Surprise: Embrace The Unpredictable And Engineer The Unexpected

Hardcover | April 7, 2015

byTania Luna, Leeann Renninger, Phd

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Surprise: Embrace the Unpredictable and Engineer the Unexpected is a fascinating look at how we can handle and harness surprise in our work, relationships, and everyday lives.
Pop Quiz!
Do you prefer when:
A) Things go according to plan?
B) When the unexpected happens?
Most of us pick control and predictability. Yet research reveals a counterintuitive truth: surprise is the key that unlocks growth, innovation, and connection. It is also the secret ingredient in our best memories.
Through colorful narratives and compelling scientific findings, authors Tania Luna and Dr. LeeAnn Renninger shine a light on the world's least understood and most intriguing emotion. They reveal how shifting our perception of surprise lets us thrive in the face of uncertainty. And they show us how surprise acts as a shortcut that turns a typical product into a meaningful experience, a good idea into a viral one, awkward small talk into engaging conversation, and daily life into an adventure.

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From the Publisher

Surprise: Embrace the Unpredictable and Engineer the Unexpected is a fascinating look at how we can handle and harness surprise in our work, relationships, and everyday lives.  Pop Quiz! Do you prefer when:A) Things go according to plan?B) When the unexpected happens? Most of us pick control and predictability. Yet research reveals a c...

Tania Luna leads the culture department at LifeLabs New York, a company that helps people, teams, and organizations master life's most useful skills (from how to ask better questions to how to think more strategically). She is also the co-founder of Surprise Industries, the world's only company specializing in surprise. Tania writes fo...

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Surprise: Embrace The Unpredictable And Engineer The Unexpected
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Audio Book (CD)|Apr 7 2015

$34.66 online$38.95list price(save 11%)
Surprise: Embrace The Unpredictable And Engineer The Unexpected
Surprise: Embrace The Unpredictable And Engineer The Un...

Audio Book (CD)|Apr 7 2015

$63.63 online$71.50list price(save 11%)
Format:HardcoverDimensions:272 pages, 8.5 × 5.8 × 0.87 inPublished:April 7, 2015Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0399169822

ISBN - 13:9780399169823

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Extra Content

Read from the Book

PART ONE Understand SURPRISE   Our brightest blazes of gladness are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks. —SAMUEL JOHNSON   Let’s begin with a surprise quiz. Don’t worry; you’ve had your whole life to prepare.   1. What is surprise? A. An emotion B. A mental state   2. Where do you feel surprise in your body? A. Stomach B. Chest C. Face   3. How do you look when you are surprised? A. Bulging eyes B. Gaping mouth C. A & B D. None of these   4. How often do you feel surprise? A. Rarely B. Occasionally C. Often D. Every day   Turn this book upside down to get the right answers.   Just kidding. There are no right answers. When we ask these questions in our workshops and during our keynotes, the answers are so varied you’d think we were all a different species. Scientists still debate over what surprise is, where it happens in the body, and even how the facial expression of surprise really looks.   Given that surprise exists in every culture, you’d think we’d have it figured out by now. But surprise remains elusive and widely misunderstood. Some psychologists call it an emotion. Others argue that it’s a cognitive state. Among the biggest misconceptions about surprise is that it happens rarely. The truth is, we humans are surprised all the time. And you are about to get really good at spotting when it happens in your brain and in your world.        Chapter Two   Surprise in the World   Donna Marie looks like a soccer mom, talks like a soccer mom, and even kind of smells like a soccer mom. Only she isn’t a soccer mom. She’s a professional psychic. She works out of a café a block away from her apartment and has a client waiting list that’s two months long. Her rate is $150 an hour—a typical price for a U.S. psychic. She fishes out a worn deck of tarot cards from her bag and says, “It’s a good time to be clairvoyant.”   The American Federation of Certified Psychics and Mediums agrees. According to their survey, 69 percent of women and 39 percent of men admit to having contacted a psychic. What’s going on here? In an interview with CNN, consumer behaviorist Gita Johar said, “The biggest reason people are going to see psychics is probably that they want to feel in control.” Donna Marie puts it another way, “People are sick of surprises. Things are too unpredictable these days.”   On the other side of town we meet Christina (aka Ms. C), a New York City high school teacher, who tells us: “Every time I see a kid fall asleep in class, my heart breaks all over again.” When we ask her why she thinks kids are napping in their chairs, Ms. C rolls her eyes and says, “Why wouldn’t they be? I can barely keep my eyes open. It’s the same standardized test prep every day. Reading comprehension exercises about things like the history of Bethlehem Hospital. Who cares? There are no surprises. . . . We’re torturing our kids.”   If we hold Donna Marie and Ms. C’s sentiments side by side, we seem to have a contradiction. How can Donna Marie’s clients pay her to eliminate surprise when Ms. C’s students suffer from a lack of surprise? This question extends beyond fortune-tellers and high school teachers and into the state of our entire society. Change is happening at such a rapid pace that we’ve all got a case of psychological whiplash. At the same time we’re crying out for more and more stimulation: entertainment, relationships, spiritual transcendence, pictures of adorable puppies. Particularly in wealthy countries, people are embroiled in an unhealthy relationship with surprise. We want less of it. Then we want more. We’re anxious with it. We’re unfulfilled without it. The more surprising our world becomes, the less we’re able to maintain a balance atop the Surprise Seesaw.   On one side of the seesaw sits the sensation of too much surprise—brought on by change, uncertainty, and ambiguity. This state triggers anxiety: a vague mixture of fear and dread. It is the sensation of our brains working overtime to predict the future. Anxiety is the Find Phase of the Surprise Sequence gone unchecked—a neurological manhunt for information with no end in sight. If you always knew what to expect, there would be no more surprises, and you would never be anxious again. That is the selling proposition of Donna Marie, along with every sports, weather, health, political, and financial forecaster selling us a peek into the future. In the days before Surprise Industries, Tania spent all of her time on this side of the seesaw—worrying, planning, and trying to prevent the unexpected.   On the other side of the seesaw sits the problem of too little surprise. It is brought on by routine, structure, and comfort. A lack of surprise triggers hypostress, the near opposite of anxiety. Hypostress is the stress of understimulation. To use LeeAnn’s most dreaded word: it’s boredom. Boredom may seem like no biggie—just lazy Sunday restlessness or the run-on-meeting blahs, but the consequences of boredom are nothing to yawn at. As we’ll discuss in more detail shortly, boredom is correlated with depression, drug abuse, gambling, aggression, relationship dissatisfaction, and (as Ms. C points out to us with bitterness in her voice) academic failure.   Instead of striking a balance between too much and too little surprise, most of us are strapped into a Surprise Seesaw that sways from one extreme to the next like two burly kids battling for dominance on the playground. We’re either biting our nails because we don’t know what to expect or we’re twiddling our thumbs because we know exactly what will happen next. What’s with all the seeing and sawing? Is it a new phenomenon in response to a fundamentally new world, or has the world remained pretty much consistent while our perception of it changed? Is our future becoming more or less surprising?

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Surprise: "This book isn't about what you think it is." --Seth Godin, author of What To Do When It's Your Turn “An important how-to on making surprise into a habit to spark the best possible kind of change and progress in our work, relationships and ideas.” --Kelly Stoetzel, Content director at TED  “I’ve always loved the element of surprise, but it wasn’t until reading this charming book that I fully understood why—and how to bring more of it into my life and the world.” --Adam Grant, Wharton professor, magician, and New York Times bestselling author of Give and Take “Surprise! This delightful book will turn your understanding of predictability upside down. Take it from someone who loves routine and order: the unexpected lessons of this book can improve your life.” --Chris Guillebeau, NYT bestselling author of The Happiness of Pursuit and The $100 Startup "A vibrant, readable foray into the potential and the proper place for surprise in our lives....In a world that often seems keen on eliminating the unexpected with predictive technologies...this entertaining, smartly packaged book leaves readers with a full set of practical tools geared toward making everyone surprise-seekers in their own lives." --Publishers Weekly   "Filled with both cutting-edge psychological science and delightfully-handy practical tips, Surprise will teach you how you can make the most of this curious human emotion." --Laurie Santos, Professor of Psychology Yale University and Director of the Comparative Cognition Laboratory at Yale