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Book Review -Why do Smart People Make Such Stupid Mistakes?

Review of "Why Do Smart People Make Such Stupid Mistakes? by Chris Merrington

The title of this book could be reused anywhere in business so perhaps wisely, Merrington doesn't even try and answer that question. It is subtitled A practical negotiation guide to more profitable client relationships for marketing and communication agencies, sales teams and professional service people. That's exactly what it does, and it's a little gem.


Where the eye-catching title does help is to soothe our egos, as we (the reader) are obviously 'smart people' yet many of the 'stupid mistakes' within this book will seem extremely familiar. Merrington clearly and concisely cuts through noisy and panic-fuelled myths such as "that client is too important to lose" or "price is everything" and provides good solid advice on how to think about what you want and then get it, including some specific advice on negotiating with procurement professionals. It's an entertaining and insightful read, as well as being a good reference book packed with useful checklists and primers to dip into whilst preparing for an important engagement.


As a 'smart person' reading this book it contains no earth-shattering revelations. We know those mistakes are mistakes, and we usually notice just after we've made them for the umpteenth time. The advice given isn't rocket science either, and we've probably all heard it or even given it to others before, yet these mistakes still get made.So what can Merrington hope to do about this? Like many business classics, he's using the voice of experience to work on our confidence, and that's where I've already found the book to be a bit special. 


As a contractor making the transition to freelance work there are a lot of these simple mistakes that, if I'm honest, I  would have made up-front, and these would have cost me dearly in the future. Would I have known these mistakes were mistakes? Of course - so why would I make them? Because a client or the media go on about the bleak economic climate and how that means the rules have changed, or because I'm scared of walking away from a deal even if it will be unprofitable? Or maybe because I'm sitting across from a confident, experienced negotiator and I'm suddenly feeling scared and less experienced? 


That last one is something we 'smart people' don't like to admit to, however it's an all too common fear even when it isn't actually true. "Why Do Smart People Make Such Stupid Mistakes" channels Merrington's considerable experience and confidence into bite-sized form so that 'smart people' like me can use it, and be the smart, confident negotiator that gets what they want. It focusses mainly on marketing examples but is easily just as relevant for any small business engaging in B2B contracts. It won't give you much insight onto the psychology of negotiations and business communications, or on why smart people make stupid mistakes, but it will help you be a better negotiator.