Commoncog Case Library (Beta)

Update, August 2023: the beta has ended. Work is currently ongoing for the next phase of the case library.

Getting Good at Business Shouldn’t Take Years of Trial and Error

How often have you heard the idea that “business can only be learnt through experience”?

Well, what if that wasn’t true?

If you’re reading this, you’re probably — like me — interested in the art of business.

Maybe you’re running a company of your own. Or you want to. Or you’ve recently been promoted and you think you should get a handle on this ‘business thing’, because you’ve been asked to become more strategic.

But what does ‘getting good at business’ even mean?

To most people, getting good at business means learning from doing — which a fancy way of saying ‘trial and error’.

Which is very inefficient: it means spending years to make mistakes, to recover from them, and to learn whatever you are lucky (or unlucky) enough to encounter.

Which is what people mostly think of when they say “business can only be learnt through experience.”

Which, ugh.

But what if there was a faster way to get that experience?

What Good is Experience, Really?

At this point, it’s probably useful to ask: what is it that experience gives you? What do experienced business people have that you don’t?

The answer, of course, is that experience helps them apply business concepts in a way that you can’t.

Let’s break that down, shall we?

As a business novice, when you read a business framework for the first time, you tend take the framework at face value. You think “oh, just give me a handful of examples, and I can go put the framework to practice.”

But then you give it a try and realise that it doesn’t apply cleanly, right? It never applies cleanly.

Business is messy, which means that the way a business concept instantiates in reality is very dependent on the context. And your context is guaranteed to be unique.

By way of comparison, consider what happens when an experienced businessperson encounters a framework.

Experienced businesspeople have more examples that they can pattern match against. When an old hand encounters a new framework, they compare against fragments of just about every relevant business situation that they’ve seen, plus many more that they’ve heard about (through their, ahem, superior networks).

Which means that they are better equipped to understand how the framework actually shows up in reality, because they’re exposed to more instances to begin with.

Anyone who has attempted to put business frameworks to work would know this is true. Framework applications look very different depending on the time period, the market, the solution, the industry, the competitive situation, and much more. The more variations you know, the more fragments from cases you can draw from, the easier it is for you to put concepts to practice.

Put differently — and contrary to popular opinion — concepts, or principles, are not enough. You also need to know how those principles instantiate in reality! And while experienced businesspeople may talk in terms of principles, their understanding of those principles is rooted in a rich collection of examples — examples that they’ve picked up over their decades in business.

A Faster Way To Expand Your Experience Set

So the solution is simple, right? Systematically expand your set of experiences.

Well ... not so fast. One obvious problem is that a rich collection of examples takes years and years to pick up.

“That’s not that big of a deal,” I hear you say, “I’ll grow the set of patterns in my head ... through reading.”

Make no mistake: this is a good idea.

You can grow the collection of business examples in your head by reading widely. It's no accident business luminaries like Charlie Munger describe themselves as a ‘biography nut’.

(Heck, even businesspeople who dislike reading know to collect as many varied business stories as possible — perhaps by asking their peers, or listening to their network — because they understand how valuable stories are in an ill-structured domain.)

But here’s the problem with that:

  1. Reading books takes up a ton of time. And you don’t have the time.
  2. Let’s say that you’ve finished one book for the concept you’re currently learning. Congratulations — you’ve covered one case! Now go find more. The problem here is that it takes more work to hunt down multiple cases for the specific concepts you’re interested in.
  3. And you might not have the network to ask for real world, behind-the-scenes stories.

Did I mention that you don’t have the time? Yeah, well, that.

A Better Way Than Reading Books

But what if there’s a better way? Let’s say, for instance, that:

  1. You don’t have to read books, because all the relevant cases have already been summarised for you.
  2. You don’t have to search for cases for each business concept you’re interested in — because someone has done that for you! Better still, cases are organised according to concepts.
  3. You may choose to browse cases, or to have them delivered to you via email, like as a custom-built email course.
  4. And you don’t have to dive deep into the source material ... unless you want to, since all of the sources are neatly organised and linked for you.
  5. Most importantly, the case library grows over time — whether you put in the effort or not.

This is what I’m attempting to build with the Commoncog Case Library.

The core idea is simple: I’m creating a growing library of business cases, organised by concept, so that you don’t have to.

The end goal is to accelerate your business expertise — by enabling you to rapidly expand the set of concept instantiations that you have in your head.

And the best thing about it is that I’m building according to the principles of Cognitive Flexibility Theory — a theory of adaptive expertise that’s been used, successfully, to accelerate expertise in military training programs (amongst other domains).

Sign Up For The Beta

Unfortunately, the case library beta has ended. The next phase of the case library will be primarily for members. If you'd like early access, you should check out the Commoncog membership program.


Q: Will you charge for the Case Library?

A: Yes. This beta is free, but I intend to charge for the Case Library as part of the Commoncog Membership bundle. We’ll decide on the exact prices later.

Q: How may I consume the cases?

A: You’ll be able to read the cases on, or receive the cases as an email course. The email course will be available in two frequencies: once a day, or three times a week.

Q: How many cases will there be?

A: There will be at least 16 cases — eight for the Idea Maze concept, and eight for Scale Economies concept. This second set of eight cases were originally published in the private Alpha test.

Q: Will the Case Library Beta be online forever?

A: I'm afraid not. The case library will be live for the duration of the Beta, but at some point these cases (and all subsequent updates) will be placed behind the paywall. Of course, members will always have access to all cases.