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Genius, Risk and the Secret of Capitalism

Harry Bingham

Until about 1700, almost every human on the planet lived at level we would today call absolute poverty - the equivalent of about a dollar a day - the kind of poverty that starves and kills. But in last 300 years some extraordinary magic has transformed near universal poverty to widespread affluence.

Dyslexics - 1% of corporate managers; but 30% of entrepreneurs. For dyslexics, even the basic rules (A is for Apple, B is for Bird C is for Cat) don't work for them.So, to get anywhere you have to develop your own techniques and trust those in preference to the useless ones offered by your teacher.

Those competitions where you have to write "in 15 words or less, why you love ...." because research shows that simply writing about a feeling, even if you didn't have that feeling when you wrote it, changes the way you feel about that product or idea.

All businessmen are caught in a tug of war. On one side lies the lure of the easy sale, the deliberate manipulation of the buyer, and a quick profit. On the others side lies integrity: the desire to build a business that buyers will respect and return to. When Rockefeller made his fortune, contemporaries were struck by what seemed like Napoleonic speed and planning. Yet it was all built on the finest attention to detail - railroad tariffs, still design, sludge removal machines, barrel manufacture, tank storage, rail tank loading systems - endlessly striving for efficiencies.

It's a rare entrepreneur who isn't obsessive about his business, who doesn't put work ahead of relationships. They tend toward a radical simplicity in the way they talk and operate, because they are focused on the only goal that matters. To others the focus on business and its numbers seems shallow or crass, but that is because they see things clearly, know that the numbers don't lie, and they relegate human complexity to the sidelines.

If you're receiving compliments during a fancy meal that you're not paying for, then you're probably the dummy. If you're not sure who the dummy is at the table, then it's you.

Big American company resisted resellers until an African-American group showed them how inappropriate their current plans were outside middle-class America. Then realized benefit of local experts to reach all the many micro-communities.

Basic failure of central planning. If a company needed bolts it would requisition them, but something wd always go wrong - they they were late or too short or poor quality. So you start to make yr own bolts, by hand, because not worth buying machinery, which you couldn't get anyway, because you're not a bolt maker. So one in twenty of your bolts is crap, so you deliver pumps that leak, so the boilers which use them don't work properly etc etc.

Businesses can't help but look like psychopaths. They all have negative consequences - pollution etc. But if one firm tried to pick up the cost of that, they would immediately out-competed and fail. Mostly they obey the law, but when the law gets a bit vague, the company behaviour moves into a grey area as well. Take cars for example: a really safe car would have airbags everywhere, be made with super-strong steel cage, carry a defribrillator and a fridge full of blood matched to the passengers .... and cost about a million pounds.

A private seller doesn't need to care too much about cheating or upsetting a few customers, but a corporate does. Legally, a corporation's duty is clear - make money for shareholders. Yet in practice, it depends so much on goodwill and reputation that it has to defer to the wishes of its customers.

There is virtually no correlation between price and quality. So, if you're rich, you should buy the most expensive version of everything, because you will wind up with a very slightly better lot of equipment. Everyone else should buy the cheapest stuff, because the quality difference will be so small it's not worth worrying about.

Health warnings and graphic pics on cigarette packs counter-productive. The smoker has long since stopped consciously registering the actual message, but subconsciously the pics remind him of the feel of a crisp new packet, the foil wrapping, the smell of tobacco, the way the first cigarette glides out of the packet ...

If you give people a drink of distilled water, and tell one third it is distilled water, one third that it's tap water and one third that it's expensive bottled water, you will get three very different responses. The first group will say it tastes of nothing, the second will report a slight taste of chlorine, and the third will praise the delicate taste. (Basically same as people change their taste of wine depending on the price tag)

Ninja mortgages - loans to people with No Income, Jobs or Assets - what could possibly go wrong?

Speculator - a person who invested more wisely than we did.

ABBA vs Beatles: "Money, money, money, Must be funny, In the rich man's world" vs "I don't care too much more money, Money can't buy me love." and "Love is all you need."

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