Sunday Reads #145: F*** Nuance!
Dispatches from the Twitter-verse.
Hope you’re having a great weekend, wherever you are.
I’d asked a question in last week’s newsletter: Would you be interested in a “Best of Twitter” edition of Sunday Reads every once in a while? After all, some of the best business content is on Twitter. Always informative, often inspiring, and sometimes hilarious.
Got quite a few “Yes” replies (thank you!), so let’s give it a go this week?
But before we get in, a quick request:
Thank you for reading! I’d be honored if you could share this newsletter with a friend who might find it useful. They can subscribe below.
And my last post is here 👇, in case you missed it. Alternative title: “What would Peter Drucker think about blockchains and DAOs?”.
1. F**k Nuance!
Dan Luu has an intriguing observation about working at a big company. When he worked at Microsoft, he was surprised at how high-level the communication was. No nuance, no context, no calibration of belief.
But as he thought about it, it all made sense.
The fundamental problem is this: Whether you communicate nuance or you don’t, you can be sure that 95% of listeners won’t hear that nuance.
Dan gives a few examples in his thread.
It reminds me of what I wrote in How to tell your boss he’s wrong (without getting fired):
Why is your CEO so damn confident even though he’s wrong?
One of my learnings early in my career (I was in management consulting) was:
Confidence in expressing opinion ≠ confidence in opinion.
I don’t mean this as a criticism. It’s a necessary outcome of leading large teams, or working on high impact projects.
Organizational communication is like a game of Chinese Whispers.
Decisive communication is paramount.
There may be uncertainty in the environment. But once a decision is made, there should be no room for uncertainty in what needs to be done next.
You might say, “In an ideal world, people would express their opinion with probability attached.” For example, “I think we should raise prices. I’m 80% sure we won’t lose any customers.”
But this isn’t an ideal world. Even if the CEO is well-calibrated (which might not be a pre-requisite for success), what of the rest of the organization?
Will they just get confused? “Oh, so he isn’t sure that raising prices is a good idea”.
No, communicating to the rank and file of an organization isn’t a time for nuance. You make the decision as best you can, and communicate it without hesitation.
Related: Kieran Healy’s paper at the American Sociological Association, F*ck Nuance. For a paper with this title, it’s quite minutely argued.
2. How the most powerful brands are built.
I enjoyed this thread about how high-prestige brands are built. Interesting to see the common principles to achieve cult status.
Or, you could do it the way De Beers did - with psychological hacks and market manipulation.
And last, Shaan Puri talks about the two greatest products ever created: sports and religion.
Both have grown to billions of users, hundreds of billions in revenue, and lasted hundreds of years.
What makes them such hits?
3. Golden Nugget of the Week.
Don’t react. Breathe. Respond.
4. Living Beautiful Moments.
Well, this one isn’t business or management, but indulge me a bit.
Last weekend, Rafael Nadal won the Australian Open, and became the first men’s tennis player to win 21 Grand Slams.
Halfway through, he was down for the count. Lost the first two sets, and 0-40, about to be broken again in the third. The writing was on the wall (and on social media).
But surprisingly, he fought back. Against all odds, he won!
And to think he hadn’t even played tennis for 6 months leading up to the tournament. In fact, he’d almost retired due to his injuries.
KC said it best on twitter:
The best article I read on his victory was this: Live Beautiful Moments, by Eashan Ghosh. Goosebumps all over. Hope you like it too, whether you’re a Nadal fan or not.
Let me leave you with this video, which Nike had released when he won his 18th Grand Slam:
And yes, he is going to play every point like that.
That’s it for this week. Do reply and tell me if you liked this new format! I’ll do this every once in a while.
And as always, stay safe, healthy, and sane.