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Everything Is Obvious: *Once You Know the Answer Hardcover – March 29, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business (March 29, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385531680
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385531689
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #467,571 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"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


“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


"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

About the Author

DUNCAN 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

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Customer Reviews

This book is an easy read, filled with good examples.
Swift
Dr. Watts engages us by discussing a number of case studies that frequently challenge the conventional wisdom.
Malvin
Despite the author being a physicist-turned-sociologist, this is one of the easiest books to read.
bsg2004

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

106 of 118 people found the following review helpful By L. King on June 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is a personal review - if you haven't come across similar material I think it's a very recommendable read.

I'm a big fan of Duncan Watts' work on Small Worlds, but I did not get as much as I would have liked from his latest pop-sci offering. Some of the material I found new, such as Grannovetter's intriguing threshold hypothesis as to why some mobs gel into mass action and others do not, and he had a very good discussion on the use of online networked communities as social science laboratories, with some interesting results generated from twitter, Facebook and email. And, as is necessary for this kind of a book, there are a number of illustrative anecdotes, such as why BetaMax and Discman failed in the market, but iPod succeeded or Amazon's "Mechanical Turk" - which I just tried out after reading the book, or Zara's approach to marketing. If nothing else it makes for good entertainment and fodder for conversation.

However much of the book hinges around the nature of workable explanations, and I'm surprised that in his wanderings Watts did not come across Herbert Simon's well known The Sciences of the Artificial and his key notion of "satisficing" (we tend to stop at explanations that work sufficiently well, not those that are necessarily true); or the idea of "magical thinking" in allegedly primitive societies; or Donald Norman's
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99 of 118 people found the following review helpful By Malvin VINE VOICE on December 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Everything is Obvious" by Dr. Duncan J. Watts suggests that we are on the brink of a new age of social scientific discovery with profound implications for business, politics and culture. Dr. Watts brings an interesting and rare critical discipline to the soft science of sociology due to his PhD's in the hard sciences of theoretical and applied mechanics. Dr. Watts shares insights gained from his academic and professional experiences including his role as a principal research scientist at Yahoo! Research. Accessibly written for general interest readers, Dr. Watts' enlightening book gives us many good reasons to get excited about sociology.

Although Dr. Watts rarely acknolwedges it, his book represents an implicit refutation of Malcolm Gladwell's pseudo-scientific The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Dr. Watts charges Mr. Gladwell with employing an obvious kind of circular logic where a particular social, cultural or artistic phenomenon is heralded simply due to the fact of its success (while ignoring how dozens of others that possessed the same attributes failed). In fact, Dr. Watts argues that answers to the riddles of history are usually not well understood in the moment; it is only with the benefit of hindsight that historians can piece together the relevant factors that might have produced noteworthy events. For example, Dr.
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52 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Alex S TOP 50 REVIEWER on January 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If you are an individual who often finds themselves challenging common conceptions, you will love this book! It speaks to the reasons why what we call common sense isn't, the fact that so-called experts are no more accurate in their perceptions and predictions than the public overall, AND will challenge the way you look at the world in the future.

However, if you are a politician wanting to take credit for actions that caused change in the world, or an expert wanting to convince others that you have the answers they need, you might want to give this book a pass. It will not support anything you want it to support.

From the first page to the last, I found myself grabbing ideas, underlining them, writing notes in the margin, and totally, totally enjoying this challenging book.

Since I had recently encountered the Amazon Mechanical Turk, I was thrilled to hear both its history (it was created by Amazon to help identify duplicates in its merchandise listings) and current possible applications both in science and in marketing. Several trials within the book were done using this new potential for hiring a wide range of groups and individuals in order to test the theory and application of the points.

In fact, while the first half of the book focuses on why the models we use to examine past events and predict future trends don't work because of the complexity within individuals and even more within groups, the second half of the book offers solutions, not for long-term predictions, but for predictions of understanding the "near future" as well as what Dr. Watts calls "predicting the present." Most of these involve ways of taking advantage of internet capabilities including social networks and search engines, to map current events.
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