MiB: Derek Thompson


This week on our Masters in Business radio podcast, we speak with Derek Thompson of The Atlantic, author of Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction. The actual reasons for why certain songs, movies, books, paintings, etc. go viral are very much misunderstood.

He emphasizes the concepts of “Fluency and Disfluency” — how we tend to like things that are familiar yet different  — but not too different. The significance of repetition is a key part of our ability to recognize and appreciate various works. Thompson explains how a critical tension exists between between “neophilia and neophobia;” how that audiences simultaneously crave the new even as they fear it. The sweet spot is the “Aesthetic Aha” — that space in between the familiar and the surprising.

We also discuss Raymond Loewy’s concept of MAYA — Most Advanced Yet Acceptable.

We discuss how so many Rock and Pop songs sound so familiar (No Woman, No Cry; Paparazzi; Don’t Stop Believing; With You or Without You), relying on similar chord structure (C, G, A Minor, F). Check out this amusing video that references all of the songs that rely on the familiar Pachabel’s Canon in D.

All of the books Thompson discussed can be found here.

You can hear the show on Bloomberg Radio, or stream/download the full show, including the podcast extras, on iTunesSoundCloud and on Bloomberg. All of our earlier podcasts can be found on iTunesSoundcloud, and Bloomberg.





Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

The Corrections: A Novel by Jonathan Franzen

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson

One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson


MiB: Derek Thompson on What Makes a Hit

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