what you say, how you say

2020-01-28

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~2 min read

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360 words

In Thinking In Bets, Annie Duke argues that if your goal is to make an optimal decision, you would be well served by divorcing the message from the messenger. In fact, most of Chapter 5, “Dissent To Win” focuses on the topic and I think she makes a compelling case.

Duke’s book however is a framework for managing risk to achieve the best outcomes. It willfully disregards the emotional reactions people have because they are counter productive despite the prevalence of emotional reactions among most people. That’s not fair. All people react emotionally. Duke is not arguing otherwise. Instead, she’s presenting a methodology for managing that.

What if you’re on the other side of the table. Instead of trying not to be persuaded, you are trying to persuade? You might pick up a book like Robert B. Cialdini’s classic, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion and realize that so much of bringing someone along is creating an emotional reaction.

That’s what I was thinking about when I read Rohan Rajiv’s recent post on Trombone Oil (the full post copied below), the tile of which is a reference to a Dan Burke quip to Bob Iger.

Rajiv closed his post with this:

Even if what we’re saying is incredibly valuable, how we say it can make or break its impact.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.


“Avoid getting into the business of manufacturing trombone oil. You may become the greatest manufacturer of trombone oil in the world, but in the end, the world only consumes a few quarts of trombone oil a year.”

Dan Burke’s famous note to Bob Iger does two things at once – beautifully.

First, it articulates a simple but powerful point that is relevant to anyone looking to build a company or a product- market size/potential matters.

Second, a note that said “Focus on projects with big market potential” or “Make sure the TAM/Total Addressable Market on your investments are large” would have been both boring and un-memorable.

Even if what we’re saying is incredibly valuable, how we say it can make or break its impact.


Hi there and thanks for reading! My name's Stephen. I live in Chicago with my wife, Kate, and dog, Finn. Want more? See about and get in touch!