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Is President Trump Doing Management Wrong?

I made the mistake of turning on CNN yesterday and saw all the hypnotized pundits trying to work the secret persuasion word “chaos” into every comment about President Trump. That’s your tell that none of the pundits are offering independent opinions. They are part of the hive mind led by some uncredited persuader on their side. Someone told them to say “chaos” a lot, and so they do. This might signal the return of Godzilla. Reminds me of “dark,” their hive-mind word for the summer of 2016.

It appears that Trump’s counter-persuasion for “chaos” involves framing his administration as “disruptive.” That’s a good persuasion move because it doesn’t deny the observations. A disruption looks a lot like chaos from the outside. Two movies on one screen.

The interesting question to me is this: How do we know whether President Trump is doing a good job or a bad one? What standard do we use for comparison? If you are not comparing Trump’s performance to some objective standard, you’re not saying anything at all.

Does it make sense to compare President Trump’s performance to an imaginary president who didn’t get elected? I don’t think science recognizes your imagination as the base case for an experiment. It just feels like it should be. That’s an illusion.

Does it make sense to compare President Trump’s performance to past presidents who got a lot done in the first week? Well, maybe, if such a person existed. No one has ever tried moving at Trump’s speed before. We expect the slow-moving traditional leader to create less “chaos” than the entrepreneurial and disruptive leader. But don’t you have to include the benefits in this comparison? The whole point of Trump’s flurry of activity is that he’s trying to create good outcomes. We don’t know if the good outcomes will pan out. All we know is that it was a bit messy at the start. 

Is being a bit messy a sign of a problem?

Not if you’re the entrepreneurial, disruptive, candidate of change who just got elected.

Let me explain another management concept that the pundits don’t understand because, generally speaking, they don’t have the right kind of education or experience to analyze a business process. 

There are two basic styles of management. One is the cautious style of Fortune 500 companies. The other is the rapid-iteration and A/B testing style of entrepreneurs. Trump is bringing the latter style to the office. The markers for this style of management include:

1. Rapid and decisive hiring and firing.

2. Bias toward action. 

3. Rapid A/B testing. Release the early beta version and judge reactions. Adjust accordingly.

4. Emphasis on the psychology of success. Entrepreneurial management includes lots of persuasion and bullshit because entrepreneurs have to fake it until they make it. In other words, they have to create demand via persuasion.

Compare that management style to a large company style. Big companies move slowly in both hiring and firing. They get caught in “analysis paralysis” because no one wants to be seen as making a mistake. And they don’t do rapid testing and iteration with consumers. They try to get it right before any customers see the product. 

The world is watching Trump trade some “chaos” to get the benefits of entrepreneurial management. It’s fast and messy, but he’s testing in real time. He’s watching protests. He’s watching news coverage. He’s watching social media. And he’s rapidly adjusting as needed. The net effect of Trump’s bias for action in his first week is that he created a presidential brand of being the most action-oriented president of all time. Your first impression will be sticky. If things work out for Trump, you will forget any temporary “chaos” and remember him as the most effective president in history. Success fixes everything. Every entrepreneur knows that.

The smartest person I know told me that the secret to business success does NOT necessarily involve hiring the right people. We just think it does. The real secret to success is firing the people that you discover to be the wrong fit until eventually you END UP with the right people. No one is psychic enough to do hiring right every time. Job applicants are good at misrepresenting themselves. But a good leader knows which employees to fire and does it quickly and humanely.

Trump fires well. We saw him fire campaign managers as needed to restaff for each phase of his campaign. Lewandowski was perfect for the scrappy first months. Manafort was the right campaign manager to get Trump through the nomination process. And Conway was the right pick as his closer.

I’m not suggesting that everything Trump does is the right move. Quite the opposite. I’m suggesting that he has chosen an entrepreneurial management style that is guaranteed to create more small-scale unforced errors than you might see from a boring Fortune 500 management style. If Trump quickly fixes his unforced errors, you’re seeing a style done right, not wrong. 

If you see a pundit crying “chaos” about Trump’s early moves, you’re probably seeing someone with no entrepreneurial management experience. In the startup world, speed has replaced intelligence whenever you can rapidly test*. Doing things quickly, and adjusting as needed, often gets you to a faster/better result than planning a moonshot that has exactly one path to success. 

Obviously you want to match the management style to the situation. The messy entrepreneurial style might work great for fixing “systems” in the government, such as healthcare and immigration. It should work against ISIS too. And I expect it will be great for negotiating with other countries because they don’t know what to expect. 

But sometimes you need to get it right the first time because the stakes are high. Those situations will be obvious to any president. I wouldn’t worry about President Trump launching some nukes just to see how it turns out. 

A good way to tell whether a pundit or citizen understands the field of risk management well enough to critique Trump’s performance is to ask how they view his history of bankruptcies. If a person thinks those bankruptcies are a sign of poor management, they probably don’t know much about business. But if they understand the few bankruptcies – out of hundreds of projects – as part of a diversification strategy with good risk management that siloed off the losers, you might be seeing someone who understands business.

*The smartest person I know told me that too.

Scott Adams

Co-founder of WhenHub

Author of How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

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The Persuasion Filter Looks at Torture. Does it Work?

If I ever get captured and threatened with torture it will take about five seconds for me to give up every secret I have. That’s because I know I would break eventually, so why put up with unnecessary torture?

I assume the same is true for the lightly-trained ISIS fighters. Some are just teenagers. Once the bravery-inducing drugs in their system wear off, I have to assume that at least some of them – if not most – would become quite flexible under the threat of torture, not to mention the torture itself.

But won’t they lie?

Well, in many cases the secrets they reveal under torture can be easily checked. If they tell you ISIS has a munitions storage area somewhere, you can go check it out. If they tell you there are ISIS troops massing somewhere, you can fly a drone over and take a look. 

And if you learn that the prisoner lied? More torture, I assume, and probably worse than the first time. So lying about things that can be verified is a bad strategy for a captive.

Some things can’t be verified. But sometimes you have two prisoners. See if their stories match up. That would help.

My point is that common sense, combined with everything you know about human beings, tells you that torture works, at least in some cases. It would work on me. It would work on you. It would certainly work on under-trained ISIS prisoners. 

So why do the experts say torture doesn’t work? 

The answer can be found in the Persuasion Filter. Torture is persuasion, but so is the way you talk about it. If you promote me to the rank of General, put me on television, and ask me if torture works, do you know what I’ll say?

I’ll say it doesn’t work. 

I’ll say I can get more cooperation by being nice. I will look you in the eye and lie my ass off. Because that’s my job.

As a military General, my job is to keep my troops safe. So I will lie about the effectiveness of torture for several reasons: 

1) An enemy might someday capture my troops. I don’t want the enemy to think torture is a practical option.

2) I don’t want the enemy to know their captured soldiers will be giving up their secrets to my side in under five seconds.

3) I don’t want to tarnish the brand of the United States or the military by associating it with torture.

4) I don’t want to go to jail. Torture is illegal.

So the ideal approach for an “expert” on torture is to say in public that it never works while finding ways to skirt the law and use it anyway when needed. Waterboarding, for example, was an attempt to stay legal while still “torturing.” 

Keep in mind that for every “expert” on television that says torture never works, there are lots of “experts” around the world using the method every day. I doubt they would use if it it NEVER worked. After all, they are the experts.

This brings us to President Trump. He says with surprising candor that he believes torture works but will follow the recommendation of his generals who say it doesn’t.

Interpretation: Torture works. The generals know it. We’ll find a way to do it if necessary to keep the country safe. You don’t want to know the details.

We like to believe that experts are more credible than non-experts. And President Trump is no expert on torture. But keep in mind that President Trump is a Master Persuader who can detect bullshit faster than normal people. 

You might even call him an expert at detecting bullshit. 

When President Trump presents something as fact, the odds are high that it is hyperbole or just persuasion. You don’t want to assume his facts are literally true, although they are usually emotionally or directionally true.

But if President Trump – The Master Persuader – tells you someone else’s facts are bullshit, you can usually take that to the bank. The man knows bullshit when he sees it. And with his skillset he can also smell it coming from miles away.

On an unrelated topic, when you see President Trump disagreeing with the experts on climate change, you assume he has no credibility. He’s not an expert in the field. But he does know bullshit when he sees it. And I think he believes the prediction models are unlikely to be accurate. (As do I.) The prediction models are not science, per se. They are persuasion disguised as science via the process of conflation and association. And Trump knows persuasion.

Trump could be completely wrong about climate change. So could I. But when the Master Persuader calls bullshit on something, be cautious about betting against him. 

Scott Adams

Co-founder of WhenHub

Author of How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

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The Canadian Option

My most agitated liberal friend sent me a link today about Justin Trudeau announcing Canada would take all of the Trump-banned immigrants because diversity is their strength. My friend said that was an example of real leadership.

His conclusion is debatable, but didn’t Canada just solve all of Trump’s problems? If humane treatment of immigrants is the goal, Canada is the right place. They have polite behavior, free healthcare, and lots of space. That’s a win-win-win.

Or am I missing something?

Canada also gives us a test case to compare to America’s plan. In five years we can check back and see how it turned out for them. If it worked, we can reassess. Until then we obviously need to wall-off Canada. But that’s another topic.

Now that I think about it, the Middle East has a lot of space too. Remind me again why Muslim countries are banning Muslim immigrants. Is it because they are Hitler?

Scott Adams

Co-founder of WhenHub

Author of How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

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Be Careful What You Wish For (especially if it is Hitler)

As a trained persuader, I’m seeing a dangerous situation forming that I assume is invisible to most of you. The setup is that during the presidential campaign Trump’s critics accused him of being Hitler(ish) and they were sure other citizens would see it too, thus preventing this alleged monster from taking office.

They were wrong. The alleged monster took office.

Now you have literally millions of citizens in the United States who were either right about Trump being the next Hitler, and we will see that behavior emerge from him soon, or they are complete morons. That’s a trigger for cognitive dissonance. The science says these frightened folks will start interpreting all they see as Hitler behavior no matter how ridiculous it might seem to the objective observer. And sure enough, we are seeing that.

To be fair, Trump made it easy this week with his temporary immigration ban. If you assume Trump is Hitler, that fits with your hypothesis. But of course it also fits the hypothesis that he’s just doing his job. We’re all seeing what we expect to see. 

But lately I get the feeling that Trump’s critics have evolved from expecting Trump to be Hitler to preferring it. Obviously they don’t prefer it in a conscious way. But the alternative to Trump becoming Hitler is that they have to live out the rest of their lives as confirmed morons. No one wants to be a confirmed moron. And certainly not after announcing their Trump opinions in public and demonstrating in the streets. It would be a total embarrassment for the anti-Trumpers to learn that Trump is just trying to do a good job for America. It’s a threat to their egos. A big one.

And this gets me to my point. When millions of Americans want the same thing, and they want it badly, the odds of it happening go way up. You can call it the power of positive thinking. It is also the principle behind affirmations. When humans focus on a desired future, events start to conspire to make it happen.

I’m not talking about any new-age magic. I’m talking about ordinary people doing ordinary things to turn Trump into an actual Hitler. For example, if protesters start getting violent, you could expect forceful reactions eventually. And that makes Trump look more like Hitler. I can think of dozens of ways the protesters could cause the thing they are trying to prevent. In other words, they can wish it into reality even though it is the very thing they are protesting.

In the 3rd dimension of persuasion, the protesters need to be proven right, and they will do whatever it takes to make that happen. So you might see the protesters inadvertently create the police state they fear.

If you are looking for the tells that this dangerous situation is developing, notice how excited/happy the Trump critics seem to be – while angry at the same time – that Trump’s immigration ban fits their belief system. If you see people who are simply afraid of Trump, they are probably harmless. But the people who are excited about any Hitler-analogy-behavior by Trump might be leading the country to a police state without knowing it.

So watch for that.

Scott Adams

Co-founder of WhenHub

Author of How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

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The Persuasion Filter and Immigration

President Trump has issued temporary immigration orders that ban citizens from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. This is a good opportunity to test the Persuasion Filter against what you might call the Hitler Filter.

For new readers of this blog, my starting point is the understanding that human brains did not evolve to show us reality. We aren’t that smart. Instead, our brains create little movies in our heads, and yours can be completely different from mine. We see that situation now. Half the country thinks President Trump is well on his way to becoming a Hitler-like dictator. But many other Americans think Trump is an effective business person with good intentions. They can’t both be right.

I use the word “filter” to describe an optional way of looking at the world. A good filter is one that makes you happy and does a good job of predicting what happens next. Let’s use that standard to compare the Hitler Filter to what I call the Persuasion Filter.

The Hitler filter clearly isn’t making people happy. The people watching that movie are protesting in the streets. Meanwhile, the people who see Trump as a good negotiator looking out for the country are quite happy with the job he has done so far. The Persuasion Filter says Trump opens with a big first offer and negotiates back to something reasonable. If you don’t recognize the method, it looks crazy, random, and racist. 

But what about predictions?

The Persuasion Filter predicting Trump would become president when the Hitler Filter thought he had no chance. Now we have another chance to test the predictive power of the Persuasion Filter.

If Trump is a Master Persuader, as I have been telling you for over a year, he just solved his biggest problem with immigration and you didn’t notice. The biggest problem is that his supporters on the right want more immigration control than he can (or should) deliver while his many critics on the left want far less. Normally when you negotiate there is only one party on the other side. But in this case, Trump is negotiating two extremes in two different directions. It’s the toughest possible situation. Best case scenario is that 40% of the country want you dead when it’s all over. Not good.

So what does a President Trump do when he is in an impossible situation?

According to the Hitler Filter, he does more Hitler stuff, such as being more extreme than anyone expected with his recent immigration declarations. That filter accurately predicted that he would be “worse” once elected. Sure enough, his temporary immigration ban is more extreme than most people expected. If things never get worse from this point on, we would have to question the Hitler Filter. But if things get worse still, the Hitler Filter is looking good.

Compare to the Persuasion Filter. This filter says Trump always opens with an extreme first offer so he has room to negotiate to the middle. The temporary ban fits that model perfectly. On the immigration topic alone, both the Hitler Filter and the Persuasion Filter predict that we get to exactly the point we are at today. Let’s call that a tie in terms of predictive power. The hard part is predicting what happens next.

The Persuasion Filter says Trump is negotiating with his critics on the extreme right at the same time as he is negotiating with his critics on the left. He needed one “opening offer” that would set up both sides for the next level of persuasion. And he found it. You just saw it.

The left sees Trump’s executive orders on immigration as pure Hitler behavior. That gives him plenty of room to negotiate to the middle. The initial orders are too broad, and clearly target too many of the wrong people. As he fixes those special cases he will be moving away from the Hitler model toward the middle. And people are more influenced by the DIRECTION of things than the absolute position of things. As long as he is moving away from the Hitler analogy, people will chill out, even if they think he was too close to that position before. Direction matters.

Trump’s temporary immigration ban set a mental anchor in your brain that is frankly shocking. It will make his eventual permanent immigration plan (”extreme vetting”) look tame by comparison. The Persuasion Filter says that’s his strategy. Because that’s ALWAYS his strategy. He acts the same way every time. He wrote a book about it. He talks about it publicly. Then he does it right in front of us, over and over. And no matter how many times he does it, half the country still thinks the opening offer is the real one. 

I’ve mentioned in this blog a few times that persuasion works even when the subject of the persuasion recognizes all the techniques as they happen. This is a perfect case. The left has been watching Trump make big offers and dial them back for the past year. And yet they still think this time it will be different. The Persuasion Filter says that 70-year old Trump will act the same way today as he has for the past several decades: Big first offer, then negotiate.

But what about Trump’s critics on the far right who want more extreme immigration? Trump needs to negotiate with them too. And he is. He did that by showing them that his temporary offer was so extreme that people took to the streets. The system (America) is actively trying to eject Trump like some sort of cancer cell. And the worse it gets, with protests and whatnot, the more leverage Trump has to tell his far right supporters that he has gone as far as the country will let him go. He needed that. The protests are working in his favor. He couldn’t negotiate with the extreme right without them.

Are Trump’s temporary immigration plans chaotic? Yes. Do they hurt innocent people who were minding their own business? Yes, temporarily at least. Did he scare the pants off of half the country? Yes. Will there be lots of unintended damage from Trump’s immigration orders? Yes. No honest person should deny the cost component of the equation. It’s ugly. But don’t stop with a half-pinion. If you want a full opinion on immigration you have to compare those costs to the potential benefits that include fewer terrorist acts and avoiding Europe’s refugee problems. Are people making that comparison?

No.

On Twitter I am seeing lots of well-meaning liberals tweet charts showing that no one from the banned countries has ever been a terrorist in the United States. But Trump isn’t trying to solve the PAST. He’s trying to reduce risks in the future. And the future has risks that are unlike the past.

If you want your president to solve only problems that have already happened in the past, we can ignore any potential climate change issues too. Human activity has never warmed the planet too much in the past, so why worry about it in the future? The point is that we try to stop problems before they happen, not after. Terrorism and climate change are similar in that one narrow way. They are both problems of the future, not the past. You can’t look to history to figure out how to solve either one of them. Dinosaurs didn’t drive cars and ISIS didn’t always have hobby-sized drones that can drop bombs.

On a related topic, President Obama and past leaders have gone out of their way to avoid labelling Islam as the problem behind terrorism. That makes sense on a rational level because only a tiny percentage of Muslims are terrorists. Obama wanted to avoid causing a religious war that pitted Christians against Muslims. So he avoided saying “radical Islamic terror,” for example. One could make a good case that Obama’s approach was the wisest path. It allowed us to stay on good relations with our Muslim allies and it probably depressed recruitment for the terrorists, at least a little bit. Smart, right?

Now we see Trump doing exactly the opposite. His words and actions seem to be intentionally mixing the Muslim “brand” with the terrorist “brand.” How does that make sense with the Persuasion Filter? I’ll tell you how.

President Obama’s approach was to give a free pass to Islam in general and to any Muslims that were just minding their own business. But the unintended consequence is that Muslims have less incentive to police their own ranks. Trump changed that. Now if you want to stay out of the fight against terrorism it will cost you. 

So Trump has created a situation – or will soon – in which the peaceful Muslims will either have to do a lot more to help law enforcement find the terrorists in their midst or else live with an increasingly tainted brand. Trump is issuing no free passes for minding your own business. His model makes you part of the solution or part of the problem. No one gets to sit this one out.

I’m not smart enough to know whether President Obama or President Trump have the best strategy in this regard. But both strategies are rational.

Scott Adams

Co-founder of WhenHub

Author of How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

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Outrage Dilution

I’m having a fun time watching President Trump flood the news cycle with so many stories and outrages that no one can keep up. Here’s how the math of persuasion works in this situation:

1 outrage out of 3 headlines in a week: Bad Persuasion

25 outrages out of 25 headlines in a week: Excellent Persuasion

At the moment there are so many outrages, executive orders, protests, and controversies that none of them can get enough oxygen in our brains. I can’t obsess about problem X because the rest of the alphabet is coming at me at the same time. 

When you encounter a situation that is working great except for one identifiable problem, you can focus on the problem and try to fix it. But if you have a dozen complaints at the same time, none of them looks special. The whole situation just looks confusing, and you don’t know where to start. So you wait and see what happens. Humans need contrast in order to make solid decisions that turn into action. Trump removed all of your contrast by providing multiple outrages of similar energy.

You’re probably seeing the best persuasion you will ever see from a new president. Instead of dribbling out one headline at a time, so the vultures and critics can focus their fire, Trump has flooded the playing field. You don’t know where to aim your outrage. He’s creating so many opportunities for disagreement that it’s mentally exhausting. Literally. He’s wearing down the critics, replacing their specific complaints with entire encyclopedias of complaints. And when Trump has created a hundred reasons to complain, do you know what impression will be left with the public?

He sure got a lot done.

Even if you don’t like it. 

In only a few days, Trump has made us question what-the-hell every other president was doing during their first weeks in office. Were they even trying? 

For a fun party trick, ask your most liberal friends if they think the Federal government should have a say in whether a woman gets an abortion or not. When they say the Federal government should stay out of that decision, inform them that President Trump shares their opinion. He doesn’t want the Federal government to be in the business of making health care choices for women. He prefers leaving that decision to the woman, her doctor, and state laws. 

Many of you have thought of different uses for WhenHub because those situations keep popping up in your life. It’s hard to avoid them.

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Should Twitter and Facebook be Regulated as Utilities?

The Constitution guarantees every citizen the right of free speech. But what happens when the most effective channels for that speech are corporations such as Twitter and Facebook? Does the government have an obligation to make sure those companies are not limiting free speech for some classes of users?

My sketchy understanding of the law is that the government is only responsible for making sure the government itself is not abridging free speech. I think most of us agree that we don’t want the government volunteering for any more work than the constitution says it should be doing.

But shouldn’t the federal government get involved if a few monopoly corporations start to control the national conversation by filtering out voices that disagree with them? 

That seems to be the situation right now. For example, Twitter is apparently “shadowbanning” me because of my past Trump tweets, or so I assume. That means my tweets only go out to a subset of my followers. The rest don’t know I tweeted. My followers tell me this is the case. They have to visit my timeline to see my tweets.

@ScottAdamsSays Your tweets are not at all showing up in my tweetfeed. 😠

— Roopa Dudley (@ArtRoopaDudley) January 26, 2017

Realistically, can I quit Twitter and be a successful media personality without it? Not in today’s world. The only way I could make that work is by having a huge presence on Facebook or Instagram.

But that might be a problem too. Instagram (owned by Facebook) just removed my girlfriend’s (@KristinaBasham) blue verification badge – on inauguration day – without explanation. Was that politically motivated? She has 2.7 million followers and lots of imposters pretending to be her. The blue verification badge was invented for situations like hers. We have no way to contact anyone at Instagram to fix it. 

The same thing happened a few months ago and we worked through a friend-of-a-friend to get her verification badge back. The official explanation was that removing it the first time was just a glitch. This time my contact didn’t reply to my email.

I can’t be 100% sure that Twitter is shadowbanning me to limit my political speech. They might have a bug in their system, for example. But it would be a big coincidence if they are not, given how many Trump supporters were targeted by Twitter in the past year. 

Likewise, I can’t be 100% sure my girlfriend is being punished by Facebook/Instagram for her association with me. But it seems like a big coincidence that she lost the verification on Inauguration Day. That lack of transparency is just as much of a problem as an actual abridgement of free speech. if I can’t know whether my freedom of speech is being limited by corporate overlords, how can I have trust in the Republic? And without trust, the system falls apart.

I want to trust my government, but without freedom of speech, I find that impossible. That’s why I support creating a law requiring the government to audit the major social media sites to certify that freedom of speech still exists for all classes of users. (Within reason.)

You might think there is not much risk of losing the right of free speech in the United States. But keep in mind that I have already lost my free speech in a practical sense. The social media tools you take for granted are not available to me in their full form.

If that doesn’t scare the shit out of you, it should.

A number of you have asked me whether I have been predicting recent political events with spooky accuracy or actually causing them with my own persuasion. You might get some insight into that question by watching what happens on this topic. My intention is to influence.

How am I doing so far?

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Building My Podcast Streaming Studio at Home

A number of you asked what equipment I’m using to build out my home podcasting studio. I put that tutorial in a WhenHub Whencast (my company’s startup) so you can see an example of how WhenHub works for sort of thing.

In this application the dates are unimportant except for ordering of steps. In a future release we’ll have an option for displaying no dates, just an ordering.

The advantage of the Whencast is that you can clone it and modify it and reshare. For example, if you were a manufacturer selling a different type of video capture card you could just replace the one I show in the example with your product, change the link, and  the Whencast serves as a commercial for your product with a click-to-buy button built in. Best of all, as you update it, the updates flow to all the Whencasts connected to it anywhere in the world.

This visualization style is good for tutorials, but WhenHub has lots of different looks for different applications.

This is just one of a zillion things you can do with Whenhub. You’ll see more examples over time. I’ll try to make the topics worthy of your attention so it isn’t purely commercial. I trust all of you to be smart enough to know that blogs usually have commercial intent no matter what else they have. 

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Battle of the Hats

When Donald Trump ran for president he put his clear, simple message on the front of bright red hats. The message was perfect. The choice of a hat instead of a t-shirt or other garment was perfect. The color red was perfect for his message – bold, sexy, and important. The hats were a master class in branding and influence. Political historians will be referring to Trump’s hats for ages.

Compare that to the Million Woman March. They chose pink because – I assume – it is a bit of an ironic color for women who are fighting for their rights. Women are “owning” pink to rob it of its power to brand them as the so-called weaker sex. At least that’s why I assume they picked pink.

We’ve seen that kind of ownership-gambit work before. African-Americans successfully took over the N-word and robbed it of its historical power. Gays successfully turned the chant “We’re here, we’re queer. Get over it” into ownership of the Q-word.

We also saw Trump use a version of this ownership-gambit during the campaign. The media accused him of being a whiner and he responded by saying he was the loudest voice for change. Trump owned the accusation and weaponized it.

So we know this idea of embracing the insult and flipping it into a positive – or at least a neutral – is good persuasion. It works quite often. But let me tell about you one of the rare cases where you should NOT use that persuasion technique.

Don’t use it to own pink.

@ScottAdamsSays Totally respect the Women’s March for being a peaceful example of 1A rights. But this reframe of their branding is hilarious pic.twitter.com/cjofYC4ghO

— Carpe Donktum (@Carpedonktum)

January 24, 2017

Colors influence people directly and irrationally. Trump’s red hats spoke of power and certainty and sex. That’s what red gives you.

Pink gives you the opposite. Pink will lower aggression and make you want to cuddle with a kitten. That’s what the studies say. So pink is not a fighting/protesting color if you want to keep the base energized.

I’m also having a hard time figuring out what the pink-hat people are protesting about that they don’t already have. I understand that abortion is in the mix. But the hats seem to have some sort of generic anti-Trump message that to my mind is conflated with an anti-alpha-male vibe. It’s a confusing message and not completely positive. 

Compare that to Make America Great Again. Simple, universal, and memorable.

Now let’s talk about the shape of the hats. I understand that the hats are supposed to evoke cat ears, as in pussycat, as in female genitalia. But it also looks exactly like the sort of hat this guy would wear:

image

That’s not ideal.

If the movement was designed to generate sympathy, it worked. I feel sorry for the men marching in those hats. On a symbolic level, that’s as close as you can get to eunuch status. The science would say that those men did not go home and have amazing sex that night. On average.

Philosophically, I’m in close agreement with the protestors in the pink hats. I like equal rights in all its forms and I think women should have the best healthcare they can get. I also think men should sideline themselves on questions of abortion and reproductive rights. Women take the major physical burden of reproduction and I think society is most stable when women take the lead in crafting those laws. I see my best role in society as agreeing with whatever women collectively want in the reproduction health realm. (As opposed to the money realm, which is separate.) My opinion would add no intelligence and no credibility to the outcome.

I mention all of that so you know my analysis of the hats is separate from my political preferences. On a persuasion level, Trump’s hats were a base-clearing home run. But the pink hats are emasculating for men (literally and chemically) and that’s not the unifying message that I assume the organizers planned.

The choice of pink hats predicts that the movement will fizzle out in time (probably months). The color alone is powerful enough to drain the movement of energy over time.

Color matters when it comes to branding. You already knew that. What you probably didn’t know is how much it mattered. I’d put color toward the top of the persuasion stack because we are visual creatures and color is the main thing we see.

When Trump came up with his red hat idea he was operating in the persuasion and branding dimension. And he nailed it.

When the pink hat organizers decided on their branding, they appear to have been operating on what I call the word-thinking level. As I mentioned earlier, the hats are literally a pun about cats and vaginas. That’s too conceptual to persuade. Just because the words fit together in a clever way, that doesn’t make it persuasive. And if you plan to take ownership of an insult, make sure the insult is strong. The N-word was a strong insult. The Q-word was weapons-grade too. Trump turned “whiner” into the strongest voice for change, which is also strong. If your enemy has a strong weapon, it makes sense to grab that weapon and use it for defense.

But if someone associates you with a weak color, such as pink, and the science says the color influences people toward weakness, don’t take that as your brand. Run away from pink unless you are trying to persuade people to drink some herbal tea and take a nap.

If you are the new President of the United States, and you see hundreds-of-thousands of protesters marching in the streets, what do you do? Well, in most cases you would treat that as the nation’s top priority. You don’t want it to escalate to social collapse. I can think of only one scenario in which such a large and vocal movement should be ignored until they run out of steam. That rare situation is when the protesters all wear pink hats. You can pretty much ignore that movement. It will fizzle out on its own. Unless they get better hats.

You might want to try the WhenHub app or Studio because people keep telling me how much they love them.

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Books That Have Timers (by design)

I’ve written three books that have what I call “timers” in the design. And by that I mean I intentionally wrote them before the public was ready to read them, with the expectation that someday they would be ready. That day seems to have arrived. Here’s why.

God’s Debris: Atheism is at an all-time high in the United States. People are looking for a new way to understand their reality that can include both God and science without conflict. I wrote this book in 2001. The book’s time is now. 

The Religion War: This book imagines a future in which a Caliphate is formed in the Middle East and the terrorist weapon of choice is small drones. ISIS is weaponizing small drones now. I wrote this book in 2004. I figured we would be in this position about now.

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: If you are puzzled by the irrationality of humans, especially in an election year, this book can help sort it out. I introduce the concept of humans as Moist Robots, a first step to understanding The Persuasion Filter that accurately predicted Trump’s win more than a year before it happened.

To better understand the idea of a timer, notice how reviews for How to Fail have gone from very good to spectacular in three years. The big idea I introduce in the book, about using systems instead of goals, has seeped into the public consciousness and now you see it all over the place. (Usually without attribution.) You’re also seeing the Talent Stack idea all over. Now that people have been primed, the reviews are showing a different kind of appreciation for the material compared to when it first came out. When the book was published, the ideas were too much of a brain-stretch for some people. That has changed in three years. (I can be persuasive. And patient.)

I don’t write all of my books with timers. My biggest seller – The Dilbert Principle – was written to reflect the current times in the mid-90s, and people bought it for that reason. They related to it immediately. 

The book I’m writing now will also be written without a timer. The new one comes out in October. It’s about the Persuasion Filter, with lots of lessons on persuasion wrapped around my experience of predicting the election. 

Anyway, the point of this blog (aside from mentioning my books) is that a writer has to pick a target “time” for a book. Sometimes you know the public is not ready. Sometimes you are trying to match their current mood. It is important to decide which way you are trying to go.

If you’re a new writer, write for the current market, and the current public consciousness. That’s where the money is. I was already a successful writer before publishing God’s Debris and the other two books that have timers. Don’t write books with timers if you have no mechanism to get them noticed later. First, get famous by telling people what they are ready to hear because they already think it is true. They just want to see you explain it better than they are thinking it. Hypnotists call that pacing (matching the subject in any way). Later, when people believe you think and feel the same way they do, you can lead.

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A Look Back at My Trump Predictions

Many of you asked me to provide a quick index to my Trump-only blog posts. I did that for you here in a Whencast. Feel free to share on social media or embed in your own blog. My updates to this will flow automatically to wherever it is shared.To expan…

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Listen to Me on The Harvard Lunch Club Podcast

I’m putting together the studio equipment I need to do my own podcasting and livestreaming. But in the meantime you can hear me on the Harvard Lunch Club podcast.

Several people have asked why I’m trying to do my own engineering for my podcasting studio. I could hire someone who knows how to do this stuff and be done with it tomorrow, as opposed to my current process that has taken months and had lots of failed starts. I’m doing it this way to augment what I call my Talent Stack. Every time I add a new talent to my existing inventory it makes me more valuable. I’m an autodidact, so I enjoy figuring out new stuff on my own, even if it takes far longer. I remember it better that way.

When I’m done building out my podcast studio in my home I will have learned a lot about proper audio, lighting, and video streaming. And that means someday I will be in a position to know if one of my future ideas – or someone else’s idea in this realm – is feasible or not. Every talent you add to your stack allows you to see farther into the future.

How did I predict that Trump would win when most others thought it impossible? That’s because my talent stack includes hypnosis, persuasion, branding, and business strategy. I could see Trump’s potential in ways that others could not.

Likewise, my new knowledge of video streaming, lighting, and audio capture are likely to inform lots of my future projects. I’ll know ahead of time what kinds of ideas are easy to execute and which ones are not. It will be like seeing into the future a little bit farther than people who don’t have those same skills.

And what about all of of the minor celebrities of my kind who would like to do podcasting but can’t figure out the equipment side of it? I won’t be competing against them for attention. My Talent Stack will give me an advantage. Every talent you acquire makes you unique. If you pick the right combination of talents you can be both unique and economically valuable. And you can see into the future.

I’m hearing from people who have augmented their Talent Stacks after reading my book. Strategy-wise, that is probably the single most important thing you can do for your career.

If I seem extra busy this month it’s because I’m writing a book, working on my startup that just launched, and building a podcasting studio on top of my normal workload.

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Could a Climate Science Expert Change Your Opinion?

It seems to me that the big problem with the climate change debate is that no one would recognize a good argument if they saw one. We only think we have the ability to recognize a good argument. What actually happens is that cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias generally keep a wall between us and reality. We live in our own little movies in our heads while being sure everyone else is watching the same movie. They aren’t.

Here’s a thought experiment:

Let’s say you are new to the debate about climate change and I put you in a room with the most well-informed climate scientist in the world. The scientist spends as much time with you as you want, answering every question and making her case that climate change is a human-caused disaster in the making. Let’s say this scientists is also the best communicator in the world, unlike most scientists. So now you have the best information, from the most knowledgeable person in the world on this topic, communicated in the best possible way, and answering all of your questions. Would you be persuaded by all of that credibility and good communication?

We know that a die-hard climate change skeptic would not be persuaded by this excellent source of information because humans rarely change their minds about important things. Instead we hallucinate reasons for why we were right all along. But in my thought experiment I said you are new to the climate change debate. So let’s assume you came to it without bias. Would you be convinced by the scientist?

Probably yes. If your first introduction to a topic involved a clear and detailed explanation from the top expert in the world, you would probably be persuaded because there is nothing stopping that persuasion from happening. You have no bias to overcome and the scientist is both credible and clear in her message. 

The unbiased mind is likely to be totally convinced in this thought experiment. And that mind would also think it had engaged in rational behavior. After all, what could be more rational than getting the best information on a topic, from the best expert in the world, communicated in the clearest possible way?

But your new certainty about climate change would be a fraud that you perpetrated on yourself. If you don’t yet see in my thought experiment why the best information from the best source is still unreliable, even when clearly communicated, you probably don’t understand enough about the world to participate in decision-making.

I’ll simplify this even further so you can test your hallucination. Here’s the summary of the situation. Tell me why you should not automatically trust the scientist in this thought experiment. Assume the following three things ARE true. What’s missing?

  • Best expert in the world on Climate Science.
  • Currently works in the field.
  • Great communicator, answers all of your questions.
  • See what’s missing yet?

    The thing that is missing is that you can’t know what the expert didn’t tell you. If you are not an expert in the field yourself, how could you possibly know what has been left out?

    You also don’t know if the scientist is suffering from cognitive dissonance. It would look exactly the same to you. And cognitive dissonance is common to all humans, including scientists.

    But wait, you say. The whole point of science is that the scientific process controls for human bias. The peer review process scrubs away bias over time, and climate science has been around for long enough that lots of scrubbing has happened. The peer-reviewed science is heavily on the side of temperatures being influenced by CO2 in a potentially disastrous way. If you believe in science, shouldn’t that tell you all you need to know?

    Well, it might. Except for the fact that prediction models are not actually science. Correct me if I am wrong (and that is likely in this case) but it seems to me that the prediction models are just tools that scientists use. They are not derived from the highly-credible scientific method any more than stock-picking models are. And stock-picking models generally don’t work over time even though they are great at hindcasting (predicting the past, basically).

    How about political forecast models? Those aren’t science either. And we observed in the recent presidential election that they performed worse than “cartoonist has an opinion.” Yet political models perform great in hindcasts.

    I’m also confused by the fact that apparently there is more than one climate model that gets the “right” answer for climate scientists. Shouldn’t there only be one? Why wouldn’t science pick the best one and call it a day? And if they can’t agree on which one is best, what does that tell us?

    My position on climate change is that BOTH sides of the debate are completely credible to the people already on their side, thanks to confirmation bias. But that’s where the persuasion ends. Neither side has the tools or talent to sell their beliefs to the other side in any wholesale way. 

    Imagine putting the leading expert from both sides on a TV show or a podcast with an objective moderator who is trying to get to the truth for viewers. Would that work? I doubt it. It would look like this:

    Moderator: Explain why your side is right.

    Expert 1: Look at my chart here.

    Expert 2: That chart is wrong. You forgot to include the (whatever).

    Expert 1: It wouldn’t make any difference.

    Expert 2: Yes it would.

    Moderator: Okay,  I guess we’re done here.

    If you are frustrated with the people who are on the other side of the debate, no matter which side that is, I think you should give them some slack. There is no way for this sort of information to be credibly conveyed to human beings. And the problem is not always on the receiving end. 

    That said, I’ve ordered some new studio equipment for doing podcasts and live streaming. If I can figure out how to make it all work (which is harder than it seems) I’ll bring on some guests to show you how they fail to communicate this topic to me. We won’t learn anything about climate science but you might enjoy watching me dismantle both sides.

    You might find great value in using WhenHub (my startup) because I keep mentioning it in my blog.

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