“It’s true I deceived you but I wasn’t lying.”
In ‘Why Leaders Lie: The Truth About Lying in International Politics’, the author claims there are three different kinds of deception: lying, spinning, and concealment.
Lying is when a person makes a statement he knows to be false in order to deceive the target audience. “Lying can involve making up facts that one knows to be false or denying facts that one knows to be true.” In addition, a person is lying when he uses true facts to make the case that something is true which he knows is not true.
On the other hand, spinning is when a person emphasizes certain facts to make a point, while, at the same time, avoiding inconvenient facts that detract from the point. “Spinning is all about interpreting the known facts in a way that allows the spinner to tell a favorable story.”
Finally, concealment happens when a person doesn’t reveal information that would weaken the point he is trying to make. That person is hiding the truth.
As a society, we view each of these deceptions differently. The basic tenets of many cultures include the commandment “Thou shalt not lie.” On the other hand, concealment is discouraged but viewed as less troubling than lying; it is designated as the sin of omission. Of the three types of deception, only spinning seems to be permitted by society. According to popular wisdom, traditional marketers and politicians base their careers on spinning.
Follow me on Twitter (@jbecher) – no lying, no spinning, and no concealment.
This blog was originally posted on Manage By Walking Around on May 19, 2013.
The most fascinating book I’ve read in a long time, ‘But Wait… There’s More,’ explains the science behind infomercials. Virtually every element of an infomercial is based on scientific research and designed to manipulate you into taking action. For example, infomercials have a higher return on investment when they air late at night, not just because airtime is less expensive, but because
Ron Popeil, often described as the father of the infomercial, popularized the countdown technique, in which he warned people he only had a certain number of units (“supplies are limited!”) and lowered the quantity displayed as the end of the pitch neared. Before time ran out, he stopped selling the last few items and switched to a new product. Frustrated buyers would be less likely to let future offers get away.
The more complicated the pricing scheme, the better. The “but wait, there’s more!” makes it harder to judge the value of the offer and the preponderance of add-on freebies creates the appearance of a good deal. Shipping and handling fees are almost always concealed until after the purchase decision has been made. Once you’ve made the emotional decision to purchase the ab roller to improve your health, you are unlikely to hang up just because you have to spend a few more dollars.
And, of course, words matter (my mantra!). The pitches always say “when you call,” not “if you call” which subtly encourages you to do it. The host typically asks the viewers to “tell a friend” about the incredible offer so they feel indebted for his act of generosity and reciprocate by making a purchase. And of course, the classic “if the lines are busy, please call back” creates a sense of panic in viewers that they may miss out on the deal that everyone else is getting.
The ‘But Wait… There’s More’ book also settled a multi-decade mystery for me. Why do commercials show knives cutting through such odd objects? Shoes, wood, and even a coin. I’ve never understood the psychology of that display. The answer is distressingly simple: if the knife can cut through a cement block, it clearly can stand up to whatever task you have for it in your own kitchen. This raises the perceived value in your mind, allowing the manufacturer to charge more.
Please tell a friend this post will be available for free for the next 7 days. But wait, there’s more: if you follow me on Twitter (@jbecher), I’ll throw in a subscription to this blog.
This blog was originally posted on Manage By Walking Around on May 12, 2013.
Many popular phrases have their roots in sports. For example, the cliché “there is no ‘i’ in team” comes from the idea that a cohesive team of players is more likely to win games than a collection of individual superstars. Players are told to focus on the team’s overall success rather than their individual performance. The corollary to this idea is that stars who are high maintenance cause unrest in locker rooms which, in turn, causes poor performance in games.
Neither of these ideas is necessarily true in sports or in business. In a book titled ‘There Is an I in Team’, Cambridge Business School Professor Mark de Rond explores a variety of research studies and comes to the conclusion that a focus on interpersonal harmony can actually hurt team performance. Talented team members self-censor their contributions to keep the peace. In fact, the book quotes a Harvard study which found that “grumpy orchestras played […] better than orchestras in which all the musicians were quite happy”.
The book examines why it’s so hard to get teams to realize their potential and how to enable individuals to work more effectively on teams. Here’s Prof de Rond summarizing his findings:
According to another Harvard study cited in the book, creating a team of overachievers is not necessarily the best way to maximize performance. The study of sell-side equity analysts found overall performance started to suffer when the percentage of stars rose above a certain level. “Don’t overspend to recruit high-status employees,” concludes this research; “stars work best in a supportive network of competent performers.”
All of this reminds me that comparisons between sports and businesses can be tricky. I’m sure it’s difficult for sports managers to figure out the optimal mix of stars and team players but at least the goals are clear and the team members’ results are easy to measure. In business, the goals are many and individual contribution tough to prove.
Whether you believe in stars or teams, my advice is to pay attention to the outcomes. As Michael Jordan famously once said, there may be no letter ‘i’ in the word team but there is an ‘i’ in win.
This blog was originally posted on Manage By Walking Around on May 5, 2013.
The answer might surprise you, as it’s not saving the environment or saving money. People are more likely to reuse their hotel towels if they are told that everyone else is doing it.
This variant of the ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ effect seems hard to believe but has been confirmed in a variety of scientific studies. For example, researchers asked nearly 1000 Californians to predict which of four messages would be most successful at persuading them to conserve energy:
Not surprisingly, respondents rated the fourth option as least likely to influence their behavior. However, in practice, the researchers found this was actually the most effective in changing behavior; nearly twice as strong as a predictor of energy conservation as any other message.
Britain’s officials improved their tax collection rate 50% by following a similar approach. Rather than sending threatening letters to people who didn’t pay their taxes on time, they appealed to their civic duty and pointed out the majority of their neighbors had already paid. By doing so, they collected £5.6 Billion ($8.6 B) more revenue than they had the previous year.
The desire to fit in is so innate that we do not recognize it influences our behavior. In a frequently-cited study, scientists showed they could influence NYC subway commuters to increase their donations to street musicians by 8 times, simply by having other people visibly donate. In other words, seeing their ‘neighbors’ donate caused commuters to donate more. Study participants who were interviewed afterwards failed to recognize they were influenced by others. Instead, they claimed “I liked the song he was playing”; “I’m a generous person”; and “I felt sorry for the guy.”
Of course, marketers have long used peer pressure as a way of creating more interest in a product. Famously, infomercial writer Colleen Szot changed the traditional line of “Operators are standing by” to “If operators are busy, please call again”. The suggestion you might miss out on a product that all of your neighbors were buying created a stronger call-to-action.
Given all of this research, it’s not surprising that hotels are turning to the same technique to get us to reuse towels and sheets. And it’s working.
By the way, 75% of your neighbors who read this blog tweeted it or emailed it to a friend.
This blog was originally posted on Manage By Walking Around on April 21, 2013.
As the name implies, biomimicry is the discipline of designing products by mimicking phenomena that already exist in biology and nature. The best-known example of this approach is Velcro, which was developed in the 1940s by engineer George De Mestral when he noticed burrs clinging to his dog’s fur after a walk in the woods. It took him more than a decade to perfect the manufacturing process, reinforcing how difficult it is to mimic even seemingly simple natural phenomena.
I was inspired to learn more by Janine Benyus’ ‘The Promise of Biomimicry’ TED talk.
Since watching that talk, I have read about dozens of biomimicry examples, including:
I have been most fascinated by the use of biomimicry in medicine. For example, while researching alternatives to toxic paints that discourage the growth of barnacles on ship hulls, University of Florida scientists noticed that Galapagos sharks do not suffer from this problem. Further investigation proved a microscopic pattern on the sharks’ scales make them naturally resistant to bacteria.
When this pattern is commercially replicated onto surface coverings for hospital countertops and bathroom doors, bacteria growth is reduced by a staggering 80%. This approach now seems like the most promising way to stem the tide of drug-resistant bacteria MRSA and C-diff, the so-called superbugs that cause difficult-to-treat infections in hospitals.
By some accounts, MRSA and C-diff kill more than 30,000 people per year in the U.S. Despite tens of millions of dollars of drug research, the solution may lie in mimicking the scales of a shark.
This blog was originally posted on Manage By Walking Around on April 14, 2013.