November 16, 2008

Provoke Instead of Influence

In a interview with the Wall Street Journal, Malcolm Gladwell said this about his new book Outliers:
"These books are playful in the sense that they regard ideas as things to experiment with. I'm happy if somebody reads my books and reaches a conclusion that is different from mine, as long as the ideas in the book cause them to think. You have to be willing to put pressure on theories, to push the envelope. That's the fun part, the exciting part. If you are writing an intellectual adventure story, why play it safe? I'm not out to convert people. I want to inspire and provoke them."
This philosophy approaches influence from a different angle. Perhaps not a full 180 degrees, but at least a good 45. Sounds to me like he's taking the easy way out. I don't have to actually influence anyone, all I have to do is provoke them. While provoking is fun, and sometimes dangerous, I enjoy the finer skill of actual persuasion.

Although, I was glad to see that Gladwell did manage to provoke Marlin Mann. The beauty of striving to provoke instead of influence is that you know longer care what others think. In fact if they disagree with you strongly that's better than if they agree with you mildly.

The other benefit for us who like to persuade, it that the provokers give us good material to help make our case even when we disagree with them.

Here is Gladwell speaking at the TED conference on spaghetti sauce.

I don't know if that talk provokes me, but I do know it makes me hungry.

November 15, 2008

Making others Immortal

I just read the obituary for Studs Terkel in the Economist. What an amazing example of a man who walked his talk. His words, "I want people to talk to one another no matter what their difference of opinion might be." His actions were over 45 years of listening in a way that got people to open up and share their story in a meaningful way.

Studs Terkel
not only actively listened, he believed truth came from open debate.
"That's what we're missing. We're missing argument. We're missing debate. We're missing colloquy. We're missing all sorts of things. Instead, we're accepting."
But what was most impressive about his life time of story sharing was his ability to shine the spot light on others. The story wasn't about him, it was about his interview. His life is a reminder to us all to listen intently, debate with vigor, and give others the attention they deserve. And what an awesome name.

November 3, 2008

Okay Maybe Talent Can Overcome

In the last post, I shared how all the great talent in the latest Indiana Jones movie couldn't overcome a bad decision. It only took about 24 hours for me to see the error of my ways. Here is a perfect example.

Although to support my earlier argument, there were several great decisions behind this talent:

  • Edit, edit, edit.
  • Practice, practice, practice.
  • Edit, edit, edit.
I guess there is value in exposing the younger generation to legacy brands like Star Wars and Indy.

November 2, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Bad Decisions

My wife and I finally watched "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" the other night. What a disappointment! The movie was one part Indiana Jones, one part Close Encounters, and one part Ocean's 12. We couldn't understand why a great story teller like Steven Spielberg would sign on for such a poor story. From watching an interview with Lucas and Spielberg here seems to be the logic behind such a bad decision:
  1. Demand was strong - everywhere they went, people kept asking, "When is the next Indiana Jones coming out?"
  2. Keep the legacy brand alive - Spielberg wanted to make it for those that never saw any of the other Jones movies.
  3. Lucas drove the alien (oh, excuse me interdimensional being) and they went along with it.
Here's a link to Spielberg talking about the movie:

The real moral of this movie is strong talent can't overcome a bad decision.