Venn Thinking

I didn’t feel great. I knew why. I’d been eating like crap. It wasn’t the less meat. It was the summer junk food.

In Florida, under the guise of ‘hurricane preparedness’, we buy junk food. It lasts forever. It’s delicious. It never makes it to Peak Hurricane Day, September tenth.

So I cleaned up my diet, kept up the exercise, and got a good night’s sleep. After a day I felt great.

But this got me thinking. How many ideas are like this? How many Things in life are the culmination of a few different inputs? Marriage is some combination of money, resentment/enjoyment, love. Business is some combination of stakeholders, value delivery/value capture, and innovation.

Maybe each way to feel good, be married, or run a business is different, but each one probably has three or so legs to the stool with a sweet spot in the middle.

My other observation was the power of via negative. This is the idea that we can gain from not-doing rather than doing. Avoiding the wrong foods is more powerful than consuming the best ones. But removal is a brute force weapon. It does a lot of work but it only works to a point.

In the book Moneyball, Michael Lewis wrote that during the filtering phase of baseball draftees, Billy Beane would scarlet-letter-style mark players. If someone had a bad attitude or a run-in or some other glaring issue then they were a straight ‘No’. After removing those players, Beane et al. had to get to work on saying yes.

Venn Thinking is a visual metaphor: combine 80/20 thinking with via negativa. Ask, what are the key factors that drive an outcome (be careful of optics vs outcomes), then consider the brute force work of removal before optimizing on addition.

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