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Appealing to humans' basic instincts to increase influence, buy-in and results

Survival of the species comes down to three basic instincts, say behavioural research strategists Dan Gregory and Kieran Flanagan—fear, self-interest and simplicity. These basic human behaviours come into play in all types of relationships, including those between businesses and customers. Selfish, Scared and Stupid: Stop fighting human nature and increase your performance, engagement and influence, demystifies these behaviours and examines the psychology behind why even the best ideas sometimes fail.

This book helps businesses design their organisations for reality rather than perfection, and also offers strategies to head off unprecedented levels of disengagement within, and outside, the business. It answers baffling questions around why the public sometimes fails to engage despite overwhelming data suggesting otherwise, why so many new products end up on clearance shelves and why so many great salespeople often fall short of their monthly targets.

  • Learn how the survival of the species plays into business, including delusionary realities and the reasons ideas can fail
  • Discover how to offer customers strategic rewards, thereby making the buying process more attractive to selfish natures
  • Examine the link between fear and the unknown, including strategies for quelling fears and turning them into action
  • Learn to use a simple mindset to create low-involvement products, helping appeal to instinct and making products hard to resist

This provocative book is built on the idea that businesses must return to a more human engagement methodology in order to succeed. It is an informative read for anyone interested in improving influence, growing business reach, improving sales figures or understanding the complexities of human behaviour.


Dan Gregory and Kieran Flanagan are behavioural researchers and strategists and the founders of innovation and engagement think-tank, The Impossible Institute™. Dan can also be seen on ABC TV's Gruen Planet.


About the authors xi

Acknowledgements xiii

Introduction xv

Part I: We are all selfish, scared and stupid

1 A matter of survival 3

2 The Happy Delusion 17

3 Why failure happens 31

Part II: Think selfish

4 Tell me WIIFM 51

5 Offer a reward 67

6 Make it enjoyable 81

Part III: Think scared

7 Flip the fear 97

8 Link it to the known 111

9 Show them they’re not alone 125

Part IV: Think stupid

10 Make it simple 139

11 Make it easy (lazy) 155

12 Make it hard not to 169

Selfish, scared and stupid in the real world 183

The Impossible Institute™ 189

Index 191


"SSS is a triumph, a great read, stunning insights and the title had me laughing at myself and learning at the same time. It makes me want to be a better man—generous, courageous and intelligent!"
—Matt Church, Founder of Though Leaders Global and author of Amplifiers

"How refreshing to have a book that cuts through the myths and hype and gets to the heart of human behaviour and the realities of why we do what we do. Dan and Kieran share a rare quality of not only being brilliant researchers and strategists, but also being able to translate what they do into what we need to know. And they do it with such a fabulous sense of wit and humour that you can't help but turn the page. This book will change how you view behaviour, business, leadership and even society, forever."
Megan Dalla-Camina, Strategist and author of Getting Real About Having It All

"Clever, rigorous and refreshingly real--this fad-free book shows modern-day realists how to unlock real results."
Dr Jason Fox, Motivational Scientist and author of The Game Changer

"Finally someone has the guts to tell the truth! This book will blow your mind and not allow you to look at the world the same. By removing your blinders it will save you time and help you get what you want."
Dr Adam Fraser, Human Performance Researcher and author of The Third Space

"As business leaders we think we know but Dan and Kieran really know what makes buyers do what they do. Buy this book to find out how to get them to buy more."
Jeffrey Hayzlett, Primetime TV Show Host, best-selling author and sometime cowboy

"Clever, funny, thoughtful and passionate about success ... the book is too."
Russell Howcroft, Executive General Manager, Network Ten

"I deeply resent Dan and Kieran's hilariously blunt insights into my human failings--or at least I would--if the opportunity to profit from them wasn't so genuine and compelling. Steel-toed honesty coupled with brilliant original perspectives: Whether your focus is business or philanthropy, this is a book for people who have the courage to understand themselves in order to change the world."
Bradley Trevor Greive AM, New York Times best-selling author

"Dan and Kieran's latest book combines the art of engaging readability with the science of killing sacred cows. This book cuts through the clutter and the rah rah and creates a new paradigm of understanding human nature, which is essential to create organisations and brands well positioned for a future that isn't just about hype, but about depth and meaning. Hoover it now!"
Anders Sorman-Nilsson, Futurist and Founder of the think tankThinque