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The room or use Zoom?

We noted in the Quarantine Education post that things will need to change in how teachers teach. The classroom model, with breaks for stations, specials, and snacks works fine only in the classroom. Teachers will need to adapt.

Rory Sutherland spoke on Great Minds and Jason Blum spoke on Bill Simmons and both addressed how being in-person was especially helpful in creative endeavors.

“When you’re talking to a creative person, there is so much insecurity and doubt if this is going to be a good idea. Part of what my job is making whoever I’m talking to feel early on tat there is no bad idea.

“Of course there’s bad ideas, but right now, talking early on or how something fits, we can think of any idea.

“And that’s very hard to do on video.”

Jason Blum

Blum makes horror movies in a Moneyball way so he even kinda wants things that look or sound a little hairy. He wants something to be ugly on the first draft and beautiful on screen.

Sutherland’s angle is only slightly different and it’s in the field of marketing.

Take comedy, for example. It’s a field very similar to marketing because it reframes an idea. People are relative thinkers (more than that, different from those, etc.) and comedy changes the that and those we compare against.

In his book, Shtick to Business, Peter McGraw prints an Anthony Jeselnik joke: “My parents were strict. My mom and dad once made me smoke an entire pack of cigarettes. An entire pack of cigarettes in one sitting..just to teach me a valuable lesson..about brand loyalty.”

That’s good reframing. That’s a good laugh.

But it probably didn’t start out that way. It probably started in a place, as Blum put it, of “insecurity and doubt.”

At Ogilvy’s behavioral unit, Sutherland said they have a rule to “dare to be trivial and don’t be afraid of looking stupid.” That’s easier in the room than on the Zoom.

Coming out of social distancing it’s likely that the individuals and collectives that do best are the ones who can communicate the best. If Jason Blum has a series of great meeting he’ll have a great movie. If Sutherland finds a ‘Python-esque’ framing, he’ll have a great ad and behavior change. Alchemy, is powerful but will take more work when using Zoom rather than in the room.

Want more? Check out this pay-what-you-want placebo prescription pdf.

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Always Fix Your Weaknesses

On the Wharton Moneyball podcast the trio of Eric, Adi, and Cade talked about betting lines for the upcoming weekend in sports and they brought up a good point: Liebig’s Barrel.

The idea is that a barrel can only hold as much water as the shortest slat. In the context of Wharton Moneyball the trio discussed if Jimmy Garoppolo was an elite quarterback. Adi said he might be “mediocre,” to which Cade replied, “No, they’ve got a great coach and a great system, and a great defense. They’ve got enough quarterback.” Eric added, “If both teams play to their abilities I think the 49ers win the game.”

From the sounds of it, the ‘quarterback’ slat of the barrel is about as tall as the others, and tall enough to win the game.

‘What to do’ is an allocation challenge. Good capital allocators tend to succeed. It’s amazing how much the leaders in William Thorndike’s book overlap with leaders in any successful organization. He writes, “As a group they were, at their core, rational and pragmatic, agnostic and clear eyed.”

What do you do? Improve strengths or weaknesses. It depends, but not in football.

In football the impact of any one player is small, though the quarterback has increased in importance. The football ‘barrel’ has many narrow slats: offense, defense, coaching, training, analytics, and so on. So fix weaknesses first.

But wait, there’s more! Both randomness, situation, and skill mean that teams don’t know who great players are. Talent evaluation, commentators joke, is having a generational talent every three years. So if it’s difficult who’s the best, fix weaknesses first.

And if all that weren’t enough there’s the idea of diminishing returns. It costs more to make a seven an eight than a four a five. So fix weaknesses first.

In any capital allocation decision it often makes sense to avoid paralysis by analysis. One way to do that is find a weakness and make it better. Then, find another.