Review of Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite
By Paul Arden, Penguin, April 2006
Paul Ardens latest book, Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite
, is the kind of book I want to like. Its written by a former Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi. It features lots of pictures and short bursts of thought. Its even got a great cover. Flipping through the pages, it looks like a lot of fun to read.
I want to like it, but I dont. This book is lousy.
Okay, thats pretty harsh. But stick with me. Ardens book claims to share no-nonsense career advice that can be applied to almost every field. Here are a few examples of what youll find in the book. One spread titled, Half Nelson Full Nelson, features two photographs of a statue of Lord Nelson, one on a tall pedestal, the other on a much smaller pedestal. The no non-sense career advice reads: If Nelson had been placed on a small pedestal, would he be only half the man he is today? Another page features a prominent red arrow pointing to the bottom of the page and says, Turn this book up side down. Doing this makes it easier to read the caption under the arrow, Things are looking up already. Another page simply says, Bread. You know it makes sandwiches.
These are the radical insights of a global business guru?
Actually, the advice gets worse. Dont go to university. And Being bottom or near the bottom has merit. And a contrived comparison between reckless Erica who bulldozes her way through several organizations, getting fired three times and steady Eddie who happily moves up the corporate ladder only to miss out on the final promotion that would make his career.
I get what Arden is trying to do here. Hes saying take chances. Be creative. Think differently. The problem is, he doesnt say it very well.
Fortunately there are books that deliver on Ardens promise, including Sally Hogsheads Radical Careering
(a well-designed, well-thought-out book of career advice) and Orbiting the Giant Hairball
by Gordon MacKenzie (in my opinion the best book on creativity ever written). Or if youre looking for interesting ideas from the world of advertising, try Ogilvy on Advertising
by David Ogilvy, Hey Whipple, Squeeze This
by Luke Sullivan, or Creative Company
by Andy Law. All good books full of interesting ideas. And unlike Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite, these books are worth the money.
One thing about Ardens book is correct. If youre thinking of buying it, think the opposite.
Reviewed by Rob Marsh
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.