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Information Diet | Faris Yakob

This is part of the series 'How to be Curious - Cognitive Fitness for Planners' by Ian Leslie, our APG Guest Editor during April 2018. He believes that strategists need to be curious and stay curious and the only way to do that is to excersise your brain as you do your body. One important aspect of fitness is diet.

Here he gives you a look at the information diets of different strategists, via a Q&A.


Faris Yakob| Co-founder of Genius Steals, a nomadic creative consultancy

1. Outside of ad industry/marketing sources, what are your daily must-reads for information?

Twitter is where I get my news. I follow 25k different accounts, from a variety of publications and lots of smart people - they curate culture for me in real time.

2. Which websites, if any, do you go to when you want to spark new ideas and insights?

Seenapse - an inspiration engine, made up of non-obvious connections to topics made by humans, not algorithms. Type in any topic and it shows you divergent associations. There’s also a Chrome extension that shows you divergent results for topics you search for on Google. [Full Disclosure - they are Genius Steals partners and collaborators.]

PSFK was my go to when I was agency.

3. Are there any magazines/periodicals you read regularly?

Yes. I fly pretty much every week and we pick up a stack. Bloomberg Business Week, Scientific American, New Philosopher, Time, Admap, The Atlantic, New York Magazine, Vanity Fair.

I used to love Wired and Fast Company but find myself not really picking them up anymore. My sense is that I’m not alone.

4. Are there particular writers you find to be a regular source of insight and inspiration?

I value breadth above all. There are many, I’m always looking for more.

5. Which social media, if any, do you find most intellectually stimulating?

Twitter - see above.

6. Which podcasts and YouTube channels do you like?


Youtube Channels:

Rosie and I and any friends that have invited us over will end up watching musical comedy once the evening comes to the sharing Youtube videos point. I find some of the smartest ideas and best deliveries here. Try Bo Burnham, Tim Minchin, Garfunkel and Oates, Lonely Island and Lil’ Dicky to get you started.

Also, if you haven’t seen this copywriter’s cover letter video that got him a job at WK NYC, you should.

7. When and how do you find time to read books, and do you pursue any particular reading strategy (fiction vs non-fiction, recommendations, etc)?

In between things. When you travel all the time there is lots of in-between time. When we are in non-English speaking countries we very rarely watch and television. So I consume way too much twitter and a lot of books. There was a 3 month hiatus while I was playing Zelda and Mario on the Nintendo Switch early this year though. Now my wife Rosie is playing, so I’m back to reading. Before being nomadic, the only reading time seemed to be commuting and I noticed a precipitous drop in my book consumption when I started cycling to work. Everything is a trade off.

Yes I pursue a strategy because as I’ve got older I seem increasingly drawn to non-fiction but my MA is in literature. Various studies that show men tend to be drawn less to fiction, while the converse is true for women. Knowing lots of facts and frameworks and theories suits my brain but research suggests that fiction increases empathy, which a planner also desperately needs.

8. Is there a book or books that changed the way you think about your work?

In a sense. This is Water [Foster Wallace] affected me deeply, especially in how I consider people I don’t know but have to interact with, trying to assume the best intentions, approach people with compassion, and avoid the fundamental attribution error.

9. What topic would you most like to learn more about?

Life, the universe and nearly everything.

But at the moment, I’m reading a lot of history, trying to understand what’s going on, where the cultural fault lines came from. I recommend Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History by Kurt Andersen and Americana: A 400-Year History of American Capitalism by Bhu Srinivasan. Between the two, you get a sense of why everything seems to be about money and madness in America today. More broadly, everyone should read Sapiens, A Brief History of Mankind [Harari] and A Short History of Nearly Everything [Bryson]

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