Follow the Other Hand: A Remarkable Fable That Will Energize Your Business, Profits, and Life


When Jonathan West tells people he is in the oil business

he likes to watch them silently count the dollars he's worth. But Jonathan isn't running ExxonMobil or Chevron--he's in the olive oil business.
It's a family business and it's facing a crisis: Its mom-and-pop customers are disappearing and the big supermarkets are a threat.
The business is troubled and needs an urgent ...

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When Jonathan West tells people he is in the oil business

he likes to watch them silently count the dollars he's worth. But Jonathan isn't running ExxonMobil or Chevron--he's in the olive oil business.
It's a family business and it's facing a crisis: Its mom-and-pop customers are disappearing and the big supermarkets are a threat.
The business is troubled and needs an urgent reinvention.

So what does Jonathan do? He engages the services of a consultant who is considered a magician. Literally. The magician takes Jonathan and his team on a journey of creativity and innovation that helps them to revive and energize their entire business strategy.
Together they learn how to abandon old assumptions and discover creative new solutions to business. And they learn a magic trick or two along the way.

So will you.

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What People Are Saying

Carol Hamilton
Carol Hamilton, President and General Manager, L'Oreal Paris:
A rare read. In less than two hours, this book transforms the way you think about innovations and business creativity.
Mike Kelly
Mike Kelly, President, AOL Media Networks:
Cohen does the trick in creating an incredibly fast, fun read mixed with serious content. He'll have you manufacturing brilliant innovative ideas within the first few pages.
Steve Cone
Steve Cone, Head of Advertising and Global Brand Management, Citigroup:
Presto! What Andy Cohen shows up his sleeve is the magic of reinventing your business. Never take no for an answer--in fact, turn the no into a yes!
Suzanne Lyons
Susanne Lyons, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Visa USA:
Follow the Other Hand unleashes the potential for innovation. Try the tricks, learn from the examples of contemporary business creativity, and discover your own unique "magic"!
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312357931
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 10/3/2006
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 6.03 (w) x 8.14 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Andy Cohen

ANDREW COHEN is an award-winning marketing guru helping Global Fortune 500 companies such as American Express, Merrill Lynch, Nestle, and Time Warner, think differently about branding, marketing and CRM. He is also an expert magician.

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Read an Excerpt

Lesson #1
Think Differently--Follow the Other Hand

The magician called my office around 1 p.m. and left a message.

"Smart kid," he said. "You picked the right time and date. Go to the corner of Eighth Avenue and Thirty-fourth Street. That's in New York City! You'll see the sign for my shop."

End of message. I pictured the cross streets he mentioned. This was a part of town I didn't spend much time in, an eclectic part of Manhattan that connects you with Macy's, Madison Square Garden, and the New Yorker Hotel, the fabled headquarters of the "Moonies." Entering a nondescript building, I climbed three flights up a rickety staircase and entered the only door on the floor.

Inside was a world that was completely foreign to me, but also one that I would very quickly get to know. Waist-high glass counters spanned three sides of the room. They were filled with the most mystical assortments of magic paraphernalia that would serve me well in my tutelage: large, brightly colored silks (I learned later to call them foulards) that could disappear or change colors on command, giant silver balls that floated in the air, jumbo cards, magic wands, old-fashioned top hats, floating lightbulbs, candles that turned into dancing canes, and real silver dollars that squeezed through the thin neck of a soda bottle. Each trick had a name that was as mysterious as its effect: the Professor's Nightmare, Chinese Linking Rings, Phantom Tubes, Die Boxes, Square Circles, Foo Cans, Chop-Chop Cups, and the Passe-Passe bottles. Would my colleagues suggest I take medical leave when I told them where I'd gone?

When I wasn't busy looking down into the glass cases, I found myself gazing up at the wall-to-wall photos of magicians in tails and hats, clown suits, and flamingo outfits. Many of these magicians were doing the most uncanny things to their assistants--shoving swords through them, cutting them in half, levitating them in the air, turning their heads 360 degrees, and making their bodies zigzag in impossible positions. Others showed a peculiar-looking bald-headed guy meeting with famous people, like the photos you sometimes see in people's offices. He was shaking hands with the usual suspects: the mayor of New York, the President of the United States, and players from the New York Yankees.

And then I saw him, in the flesh. Behind the counter stood a man of average height, broad shoulders, round face, bulbous nose, and shiny bald head--with one long hair wrapped around many times as if to hide his baldness. (I later learned that he still went to the barber for a "hair cut.")

His suit was rumpled. His shirt was stained. His tie undone and his fly partially unzipped. Since I was the only one in the shop, I assumed he was embarrassed by his sloppy dress because when he spotted me, he quickly went into a back room to tidy up. Minutes later, he came out; the suit was still rumpled, shirt was still stained, the zipper still down. The only change was that his tie was pushed into a neat knot.

Before I could walk over to introduce myself, George Miles called out as if he were singling me out in a standing-room-only crowd, "Hey, kid, want to see a trick?"

It really was not a question, because he didn't wait for an answer. Instead, he pulled out a flattened top hat, made in the days when top hats were constructed to pop up and down with the flick of a wrist. Popping open the hat, he turned the bottom toward me and asked me if anything was inside. "No," I said.

"Phantasmagoria! You're one heck of a smart kid," he replied.

The magician showed me a black and white die, about three inches high, which he placed in the hat. Then he brought out a fire engine-red box the size of a tissue box. It had four doors: two on top and two in the front. The pair of doors on top opened upward; the doors on the front opened side by side, on the side facing me. When all four were open, you could see right into the interior of the box.

"What's in the box?" he asked, as he opened all four of its doors.

"Nothing," I responded.

"You're pure genius," he remarked with a smile.

The magician plucked the die out of the hat and placed it in the right side of the box. The die completely filled the space. Then he shut all the doors. "Did you see what just happened? The die disappeared," he remarked.

"No, it's on the right side of the box," I emphatically reminded him.

And, in fact, as I pointed to the right side, he tilted the box to the left. I heard a loud, audible "clunk" as the die slid to the other side.

"Bongo-Mongo! I hate to tell you you're wrong, kid," he said as he proudly opened the door on the right side. Nothing was there.

"It's on the left side," I quickly replied. Now he tilted the box to the right and with a loud stamp of his foot (probably to hide the clunk the die made as it slid over) he proudly opened the left door to show me that nothing was there.

"It's on the right!" I screamed out. He responded by sliding the box in the opposite direction. A "clunk" sound followed.

"There's absolutely nothing inside," he assured me as he opened the right door.

I was feeling a variety of different emotions at this time--embarrassment, frustration, and anger. It was obvious how the trick was done. It was obvious that this guy, George Miles, was a lousy magician. It was obvious that I was wasting my time and that Wilcox was going to have his check cashed without my even completing the first visit. As if reading my mind, the magician opened all the doors of the box at the same time. The box was empty. The die was gone. He reached into the hat, which had been by my side the whole time, and took out the die.

"Lesson number one has begun," he said. "Before we continue, why don't you call me by my trade name, Merlin."

"OK, Merlin," I repeated. Satisfied with my acknowledgment of his professional standing, Merlin began to teach.

"Magic is the art of understanding human behavior and the assumptions we make," he explained. "My role is to have you follow the wrong assumptions with the result of mystifying you."

To demonstrate, he pulled out the red box. "What I placed into the box may or may not have been the die. But you assumed it was." Merlin smiled. "Based on that, I knew that when I tilted the box and you heard the clunking sound you would assume that the die was moving from one compartment to the next. I knew you assumed that when I coughed or thumped my foot I was covering up for the sound. In essence, you were the one making the magic happen by forming the wrong assumptions. I just directed you there. The accepted term for this is mis-di-rec-tion," Merlin said theatrically.

"But there is another school of thought that my compeer, Marc DeSouza, likes to remind me of--mis-di-rec-tion is a misnomer. Marc, a successful real-estate developer and head of the ethics committee for the Society of American Magicians, points out that the magician is actually directing you, not misdirecting you, to follow those assumptions.

"I am directing where you focus your attention with the result of providing 'magic'--a form of harmless entertainment that puts a smile on people's faces, creates awe, and leaves you with an experience you never forget.

"But in business and in life, we are up against forces within ourselves and outside our control that are directing us to look in a particular direction that forms our assumptions. We often treat these assumptions as truths rather than a set of beliefs.

"We frantically search the house looking for the keys we assume are lost, when they are actually in our hands. We assume the person sitting next to us at a party doesn't care for us because she is neither talkative nor smiling, when in fact she is a wonderful, caring person who is merely very shy. In situations like these, we fool ourselves, and in most cases the consequences of doing so are harmless. Other times, they are not.

"What assumptions did IBM make when they let Bill Gates license his operating system, rather than just purchase it outright?" asked Merlin. "Microsoft may not have been the company it is today.

"AT&T had the same information on the future of cellular technology as their competitors had, yet they passed on investing in this business, following the direction of thinking that cellular service was always going to be local. Making an assumption like that is one of the reasons AT&T was purchased by another telecommunications company it once owned," he continued.

"Think about how Coke felt when they assumed that taste is everything. The masters at building an emotional relationship with the consumer never bothered to do a real test of 'New' versus 'Old' Coke. Instead, they assumed that blind tasting indicated people preferred the new taste to the old. These are classic cases of focusing in the wrong direction," said Merlin.

"But understanding the principles of directing attention opens a whole new world of successful opportunities for marketing and business solutions."

I was baffled and wondered where this was leading, afraid he was going to suggest misleading clients to get ahead. Reading my mind once again, Merlin said, "What I am now going to show you is no foola-doola. Watch closely.

"I am going to take the coin from my left hand and hold it in my right."

I followed his actions like a beagle following the scent of a criminal. One minute he was holding the coin in his left hand, and then it was gone and inside the fist of the right hand.

"So let's see if you've got the focus-pocus to answer my next question," said Merlin with a wicked grin. "Your brain and all your life experiences tell you that the coin is in my right hand.

"I can tell you're making that assumption because your eyes are looking at the right hand holding the coin.

"But what if you were to challenge that assumption? What if you opposed what your present intellect was telling you? What if you stopped and considered that the coin may not be in the right hand? What conclusion might you draw?" Merlin said in a way that invited response.

"I'd say the coin never left the left hand and you are holding it, even though your left hand appears empty," I replied.

"Exactamundo!" exclaimed Merlin, as he opened his right hand to reveal an empty palm. Then he directed my attention to his left hand holding the coin. "By challenging your assumption, you have discovered the secret to the trick and a new solution that did not exist for you before."

I felt a sense of accomplishment and recognized a feeling that I was on an exciting journey down a river of new possibilities.

"Mis-di-rec-tion," exclaimed Merlin, "is not only a method for achieving magic. It is a reminder of a simple question that we must constantly ask ourselves, or else be willing to accept the consequences if we don't. Which hand do we choose? Do we follow what everyone else is thinking or do we challenge their assumptions and look in the other hand for new ideas? Some people see this need to constantly question as a burden. Foola-boola on them. Deciding which hand to follow is your opportunity to uncover real solutions. It's also the fastest way of creating new ideas, as well as the most crucial step in creating your own magic.

Copyright © 2006 by Andy Cohen. All rights reserved.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2007

    A Non marketing review

    For the past twelve years I have been a Recruiting consultant for a wide range of industries. As a recruiter, I always look for new ideas, new approaches on how to handle the HR Manager who refuses to change or gives you poor excuses on a new idea. Mr. Cohen¿s approach breaks away from the traditional methods by utilizing magic. While I am not a magician, I did try the tricks from the book and found that the tricks worked and was instrumental in getting my ideas across. Although I was successful with my presentation, the project was cancelled. I found Mr. Cohen¿s book easy and fun to read with a simplistic approach to an otherwise difficult problem.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2006

    A Mind-Stretching Fable That Will Teach You Quite a Few New Tricks!

    Let's face it. Given the choice between reading a typical management book and a business-based fable to learn better management practices, few would choose the typical management book. Imagine how much greater will be the preference for Follow the Other Hand, which provides great sleight-of-hand entertainment values above and beyond any business fable I've read before. You've got a treat ahead of you! This is a book about creativity in business, and the content lives up to the book's intention. Here's an example. The introduction opens with this sentence: 'I, Jonathan West, like to tell people that I am in the oil business.' Visions of billions light up in your eyes, no doubt. But the second paragraph qualifies that sentence with 'I import olives, olive oil and related gourmet products.' In those two paragraphs you get a sense of Mr. Cohen's interesting way of communicating. He tells you something. You jump to a wrong conclusion. Then, he corrects your false assumption in a humorous way. It's a sort of verbal magic trick, as it were. West and Company is doing poorly. It may have to be sold or closed. But Jonathan West called a college friend, Wilcox, whose business is doing well. Wilcox recommends someone who can help, George Miles, a magician named Merlin. Wilcox believes in Merlin so much that he offers to pay Merlin's fee if Jonathan is not satisfied. Intrigued enough to go ahead, Jonathan is about to experience the lessons of a lifetime. Merlin combines magic and business in a most unusual way. In Lesson #1, Jonathan is challenged to figure out how a card illusion is done. The advice: 'Think Differently--Follow the Other Hand.' A magician draws your attention in one direction while something is going on elsewhere. A business, likewise, does things in a certain way . . . and ignores the alternatives. Like Dr. Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, you are encouraged to think what you want to accomplish ('Begin with the End in Mind') and then figure out how to get there. At the middle of the chapter, you receive instruction in how to do the 'Two Card Monte' trick. Jonathan is then able to take the trick back to his office and use it to re-direct his colleagues' thinking. Lesson #2 is Building Trust-Making the Audience Part of the Act. We've all seen how magicians let the audience check out the magician and the equipment to be sure there's no rigging going on. This checking is part of how we are able to suspend belief and go along with the illusion. Merlin suggests that we offer customers choice, control and the chance to get engaged emotionally in our offering before they buy. The chapter is filled with intriguing examples of companies that are doing this in a variety of ways. I found this chapter so impressive that I re-thought how to market some of my professional services. This chapter shares the secret of the illusion of how to let the audience pick an object that you can guess correctly. Lesson #3 is Defining Your Brand-Creating a Magical Experience. The secrets are to add drama (often using technology), let people have an experience of discovering the offering on their own (so they feel the brand is them) and then listening to the reactions to be flexible in how you perform for the customer . . . adapting to their experience. This chapter also has some fine examples in it such as Build-a-Bear and Jones Soda. You also learn how to use a photograph on a cell phone as part of an illusion. Lesson #4 is Idea Heckling-Removing the Obstacles to Thinking Differently. This is a chapter about stall-busting, eliminating barriers to thinking differently. The chapter's illusion, appropriately enough, is how to match wits to decide how many matches are in a matchbook. Lesson #5 is Discovering Your Competitive Edge-'What's Your Magic?' This is where you turn what makes you unique into an advantage that others will appreciate. This is obvious

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