[Book Review] Why You Shouldn’t Always Try To Reinvent the Wheel


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Source:  Amazon

In his new book, Evolutionary Ideas:  Unlocking ancient innovations to solve tomorrow’s challenges (Harriman House Ltd., 2022), Sam Tatam argues that marketers and other business professionals don’t always need to create extravagant or entirely new solutions to successfully address significant and perplexing problems or challenges.

Evolutionary Ideas is one of the newest in a group of books that deal with the application of behavioral science principles to marketing and other aspects of business.

Sam Tatam is well-positioned to write about this topic. He is currently the Global Head of Behavioral Science at Ogilvy, where he leads a global team of psychologists and behavioral economists. He holds a master’s degree in organizational psychology from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. 

What’s In the Book

The central thesis of Evolutionary Ideas is that principles of behavioral science and evolutionary psychology provide the raw materials for innovative solutions to some of the most perplexing challenges faced by businesses and other organizations.

Sam Tatum argues that the conventional approach to innovation and problem-solving is heavily influenced by two myths. The first is that big problems need big solutions. In other words, we typically think that the more significant a problem or challenge is, the more expansive or “revolutionary” the solution needs to be.

Tatum writes, “We fail to see that, particularly when developing psychological solutions, the rules are different. The subtle, small and incremental can have unexpectedly significant impacts.”

The second innovation myth is that new problems require new solutions. The reality, Tatum argues, is that many of the problems or challenges we perceive to be unique and new are actually variants of issues that nature or human psychology has already addressed. Therefore, we should focus more on adapting and applying those natural or psychological solutions that evolution has already shown to be successful.

Evolutionary Ideas is structured in two parts. In Part 1, Tatum discusses three types of “tools” that enable an “evolutionary” approach to innovation and problem-solving.

  • Evolved natural solutions – Those created by adapting solutions that exist in the natural world, i.e. biomimicry
  • Evolved technical solutions – Those created by applying the innovation/problem-solving methodology known as TRIZ
  • Evolved psychological solutions – Those created by applying principles of behavioral sciences

Part 2 of the book is devoted to applying principles of behavioral science to address five of the most fundamental challenges (“contradictions”) facing business and marketing leaders.

  • “Reinforcing Trust Without Altering the Truth” (Chapters 6-9)
  • “Aiding Decisions Without Limiting Choice” (Chapters 10-13)
  • “Triggering Action Without Forcing a Decision” (Chapters 14-17)
  • “Boosting Loyalty Without Increasing Rewards” (Chapters 18-21)
  • “Improving Experience Without Changing Duration” (Chapters 22-25)

Tatum concludes his book with an extensive list of questions relating to these five challenges. The questions are designed to stimulate thinking about how behavioral science principles can be leveraged to address each challenge.

My Take

I enjoyed Evolutionary Ideas, and it would be a worthwhile read for anyone involved in marketing or customer experience management.

The book is organized and written well. Sam Tatum’s informal writing style makes the book easy to read, and its brief chapters make it easy to consume in bite-sized portions.

Evolutionary Ideas does not contain a detailed academic discussion of the principles of behavioral science and evolutionary psychology, although Tatum does include extensive endnotes and sources for further reading.

Therefore, Tatum’s book is particularly well-suited to be the second or third book you read about these topics. For example, whenever clients ask me what they should read to learn about behavioral science, I always recommend they start with Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman and Nudge:  The Final Edition by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein.

Evolutionary Ideas and Nancy Harhut’s recent book (which I reviewed here) would both be good choices to be next on your reading list.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

David Dodd
David Dodd is a B2B business and marketing strategist, author, and marketing content developer. He works with companies to develop and implement marketing strategies and programs that use compelling content to convert prospects into buyers.


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