incredibly deeply researched. Ridley dives into the history of what drove the 'Green Revolution' which ensured that India (and other populous, poor countries) did not see mass starvation (something which was predicted by many leading scientists of that time).
Here's Ridley sharing the story of an incident between the food scientist, Normal Borlaug and Ashok Mehta, a senior Indian government official:
A minor quibble
One minor quibble about the book: In some parts Ridley's writing assumes that the audience 'gets' science terms. For instance he says:
Reading this, I was like: "What's a dynamo?" Surely a writer cannot assume that all readers would know that.
Overall though, 'How Innovation Works' is a must-read for anyone interested in knowing about this fascinating topic.
Naval Ravikant (just known as Naval to his legions of adoring fans) is a Silicon Valley institution. There are Twitter accounts called @NavalBot, @QuoteNaval, @NavalismHQ, all of which are dedicated to sharing extracts/quotes from Naval's work!
(There's a book called "The Almanack of Naval Ravikant" written by someone, who's presumably a fan)
Anyway, here's what Naval says about Matt Ridley in the podcast intro:
And here's what he says about who this book is for:
I think the podcast episode (which is in 2 parts) is great listening for those who wouldn't have time to read the book... or (like me), would like to get introduced to the ideas in the book before picking it up.
In this article, he tackles a different subject: geography.
Tomas discusses the importance of geography in the development of Europe. It's a theme that has fascinated me ever since I read "Guns Germs and Steel" several years ago. Tomas does a great visual job of telling the story of why Northern Europe was geographically better endowed to do well or why the Greek empire was destined to be overtaken by another power.
Few writers pack in so much wisdom in such less space, as Mr. Housel.
In this write up he lays out the two fundamental opposing forces that work in investing: Betting on Change vs Betting on Compounding benefits of things remaining the same.
Here's a brilliant line from the piece:
I also loved this line by VC leader Marc Andreesen, where he's comparing the difference between his own investment approaches and that of Warren Buffett:
I think Matthew Levine is either:
a. An alien from another planet
b. The generic name for 5 clones who all look, speak and write the same
c. An AI program that is from the future.
I refuse to believe that one individual could be so productive and so good.
His daily newsletter, 'Money Stuff', on the world of finance and business, is super-popular, reaching 150K+ readers. More importantly, the emails are incredibly insightful, insanely witty (I mean, I've laughed out loud several times) and if that weren't enough, intensely long!
Also did I mention it's a daily newsletter? As in it comes every day of the week. Every. Single. Day... Matt writes 4,000+ words of funny, high-quality analysis of Wall-Street happenings, without fail.
As I said, we're dealing with an alien, clones or an AI program. Take your pick.
Meanwhile, here is a (relatively) small sample from one of his recent emails - on the story of the employees of Archegos Capital who lost their bonuses worth $500M:
Oh, by the way, you can sign up for the newsletter here.
You are a genuine legend. You've won 20 Grand Slam titles and been world no. 1 for years on end.
And you have just won a gruelling match in the most prestigious tournament of your sport.
And, when an interviewer asks you a simple question, one that includes a phrase (a simple phrase "absence makes the heart grow fonder") that is not native to your mother tongue... you
- Eschew the temptation to faff
- Avoid the route of just smiling and mumbling some vague response and
- Refrain from trying to infer some meaning for those words...
Instead you own up to your ignorance and state clearly: "Sorry, I don't understand that saying. My English is not good enough".
That takes courage and vulnerability. True legend.
This video by the Irish comedy trio (one of my favourites) is really different. I loved how they broke down the process of making something or someone appear evil!
It starts off all goofy. Then, in the middle, things gets goosebumpy... and then ends with mirth again.
Brilliant breakdown of how to emote evil.
That's it folks: my recommended reads, listens and views for the month.
Take care and stay safe.
PS: Got this email as a forward? Get your own copy here.
A Storytelling Coach More details here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ravishankar-iyer/
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Welcome to the fifty-second edition of '3-2-1 by Story Rules'. It's officially been 52 weeks (slightly more than a year) of doing this and I'm kicked! But I also feel that there's a long way to go... If you find this of value, please forward it to others in your network and recommend them to subscribe, so that more folks can benefit from the content. Anyway, back to 3-2-1 by Story Rules - a newsletter recommending good examples of storytelling across: 3 tweets 2 articles, and 1 long-form...
Welcome to the fifty-first edition of '3-2-1 by Story Rules'. A newsletter recommending good examples of storytelling across: 3 tweets 2 articles, and 1 long-form content piece Let's dive in. 🐦 3 Tweets of the week Source: X Such a fascinating stat - and great visualisation! (Data from this report) Source: X Not just editing - this applies to writing too. There's always the temptation to just 'finish off' the troublesome parts. A true craftsman irons out every crease though. Source: X Never...