Tag Archives: gladwell

Savvy Saturday February 28th, 2015

Truly successful decision making relies on a balance between deliberate and instinctive thinking.

Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

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Impressions and Imperfection


Malcolm Gladwell (author of David and Goliath, Outliers, The Tipping Point) said in an interview a few years ago that our impressions of people are usually more positive than reality. If we hear a deep velvety voice on the radio we tend to associate it with a “deep velvety” persona – whatever our interpretation of that may be. Has it ever happened to you that you have met a radio personality in person and there is a mismatch with what you imagined?

We choose information to fill in the blanks.

In business, we also choose information to fill in the blanks and our bias sometimes gives us a polarized impression of what a marketplace or a customer is about. We can never have perfect data and certainly there is value in shipping “less than perfect” because awaiting perfection might mean we miss out on the opportunity altogether.

Quotes like these make me smile and nod my head in agreement:

If you see a bandwagon, it’s too late. – James Goldsmith

If you are not embarrassed by the 1st version of your product, you’ve launched too late.– Reid Hoffman

So as entrepreneurs and business people we have to fill in the blanks in order to get our product or service out there, to get it into the hands of customers in new markets and to guess how it’s being purchased, used and talked about. Consulting firms, like Hipona Consulting, can help you with business intelligence and connections in the marketplace but there still will be gaps that have to be filled with assumptions, associations and creativity.

Now the flipside…

The question that might be interesting to consider is this: looking from the customer viewpoint is it more valuable for your brand to have more reality based impressions (based on information) or fill-in –the- blanks-imagination based impressions?

I would argue that it needs to be a beautiful mix of the two. That a company provides enough information to create customers and yet leaves a little to the imagination…


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Are we asking the right question?

Anyone following my blog or tweets will know that I am a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell. Today I saw an excellent interview by Adam Grant of Wharton where he spoke to Gladwell for about 20 minutes about his new book David and Goliath. Highly recommend watching it since he touches on topics related to leadership, entrepreneurship and the need to review our assumptions and build on (or “adjust”) our past ideas.

Asking the right questions – if “right” is the correct word – is an extremely important and often overlooked tool to problem solving. We are often more interested in rushing towards answering or “finding” the right answer than taking a pause to consider if our question is the right one and if it will really lead us to the solution we are seeking.

Einstein once said: “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on it, I would use the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”

In a TED talk by Malcolm Gladwell from way back in 2004, he talks about asking the right questions and innovating spaghetti sauce. That’s right, spaghetti sauce. Gladwell is sometimes known as the “spaghetti sauce guy” – now you know why. The talk has some important takeaways such as:

1) The right question can be disruptive – to an industry, to a company, to the status quo. It certainly was for spaghetti sauce!

2) The process to finding the right questions to ask shows us that we live in a complex world where right “answers” might not necessarily exist. The whole idea of “right answers” is somewhat subjective. Right answers only exist in a linear world or a homogeneous group of people.

3) Finally, formulating better questions is about continuous learning – seeking out better questions, re-assessing direction, being non-complacent and building relevant organizations.


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