You’d agree with Randolph Scott

Interesting post from Justin Fox over at Harvard Business Review. He cuts right to the chase:

We all like to think we can evaluate information and arguments rationally, regardless of where they come from. But we don’t.

No. We certainly do not. Fox quotes Yale Law School Professor Dan Kahan, who notes that:

People feel that it is safe to consider evidence with an open mind when they know that a knowledgeable member of their cultural community accepts it.

Fox then says:

Kahan is most concerned about scientific issues (climate change, HPV vaccines) where he thinks group identities get in the way of reasoned discussion. But the same tendencies can be seen in pretty much any case where there are conflicting opinions — which ought to make them of interest to anybody in a management or other decision-making role.

There’s probably some sophisticated PR insight that can be drawn out of this but I don’t have it right now. Other than arguing with people in a respectful way and trying to acclimate yourself to their predispositions and speech conventions, I dunno. No deep thought for today.

Just got my deep thought. I wonder how true this is for political discussion. Obviously, if you’re dealing with one person and your job is to convince him/her, then you have to be accommodating and understanding and non-snarky and never condescending and all that.

But what if we’re talking about political persuasion? Basically half the people in the country don’t vote. I’m not sure why (that’d be an interesting study but I imagine they might be hard to get hold of). Would using intentionally inflammatory rhetoric, designed to catch the attention of other people who weren’t paying attention, be a better strategy? Because remember: the people you’re attempting to convince probably won’t listen to you anyway for the very reason that Fox outlines.

I feel like the equation has to change when you’re switching from a one-on-one conversation with a committed, opposed person to a series of messages that appeal to millions of people, some of whom are already on your side, some of whom aren’t and around half of whom aren’t even paying attention. Is it worth catering your argument to the delicate sensibilities of ideologically hostile people in the hope that they see the light? Or are you better off torching those people and crossing your fingers that your tribe gets riled up while the unaware half takes a few minutes to stop watching porn and check out what’s going on? Another question to which I don’t have the answer.

And yes:


Business evolves

Blogging has been light because my computer is broken again, this time for realz. Gotta get a new one. That machine lasted me about four years, though, even if you subtract the month when it was broken. It had a good run. Anyhow, onwards.

Via Todd Defren’s Twittertoobz account, I found my way to this article by Joshua Gans about Google in the Hahvahd Business Review. I’ve been reading a fair amount of late about Google’s struggle with Amazon, Apple, Facebook and the rest of the growing companies that keep information proprietary and how that messes with Google.

Here’s Gans on how things changed:

But. But. Google was supposed to be different, folks. And what do you know? Like every start-up before it, it has matured and started to morph into a larger, more bureaucratic organization, concerned with threats and working to protect the core revenues. It was supposed to be different but, in fact, it is the same old story.


It would be nice to argue that the answer is for Google to go back to the old, bottom-up Google model. At some level, it should try to preserve that culture, but it’s really hard to do. My point here is that the “this time it’s gonna be different” mentality that start-ups believe they are founding is wishful thinking. Eventually, a threat comes along that requires a coordinated response. Sometimes that response works — think about Microsoft and its long history of these things — and sometimes it just isn’t going to happen. It is difficult to say what will happen for Google, but a good dose of self-doubt that they are somehow above it all is a good place to start.

Entire article is well worth reading in full. It only takes a few minutes.

Gans nicely sums up my (inexperienced, uninformed) take on this stuff. It was easy for Google have that iconoclastic, almost post-business attitude when the design of the entire Internet meshed with their interests and business model. It’s a lot less easy to have that affable, laid-back attitude now that Facebook and the rest of the proprietary information organizations are threatening Google’s turf and, by extension, their profits.

There comes a point in time for every company, I think, when expanding in size and profits is no longer easy. The market changes, a competitor rises, whatever. The point is, when that time comes, all businesses will do the same thing: adjust to the new environment in an attempt to keep and eventually grow their share of the market. I think that’s what Google has been going through and will continue to go through as Facebook gets stronger and diversifies. In that sense, yeah, Google is growing up, or at least becoming more common. Even when the environment changes, the obligation to the shareholders doesn’t. And that means whatever change will best fulfill that obligation will go through, regardless of whether it means being “evil” or anything else.

And, as Gans does so well to point out at the end of the article, this was always going to happen. It happens to every company. It’s only a matter of time before it happens to Facebook, too.