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The Formula: The Universal Laws of Success Hardcover – November 6, 2018
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"This is not just an important but an imperative project: to approach the problem of randomness and success using the state of the art scientific arsenal we have. Barabasi is the person."―Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of the New York Times bestselling The Black Swan and Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering at NYU
"It's rare that a book about success turns out to be such a page-turner, but there you go. File [The Formula] away with Freakonomics or Outliers."―Geekwire
"A fun, fast, first-hand account of efforts to use big data to pull back the curtain on our collective dynamics.The Formula offers a rich tour of research on how relatively simple feedback forces channel our lives in surprising and counter-intuitive ways."―Nature
"The Formula is an important book for us all to read. It weaves together meticulously researched historical context with more than a decade of Barabási's and other scholars' "eureka moments" and research findings to extract scientific principles and actionable insights for achieving success."―Science
- Item Weight : 1.1 pounds
- Hardcover : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0316505498
- ISBN-13 : 978-0316505499
- Dimensions : 6.25 x 1.13 x 9.5 inches
- Publisher : Little, Brown and Company (November 6, 2018)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #58,585 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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One of the only findings I question is in regard to Amazon.com reviews. According to the book, the first review on Amazon is tremendously important to sales and how the book is received. But as a published author, I am keenly aware that the first few reviews are almost always by friends and family (or even the by the author, as pointed out in The Formula!). You can usually identify these reviews because they are brief and general in nature, mainly because the reviewer didn't actually read the book. Maybe the general public doesn't factor this in, so the finding may still be true. At any rate, The Formula is a great read and a great example of how science can make sense of seemingly impenetrable problems.
As a professor we experience that issue when trying to evaluate students. Having taught for over 30 years the question arises: which one of my students, or which ones, will become successful when all will be qualified to practice law or run a business?
The analysis in this book helps answer that question. I’m a believer in networking, it is created numerous opportunities for myself and for other professionals I work with. If you have the fundamental skills networking allows you to display them to potential clients, investors, and employers.
The book realizes many professions are difficult to measure when looking at competency and excellence. I agree with the thesis, networking and taking advantage of opportunities seems to separate those who are persistent and are extremely successful from those who just make a living.
1. Performance drives success, but when performance can't be measured, networks drive success.
2. Performance is bounded, but success is unbounded.
3. Previous success x fitness [high potential]= future success.
4. While team success requires diversity and balance, a single individual will receive credit for the group's achievements.
5. With persistence success can come at any time.
These are among Barabási's observations of greatest interest and value to me in the first two chapters:
o As he and his research associates put their heads together, "we were suddenly seeing [begin italics] a series of recurring patterns that drive success in most areas of human performance [end italics].
"Because the patterns that began to emerge were so universal, we started to call them the Laws of Success. Given that scientific laws are immutable, doing so probably seemed brash to outside researchers. But the more we explored and tested them, the more solid and general they appeared...These laws are what separate the best seller from the bargain bin and the billionaires from the bankrupt." (Pages 11 and 15)
o Success is a collective measure, "capturing how people respond to our performance. In other words, if we want to measure our success or figure out how we will ultimately be rewarded, we can't look at our performances or accomplishments in isolation. Instead, we need to study our community and examine its response to our contributions. It's this clear distinction between success and performance that helped us in the lab to identify the universal patterns represented by each of the laws shared in this book."
"Our new definition of success is foundational to the rest of the book. It tells us that success is [begin italics] a collective phenomenon rather than an individual one [end italics]." (25 and 26)
o Historically, Boston Latin students have performed better on the SAT test than their counterparts at most other schools, locally and nationally "because [begin italics] high achievers continue to excel no matter what education a school offers [end italics]. The Boston Latin students have that superior collective SAT score at graduation because the entrance exam selected the top performers to begin with...In other words, Boston Latin doesn't make your daughter a better student. It's your daughter who makes Boston Latin into the elite school it is. (49)
o Moreover, if individual performance drives collective success, the single determinant "was derived from the best college a kid [begin italics] merely applied to [end italics], even if she didn't get in [because] it's performance and ambition -- [begin italics] where she thinks she belongs [end italics] -- that determines your daughter's success." (50-51)
In Chapter 7, Barabási explains how quality defies social influence. He examines the results of experiments conducted by the MusicLab at Yahoo to answer this question: "How does popularity influence success?" About 14,000 young people (from grades 1-6) participated. The experiments were conducted at the Oak School, an elementary school in a lower-middle-class neighborhood in San Francisco.
Details of the experiments -- including results -- are best revealed within the narrative, in context, but there's no need for a spoiler alert when I suggest that success can -- as can failure -- become a self-fulfilling prophecy. At Oak Hill, teachers knew which of their students were identified as high potential so they encouraged brilliance. "The children responded by producing brilliance."
According to Barabási, "Self-fulfilling prophecies suggest that, under the right circumstances, the weakest [whatever] can land at the top. But can a false belief in a person or a product's value lead to lasting success? Or are we bound to notice, sooner or later, that the emperor has no clothes? Two years after the original experiment, the MusicLab went back to the drawing board, hoping to address this precise question." Stray tuned.
No brief commentary such as mind could possibly do full justice to the value of the information, insights that Albert László Barabási provides in abundance. However, I hope I have at least indicated why I think so highly of his book. He and his research associates are to be commended on their determination to identify not only the universal laws of success but also to suggest the potential relevance of each to failure as well.
Having been a classroom teacher of private school and public college students for almost thirty years, I can personally attest to the significance of the self-fulfilling prophecy, for better or worse. As Henry Ford suggested long ago, "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're probably right."
Top reviews from other countries
It is an interesting read for any lay person with an eagerness to learn about the world in general, as well as for the professional community of scientists and sociologists interested in the study of networks or, indeed, of success.
The author uses his own “formula” to make the book truly enjoyable. Packed with abundant evidence, the chapters unfold as a mini-stories, each one revealing one of the five universal laws of success. Albert-Laszlo Barabasi has skilfully turned what could have been a scientific treaty into a book that reads like a novel you cannot put down.
The sensation when finishing the book is having a clear picture of what can make or break things in almost every aspect of life; having a valuable tool to achieve your goals if you wish to, and - last but not least – having found out so many interesting things about the lives and deeds of Einsteins and Miles Davises and everybody in between.
Personally, I consider this book a gem that will make the perfect gift for many people I love.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 31, 2019
Barabasi and his team derived from millions of observations (data point) the five universal laws of success:
The First Law: “Performance drives success, but when performance can’t be measured, networks drive the success”: the difficulty of the objective measurement of art performance, e.g. in music, paintings, writing) leaded Barabasi to the network analysis in the context of their art. All world-famous art pieces have a strong network story as a reason for their great success.
The Second Law: “Performance is bounded, but success is unbounded”: wine judges, sport competitions, music judges, business decisions, all situations where only the top performers are visible. But who is the single one who becomes famous? The scientific explanation: the bounded nature of performance is based on a precise formula, a bell curve, the unbounded nature of success is based on the power law, well know from network analysis (perfectly explained in Barabasi’s other book “Linked”: highly recommended to read). If the success were simply explainable by performance then this would have the same probability as people who are eight thousand feet tall.
The Third Law: “Previous success x fitness = future success”: Kickstarter, Songs, Harry Potter and many others. Kickstarting “preferential attachment” launches the project on a path of success. Fascinating tricky analysis resulted in “the more ratings a product had, the more its finally rating is different from its true fitness”.
The Fourth Law: “While team success requires diversity and balance, a single individual will receive credit for the group’s achievements”: Nobel Prize, GitHub open source software development, jazz music, call centers and many others. Multiplicity is crucial for team success. The “too-much-talent” effect. The term of “collective intelligence”. Successful teams require balance and diversity; but they also need a leader.
Credit is based on perception and not to the person who contributed most. Typically we assign credit to those with the most consistent track record or the ones we recognize. Therefore the hint of Barabasi to students: “Working with a recognized name is the best way to build reputation in science…initially. At some point, though, you need to break out on your own.” Barabasi and his team developed an algorithm which can compute for a selected topic who should receive the Nobel Prize. It perfectly worked for almost all awarded Nobel Prizes but not for Douglas Prasher. Read the book to get the answer.
The Fifth Law: “With persistence success can come at any time”: Statistic data shows that more scientists have their break-through papers published in their younger years then in their older years. Looking more closely to the data, Barabasi and his team get a more differentiated result: the success S is the product of the person-related Q-factor and the value r of the idea: S=Q*r. The Q-factor does not change during your life and is a constant for each person in a particular field. The value of an idea can be modelled (at least in the top league) as a random number (like buying a lottery ticket): the more often you try it, the higher is the probability to reach the great break-through. Many people think about themselves that the Q-factor increases during their live-time due to their experience. Data shows that this is not correct. The Q-factor is constant during your lifetime. Data also shows that statistically older people try it not as often as younger people. According to the data is this the only reason why the break-trough is more frequent in younger years. Examples like Yet Fenn, getting the Nobel Prize for results during his retirement of his up to this time not successful career, illustrate this result: with persistence success can come at any time. Or Einstein’s paper about Quantum Entanglement: he wrote this paper 1935 with an age of 56. At this time the paper was seen as the “misguided ramblings of an aging genius”. Today it is the most cited paper of Albert Einstein.
Some other nice sub-results:
• in the US each scientific citation is worth $100 000 (based on the amount of money the nation spends on research).
• Performance suffers in the presence of a superstar (if you compete against them), but they may boost you if you cooperate with them.
• GitHub: The more the projects were dominated by a single leader, the more successful they are.
• Teams with females had higher collective intelligence.
• Email turned out to be the least valuable form for communication. Is was too efficient.
• Instead of hosting an out-of-work happy hour to encourage teambuilding, invest in longer lunchroom tables.
This review can just act as a teaser for the book. Details are explained in a very readable form in this book and further details and links to scientific papers are given in the 35(!) pages notes attachment to the book.