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Double Designs, Placebos, Corporate Narratives, and a Once-in-a-Million Scenario That Comes Around 500 Times a Day (Weekend Reading and Viewing for April 4, 2014)

Every week, we distribute an internal email about what we've been reading. As you'd expect, the topics are quite diverse but almost all of them have some connection to our work here. Here, we share it with you as well (with references to some secret projects edited out). 

One magazine issue that's getting dog-eared quickly around the office is the Businessweek double issue on design. It’s really good and full of insights from people doing very different types of design, from clothes to medicine, but as a fan of Businessweek I’m nervous that a double issue is only 100 pages, less than a single issue was not so long ago. 

Anyone remember the old Steve Martin joke about being addicted to placebos? Turns out he wasn’t so far off. Seth Godin has a new ebook (download the PDF) about how placebos add value to the services we’re marketing and delivering. It’s short and provocative and worth your time.

Speaking of the stories we tell ourselves, John Hagel has a mostly understandable essay on Expanding Horizons Through Corporate Narratives. It’s long and winding, but here’s the conclusion: "Powerful narratives emerge from sustained and widespread actions by the company that demonstrate the commitment of the company to act in ways that are consistent with the narrative.  A successful narrative therefore requires the deep understanding, commitment and engagement of the entire leadership of a company.” 

Finally, if you haven’t seen Del Harvey’s talk on scale at TED this month, give it 10 minutes. Del works at Twitter and she spoke engagingly about how there are so many messages posted on Twitter, half a billion a day, that a once-in-a-milion scenario happens 500 times every day. If you’ve ever heard someone go on about laws of large numbers, here’s a very clear dramatization of those principles. 

 

Create Your Own Genius Cluster

Back in February, our Matt Saiia wrote a post about Three Ways to Make Your Company More Innovative. In it, he noted that you’re a lot more likely to see innovation when people and ideas have lots of chances to bump into one another.

Learn How to Give a Better Talk By Watching One About Suicidal Wasps, Zombie Roaches, and Other Parasites

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We're still decompressing from TED2014 here. We just noticed that one of our favorite talks from last week got posted today and we want to share. Ed Yong is a science writer and he offered a talk about parasites that was full of surprise, things that are not what they appear to be, and plenty of humor to support its story. In its way, it may be the strangest and most provocative talk we've ever seen about the limits of freedom. The funniest and the grossest, too.