Everything is Obvious by Duncan Watts

Drawing lessons from hindsight isn't just wrong. It's dangerous.

Duncan Watts has an interesting take on bestsellers, successful companies, and iconic pieces of art. With the benefit of hindsight, we can explain why rise above the din of other books, companies, and statues. But those explanations are much are less useful than they seem.

Everything is Obvious*: How Common Sense Fails Us (affiliate link) is an amazing book. (The asterisk signifies “Once You Know the Answer.”)

It 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 The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (affiliate link). Everything is Obvious should be required reading for leaders of industry and government. In a nutshell, it shows that we don’t know nearly as much as we think we do–and why.

Yes, Big Data means that we’ll be able to increase our ability to predict and explain things. Yes, analytics will improve, but don’t for a minute think that we’ll be able to know everything. We’ll continue to miss major trends, bubbles, revolutions, and scores of other critical events.

This is a book that I routinely recommend.

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