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Uncovering the Hidden Half: A Quick Book Summary of "The Hidden Half"


The Hidden Half Book Cover

Author(s): Michael Blastland

Bibliography: Blastland, M., 2019. _The Hidden Half: How the World Conceals its Secrets_. Main edition. Atlantic Books.

The Big Idea

In essence, Michael Blastland argues that we often only see part of the problem. We need to recognise that there is a lot of uncertainty in what happens, and trying to express 'certainty' about outcomes is to ignore everything that we don't know, exogenous and random.


What I took away from this book

The book is an exciting insight into complexity and how we often don't see the whole picture. Economist Esther Dufflo has written, "If we start by thinking something's not important, then we don't pay any attention to it, and so may never notice that it is, in fact, important" (Blastland, 2019, p.85).


The point is that we don't know what is essential and what isn't. We would do better to pay attention to everything.

Best Quotes

The adage: "Lives are lived forward but can only be understood backwards" (Blastland, 2019, p.29).


"Claudio Ranieri - who appears to be an unassuming man with a generous share of real ability - is an unfortunate illustration of how leadership can appear both to succeed dramatically and to fail dramatically, for reasons that go further than his ability alone. It is simply not plausible that a man that good could become that bad in the space of a few months. Or that a man that bad has ever been that good." (Blastland, 2019, p.203)


Key leadership lessons from the book

  1. Experiment and adapt. Think about how you can change and modify your actions to see what works. Give yourself room for manoeuvre.

  2. Manage for uncertainty. Expect that things will not follow the theory you laid out and create space to manoeuvre when things change. 

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