Why we do the things we do
Why do we hate to admit our mistakes? That’s just one of the questions explored in a trio of intriguing new books that explore the intersection between business and human behavior.
WHAT'S IT WORTH TO YOU?
Why do consumers pay more for one thing—a cup of coffee, a printer, an employee—than another? Business journalist Eduardo Porter decided to find out. In The Price of Everything: Solving the Mystery of Why We Pay What We Do he offers food for thought regarding the conscious and unconscious reasons behind the prices we’re willing to pay for everything from license plates to lap dances. Each exploration is at once thoughtful, detailed and fascinating; standouts include his conclusion that women are more valued in polygamous societies, and his take on the eventual price Americans will pay for the housing crisis. “[Prices are] indicators of human preferences and guides of humankind,” he writes, which might sound like hyperbole—until you read this book.
TO ERR IS HUMAN
It started with a goof: Alina Tugend made an error in her “Shortcuts” column for the New York Times business section. She owned up and ran a correction, but something stuck with her: She wondered why, even though we’re told we learn from our mistakes, they’re still seen (and felt) as bad. She wrote a popular column about that dichotomy and delves even deeper into the issue in Better By Mistake: The Unexpected Benefits of Being Wrong. As the subtitle indicates, mistakes are good for us, but only when handled properly. On TV and in conversation, forgetting your car keys and misdiagnosing an illness are both called “mistakes.” This lack of distinction is compounded by a societal tendency toward perfectionism and an unwillingness to concede wrongdoing, let alone apologize. Tugend’s research is extensive and well explained; she skillfully shows that everyone from CEOs to doctors to parents is affected by this inability to admit mistakes, and we’d be better off accepting that “perfection is a myth.” That doesn’t mean we’re settling for less, but rather allowing for more creativity and communication—and who could argue with that?
It’s hard not to notice—thanks to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube—that sitting and watching a movie or TV show is no longer enough. Now people want to participate in a multifaceted experience. But where is all this interaction going to take us—and how should creators and advertisers handle it? In The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories Frank Rose, a contributing editor at Wired, examines the ways in which the lines between author and audience, advertisement and entertainment, are blurring. He uses in-depth, compelling case studies to show how creators and advertisers are striving to keep viewers committed and engaged. As Rose writes, “The future beckons, but we’re only partway through inventing it.”