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Need a good beach read? Try Paul Ormerod’s new book, says Sunday Times

As the realisation hits home that the weather really isn’t going to get any better, it’s hard to prevent one’s thoughts from wandering in the direction of that upcoming beach holiday (or, if you’re unlucky, that beach holiday you’ve just had).

And with such thoughts comes the inevitable question of what to read on said beach. Having recently worked with Paul Ormerod, I was delighted to see that Bryan Appleyard of the Sunday Times has recommended Paul’s latest book for just such an occasion. Positive Linking: how networks can revolutionise the world, is a fun and stimulating debunking of the myth that the world can be adequately understood by assuming humans make only rational choices. In fact, says Paul, we make decisions by copying others and using rules of thumb, which makes for an infinitely more complex world.

According to Bryan Appleyard, “Nothing promotes holiday serenity as effectively as the contemplation of human folly”. This insight is rather netaly timed: I’m off to lounge about on a beautiful Bavarian lake next week, and, since this kind of thing is right up my “Strasse”, it would appear that I am sorted. Bring on the pebbles and sand…

Networking with Paul Ormerod and Julia Hobsbawm

This weekend was an unusually busy one, spent catching up with friends visiting from Germany, going to a house party or two, meeting with an old musical compadre to record some cello, having friends over for Sunday lunch etc.

Why this sudden flurry of social activity?

Perhaps it was because I’d spent the previous week being steeped in the wisdom of two of the UK (and the world’s) leading thinkers on networks and networking.

Paul Ormerod spoke for Chartwell on the ideas underpinning his latest book, Positive Linking: how networks can revolutionise the world. For him, conventional economic theory, with its emphasis on rational actors making purely utility-maximising decisions, is inadequate because it fails to understand the fundamental nature of network effects: how people’s behaviour is influenced heavily simply by the impulse to copy others. Understanding the implications of this can open up new possibilities for business and policy-makers, and can prevent a repeat of the mistakes that led up to the financial crisis, which can in part be attributed to the use of models based purely on theories that ignore the rapid and unpredictable effects of networks.

A couple of nights later I was lucky enough to be invited to attend Julia Hobsbawm’s inaugural lecture as  Honorary Visiting Professor of Networking at City University’s Cass Business School. An attentive (and star-studded) audience listened to the founder of Editorial Intelligence discuss, amongst other things, how forming networks of ‘weak ties’  is a highly affective way of keeping us innovative, well-informed and nimble enough to solve an ever-widening range of problems.

And who says partying isn’t work?


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