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Summarize this…

A great use of ChatGPT and other AI is to paste relevant text into the chat box and ask for a summary.

I did this with 300 suggestions that came via a Google form and it did the work better, faster and with more clarity (and less bias) than a person would. Often, we’re clouded by early or vivid data, instead of being patient enough to work our way through it.

Or consider taking the transcript from a Zoom call… if you send the AI summary to all participants, you’re probably more likely to get responses that include useful congruence on what was actually said.

The nuanced challenge of “The Regular Kind”

In a breakthrough study by Alex Berke at MIT, she and her team showed that labeling a menu item as vegan significantly decreased how many people would order it. In similar conditions, it turns out that more people choose exactly the same item if it doesn’t carry that label.

One conclusion people might take away from this study is that the brand name “vegan” carries a lot of baggage. We see that people generally like food without meat, but when it’s labeled as a particular sub-category, they avoid it.

Consider that in other studies, researchers have shown that when food without meat is listed as the default option, far more people will choose it. Simply shifting the choice from “on request” to the convenient, regular kind, dramatically increases selection.

But the real insight is that if a marketer wants to reach the masses, the regular kind becomes worth understanding.

When Italian food was considered novel and was stocked in the ethnic aisle, marketers had to run commercials simply to persuade people that it was okay to serve spaghetti for dinner on Wednesdays. It didn’t really matter which kind, simply that it was normal.

An alternative is to seek the smallest viable audience instead, to create connected communities that change the status quo. The tiny symbols on many packaged goods that indicate kosher status are ignored by most people, but often closely inspected by enough small groups that use it as a certification of what they’re buying. When you can encourage a small group to look for something that the larger group doesn’t even see, it can shift how large producers (corporations, politicians, employers) treat the entire population.

While organizing a few is helpful to those seeking to create change, it also creates a risk for a brand that is comfortable with its position as a market dominator. They’re no longer leaders, because leaders make change happen and embrace opportunity. Instead, a brand that sees itself as the regular kind is relentless in seeking to serve everyone and offend no one. Which, inevitably, they will fail to do.

And so the creative destruction occurs that leads to a shift. A shift in what’s only available on request, on what’s stocked on eye level, and on what’s safe to serve at the big gathering.

The absence of proof

Belief makes us human. Belief is our tool to dance with a possible future, confront our fears, and build community. Our personal taste and our preferences belong to us as well, helping us believe in ourselves.

For millennia, belief thrived in most parts of our lives. We didn’t need belief to know that fire was hot (it always is), but it certainly gave us hope and solace in the face of the unknown. And the unknown is where belief thrives

But resistance to knowing isn’t a useful habit. When Ignaz Semmelweis used statistics to prove that hand washing by doctors would save the lives of mothers giving birth, doctors who believed they knew better ignored it, causing countless deaths. When researchers showed that many ulcers are caused by bacteria, doctors who practiced with long-earned belief resisted the data for decades. And when experts in any field fight against research that might undermine their status, they’re doing their belief and those who trust them a disservice.

There’s more proof in the world than ever before, not less. It’s no longer, “I’ll believe it when I see it,” but instead, “I am confident enough to change my mind and informed enough to do the math and understand the concepts.” We have proof about mathematics, about black holes and about the efficacy of vaccines. We have statistical proof of what people click on and how humans respond in a double-blind test.

This doesn’t make belief less important. In fact, as proof shows up in one area, it simply gives us the opportunity to bring belief somewhere else, somewhere we can put it to good use. Personal taste, placebos and the way we dance with the unknown future are powerful ways to connect, to express ourselves and to find solace.

But the time we spend arguing about proof that we’re not prepared to accept is simply wasted. Belief needs proof the way a fish needs a bicycle.

The convenience fee

Sometimes it’s obvious, like the $1 that you get charged for using an ATM or a credit card, and it’s simply not worth the hassle to walk a few blocks.

And sometimes it’s not, like the cost we all pay for the conveniently wrapped fruits or vegetables at the market–wrapped in plastic that will not degrade in our lifetimes.

The convenience fee might be the time you spend at the drive-through at Starbucks, instead of walking inside, or, heaven forbid, brewing your own coffee at home.

Or choosing media to consume because it’s right there, not a few clicks away…

But the convenience fees, whether metaphorical or actual, keep rising.

It turns out that a life lived conveniently isn’t always a better one. The cost of convenience ends up being too high.

Create value

If your job feels like a dead end, it might be because you’ve traded agency and responsibility for the feeling of security.

But real security lies in creating value.

Creating value isn’t easy, but it’s resilient and generous and often profitable.

“How do I create more value?” is a much more useful question than, “how do I find a better job?”

The maverick and the status quo

The future isn’t the same as the past. Technology develops, systems change and most of all, someone cares enough to make things better.

The maverick isn’t the selfish gunslinger of myth. In fact, she’s focused on resilient, useful interactions that change what we expect, pushing back against the inertia of gobbledygook and bureaucracy.

Some principles to keep in mind:

  • While it may seem reserved for the young, people of any age can choose the maverick path. It tends to skew younger because it’s exhausting and because changing the status quo can cause discomfort to those that change and those that are changed. Once someone is comfortable enough, it might be easier to stand by.
  • Hustle is rarely the most useful action. Systems are built to resist short-term hurried effort. But patient, persistent and focused effort can pay off.
  • Solo quests make good Westerns or legends, but almost all systems change is the result of teams of people, organized and connected in service of the longer goal.
  • Sticky ideas that are built on the network effect dramatically outperform urgent media moments.
  • Change begins with the smallest viable audience, not the largest possible one.
  • Urgency defeats emergency.

The world is topsy turvy and yet, this is as normal as it’s ever going to be again. We need your leadership.

The length trick

It’s possible that the memo or video is simply too long. A 14 minute video explaining how to have a 10 minute brainstorming meeting might benefit from some editing.

But it might be that your instruction manual would benefit from some more photos and better in depth explanation.

Matching the complexity of the problem to the method of solving it can really pay off.

Speaking up

For many, the imagined cost of speaking up is almost always higher than the actual cost.

And we live with the cost in our imagination daily, dying a little bit over time as we keep our insights to ourselves.

Speaking up is a skill, and we can only improve it with practice.

Belief is contagious

Placebos work and placebos spread.

We’re wired to believe something, but the specifics of what we believe often come from other people.

When there were a limited number of channels, mainstream ideas were the focus of our conversations, because the mainstream was all that was widely amplified. Someone might believe that the world was flat, or that the moon landings were faked, but that lived on the fringe. Pockets of odd beliefs.

One of the reasons that Mehmet Oz’s snake oil nostrums were so disturbing was that he took his mainstream reputation, added mass TV and legitimized fringe placebos to make a profit.

Now, thanks to the billion-channel universe, the mainstream has gone out with the tide and every belief can feel mainstream if you immerse yourself in it. You can surround yourself with people who are sure that birds aren’t real, or find a community to reinforce that the patent medicine you’re taking works. And that will increase its positive placebo effect.

Belief increases the efficacy of our practice, but touting an idea can also generate a profit for the touter. Sometimes those two things align, but often, the profit motive pushes them to where they are out of sync.

Our choice of media and cultural inputs matter, now more than ever. When we choose what to see and who to hang out with, we’re actually choosing our future.

Childish or childlike?

Childlike involves wonder. It’s the ability to see the world with fresh eyes and create magic.

Childish, on the other hand, is living as if there are no consequences.

Over time, we’ve gotten very good at measuring the long and short-term consequences of our actions. And good at ignoring them.

Adults do well when they seek to be childlike, and that’s possible without being childish.