Concept Cards - jeffrovner

The Concept Card Project

I've learned a lot of useful concepts over the years. I'll bet you have, too. Wouldn't it be great if we could pass them along to our kids?

That's the idea behind the Concept Card project. It's a compilation of useful ideas. I plan to create a deck of 52 cards, each card devoted to a single concept. I'm crowdsourcing the project, to make sure I draw from many disciplines. The deck of cards will be accompanied by a series of weekly emails, each providing a detailed examination of a single topic. By the end of one year, the owner will have a powerful arsenal of ideas to enrich their thinking, and a handy deck of cards to consult for inspiration.

I got this idea from a speech by Charlie Munger, the Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway:

You've got to have models in your head. And you've got to array your experience—both vicarious and direct—on this latticework of models. You may have noticed students who just try to remember and pound back what is remembered. Well, they fail in school and fail in life. You've got to hang experiences on a latticework of models in your head. ...

And the models have to come from multiple disciplines—because all the wisdom of the world is not to be found in one little academic department. ...

[F]ortunately, it isn't that tough—because eighty or ninety important models will carry about ninety percent of the freight in making you a worldly-wise person. And, of course, only a mere handful really carry very heavy freight.

Set forth below are the concepts I've gathered so far, including contributions from many friends.* If you have any other suggestions, please email me.




*John Alber, Bill Brasfield, Lynette Brasfield, Gary Bren, Liam Brown, Scott Brown, Rick Colosimo, Steve Devine, Patrick DiDomenico, Donna Dyer, Jill Fales, Gabrielle Fishman, Ron Friedmann, Lisa Kellar Gianakos, Bruce Hallett, Ivan Hemmans, Jon Horn, Jim Jenal, Julia Jenal, Tracy Kennedy, Jim Kenney, Rick Klau, Peter Krakaur, Curt Meltzer, Hana Oh, Alisa Proctor, Holly Riccio, Terry Rossio, Lauren Spiegel, Ayelette Robinson, Julie Rovner, Tina Gutierrez Shinnick, and Jocelyn Jolly Stamat.

Sample Card


10,000 Hours Rule

80-20 Rule (also known as Pareto Rule, or Power Law Distribution)

9 Times Principle

Abilene Paradox

Ad Hominem Argument

Agile vs Waterfall Development

Amara's Law


Availability Heuristic 

Backwards Planning/Scheduling


Ben Franklin Effect

Big Data

Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG)


Black Swan

Bleeding Edge

Broken Window Theory

Butterfly Effect

Catch 22

Cause and Effect


Circular Argument


Comparative Advantage

Confirmation Bias

Correlation vs Causation (also known as Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc)

Cost-Benefit Ratio

Critical Mass

Critical Path

Debt vs Deficit

Decision Matrix

Decisions vs Outcomes

Distinction Without a Difference

Double Bind

Dunning-Kruger Effect

Economy of Scale

Efficiency vs Effectiveness

Ewing Theory

False Positives and False Negatives (also known as Precision and Recall)

Fast Follower

Follow the Money

Fundamental Attribution Error

Game Theory

Gift of Fear

Godwin's Law

Golden Ratio

Hanlon's Razor

Hawthorne Effect

Herd Immunity

Hindsight Bias

Impostor Syndrome


Inductive vs Deductive vs Reductionist Thinking

Innovator's Dilemma

Investments vs Purchases

Kelly Criterion Betting Strategy

Knowing What to Measure and How to Measure It

Law of Accelerating Returns

Law of Averages

Law of Diminishing Returns

Law of Small Numbers

Lesser of Two Evils

Less Is More


Lollapalooza Effect

Long Tail

Madman Theory

Maslow's Hammer

Median vs Mean vs Average

Metcalfe's Law

The Moat

Mooer's Law

Moore's Law

Mullins Rule

Murphy's Constant

Murphy's Law

Mythical Man Month

Necessary but Insufficient


Non Sequitur

Occam's Razor

Opportunity Cost

Optimism Bias

Paradox of Choice

Parkinson's Law

Passive vs Active Income

Path of Least Resistance

Peter Principle

Platinum Rule vs Golden Rule

Polanyi's Paradox

Prisoner's Dilemma

Prospect Theory (also known as Loss Aversion or Endowment Effect)

Race To the Bottom

Regression To the Mean

Rule of 72

Rule of Three

Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

Scenario Planning

Schrodinger's Cat

Second-Order Effects

Signal To Noise Ratio



Speed-Quality-Cost Triangle

The Speed of the Leader is the Speed of the Pack

Step 4 of the Troop Leading Procedure

Strategy vs. Tactics

Streisand Effect

Sunk Cost Fallacy

SWOT Analysis

Time Value of Money (also known as Compound Interest)

Tipping Point

Tit For Tat (also known as Quid Pro Quo)

Tragedy of the Commons

Traveling Salesman Problem

Turing Test

Tyranny of the Majority

Urgent/Important Matrix

von Moltke's Principle

Weakest Link

The Wedge

Winner-Take-All Game

Wisdom of Crowds

Zeigarnik Effect

Zero Sum Game

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