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Extended Audio Sample Everything Is Obvious: *Once You Know the Answer Audiobook, by Duncan J. Watts Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (634 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Duncan J. Watts Narrator: Duncan J. Watts Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: March 2011 ISBN: 9780307879974
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Drawing on the latest scientific research, along with a wealth of historical and contemporary examples, Watts shows how common sense reasoning and history conspire to mislead us into believing that we understand more about the world of human behavior than we do; and in turn, why attempts to predict, manage, or manipulate social and economic systems so often go awry.

It seems obvious, for example, that people respond to incentives; yet policy makers and managers alike frequently fail to anticipate how people will respond to the incentives they create. Social trends often seem to be driven by certain influential people; yet marketers have been unable to identify these “influencers” in advance. And although successful products or companies always seem in retrospect to have succeeded because of their unique qualities, predicting the qualities of the next hit product or hot company is notoriously difficult even for experienced professionals.

Only by understanding how and when common sense fails, Watts argues, can we improve how we plan for the future, as well as understand the present—an argument that has important implications in politics, business, and marketing, as well as in science and everyday life. Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • A brilliant account of why, for  every hard question, there’s a common sense answer that’s simple, seductive,  and spectacularly wrong. If you are suspicious of pop sociology, rogue  economics, and didactic history – or, more importantly, if you aren’t! –  Everything is Obvious is  necessary reading. It will literally change the way you think."
  • - Eric Klinenberg,  Professor of Sociology. New York University
  • You have to take notice when common sense, the bedrock thing we’ve always counted on, is challenged brilliantly. Especially when something better than common sense is suggested. As we increasingly experience the world as a maddeningly complex blur, we need a new way of seeing. The fresh ideas in this book, like the invention of spectacles, help bring things into better focus.
    Alan Alda
  • Everything is Obvious is indicated for managers, scholars, or anyone else tired of oversimplified, faulty explanations about how business, government, society and even sports work. Temporary side effects of reading Duncan Watts' tour de force include: light-headedness, a tendency to question one's colleagues, temporary doubt in one's own strategies.  Long term effects include: Deeper insight into history, current events, corporate politics and any other human activity that involves more than one person at a time.  Everything is Obvious is available without a prescription.”
  • - Dalton Conley, Dean for the Social Sciences, New York University

  • "A truly important work that's bound to rattle the cages of pseudo- and self-proclaimed experts in every field. If this book doesn't force you to re-examine what you're doing, something is wrong with you.  
    Guy Kawasaki, author of Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions, and co-founder of Alltop.com.
  • Watts brings science to life. A complicated, global, interconnected world, one which often overwhelms, is tamed by wit, skepticism, and the power to challenge conventional wisdom. The book will help you see patterns, where you might have thought chaos ruled."
  • -Sudhir Venkatesh, William B. Ransford Professor of Sociology at Columbia University
  • A deep and insightful book that is a joy to read. There are new ideas on every page, and none of them is obvious!”
  • -Daniel Gilbert, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and author of Stumbling on Happiness
  • Mr. Watts, a former sociology professor and physicist who is now a researcher for Yahoo, has written a fascinating book that ranges through psychology, economics, marketing and the science of social networks.
    The Wall Street Journal
  • It’s about time a sociologist wrote an amazing and accessible book for a non-specialist audience. Everything Is Obvious*: Once You Know the Answer by Duncan J. Watts is that amazing book.
    Inside Higher Ed
  • In this bold thesis, renowned network scientist Duncan J. Watts exposes the complex mechanics of judgement and proposes a radical new way of thinking about human behaviour.  Scott Wilson, The Fringe Magazine
  • Common sense is a kind of bespoke make-believe, and we can no more use it to scientifically explain the workings of the social world than we can use a hammer to understand mollusks.”
  • — Nicholas Christakis, The New York Times 
  • Everything is Obvious is engagingly written and sparkles with counter-intuitive insights. Its modesty about what can and cannot be known also compares favourably with other “big idea” books.”
  • — James Crabtree, comment editor Financial Times
  • Every once in a while, a book comes along that forces us to re-examine what we know and how we know it. This is one of those books. And while it is not always pleasurable to realize the many ways in which we are wrong, it is useful to figure out the cases where our intuitions fail us.
    Dan Ariely, James B. Duke Professor of Behavioral Economics at Duke University, and New York Times bestselling author of Predictably Irrational

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Phil Simon | 2/19/2014

    " Everything is Obvious is exactly the kind of book that makes people uncomfortable. And that's exactly why everyone should read it. Watts shows that we don't know nearly as much as we think we do. Written in a much more accessible style than [[ASIN:0141034599 The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable]], Everything is Obvious should be required reading for leaders of industry and government. In a nutshell, it shows that we don't know jack--and why. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kevan | 2/16/2014

    " To be honest I was a little disappointed. I think it's due to Daniel Kahneman. DK's work covers so much and had so much new thinking in it that it's difficult for any one to compete. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Nick | 2/12/2014

    " Freakonomics has a lot to answer for -- a whole series of books arguing against our pathetic, puny common sense and assumptions about modern life and for probability-based thinking. Drug dealers actually live with their mothers and make less than the minimum wage -- that sort of thing. This book is another in the series, and a good one. The author points out that most of our explanations for why things are or why they happen are circular. We say, for example, that the Mona Lisa is a magnificent painting because it has the attributes of a magnificent painting. And predicting freak events is virtually impossible, because we don't know the terms of a unique event until it happens. The author argues that it's better to track what's in front of us -- current reality --and react quickly to that, rather than to try to predict what's going to happen. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 John Schacter | 2/7/2014

    " Magnificent! A well research and super interesting book about what makes things popular and why. It's not obvious "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Irene | 2/4/2014

    " Definitely one of those interesting books. Has a point that you remember. The entire premise of the book is very interesting, that common sense is not really that common, and that it's the worst way to make decisions for big entities like business and government, how backwards our reasoning can be, and how that affects society and its study, sociology. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to have major revelations. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Risto Pakarinen | 1/17/2014

    " A great eye-opener. The world is messy. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bruce | 1/10/2014

    " provoking. a thoughtful read "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Amy Turner | 12/31/2013

    " The author is a physicist who became a sociologist and I like his cross-disciplinary thinking. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Matt | 11/7/2013

    " Really deserves 3.5 stars, but I can't do fractions apparently. It's interesting material and presented in an easy to understand manner, but it's not a book that will keep you hooked for hours on end. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Jon | 11/3/2013

    " This is merely a compendium of about 5 other books I've already read. Who thought this would be a good idea to write this? There's nothing new about it at all. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Prak | 10/29/2013

    " The author brings out many issues with commonsense. He asks questions that I have often asked myself - of course there are no definitive answers (yet) since it is almost impossible to replay history with a different random seed. The book is extremely interesting. Worth a read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Allison | 10/17/2013

    " Fascinating look at common sense and influence and why people do the things they do (or rather, how we actually have no idea why). Dragged a little toward the end, but utterly thought provoking and provides many great points of conversation and further thought. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Amanda Brinkmann | 1/22/2013

    " Brilliant - one of THE best, inspiring, well-written, mind-altering and life-changing books I have had the privilege of reading. All I can say is: Just READ it! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Stephanie Levan | 1/18/2013

    " This book was on the verge of being over my head throughout. Don't let the cover fool you -- it's more science-y than about common sense. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Simon Salt | 11/25/2012

    " This is one of the most engrossing non-fiction books I have read in a long time. For me, at least, it was a real page turner and I learned an a lot that I will be putting to good use very soon. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Qu | 3/18/2012

    " Currently on page 68 "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Margaret Sankey | 1/20/2012

    " Watts is the unusual combination of systems engineer and sociologist, so turning him loose on received wisdom yields entertaining and illustrative examples of the perils of "common sense" defaults and inductive reasoning, with some extremely satisfying Malcolm Gladwell thrashing in between. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mike Rogero | 1/2/2012

    " Enjoyable breakdown of all the reason common sense fails in many of our real-world decision making problems. Not only why it is rare...but all of the ways it goes wrong. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Steve | 9/29/2011

    " Well written, about the ways that common-sense doesn't really apply to complex social situations - but why we cling to erroneous common-sense explanations anyway. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 FATHOM+HATCH | 6/10/2011

    " Another business book to chew through | Contains some good ideas regarding our ability to predict and have foresight | Highly informed by sociologists, political scientists, and economists. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ralph Orr | 5/8/2011

    " A good easy-to-read overview of a sociologist's exploration of the strengths and weaknesses of common sense, with additional insights into how social media and the Internet are revolutionizing sociology. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Stephanie | 4/19/2011

    " This book was on the verge of being over my head throughout. Don't let the cover fool you -- it's more science-y than about common sense. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Henry | 4/11/2011

    " Awesome book about unpredictability. Last chapter derails a bit. "

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About the Author
Duncan J. Watts, a professor of sociology at Columbia University, is a principal research scientist at Yahoo! Research. A former officer in the Royal Australian Navy, he holds a Ph.D. in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics from Cornell University. He is the author of Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age (Norton, 2003). He lives in New York City.
 
For more information visit www.everythingisobvious.com