Who is your jester?

According to various surveys, CEOs and senior executives hunger for leadership advice.
But no one will give it to them.
Not employees nor coaches nor consultants.
No one.
Despite the fact that “Even the best-of-the-best…can dramatically improve their performance with an outside perspective weighing in.”
This is nothing new.
Hans Christian Andersen wrote about it 178 years ago.
If your life, or livelihood, depended on it, would you tell the Emperor that he’s naked?
That his strategy is misguided and his people are deluded?
Hell no.
You tell him what he wants to hear and to believe.
That’s how you sell anything and everything to anyone.
The famed British economist John Kay had the courage to make this clear in his latest book.
“For over ten years, I built and ran an economic consultancy business, and much of our revenue was derived from selling models to large corporate clients.
One day I asked myself a question:
If these models are helpful, why did we not build similar models for our own decision making?
The answer, I realized, was that our customers didn’t really use these models for their decision making either.
They used them internally or externally to justify decisions that they had already made.”
Which is precisely why leaders need a jester.
Someone who will speak freely without fear of execution.
Someone who will point out the obvious and highlight the absurd.
While everyone around you is telling you how great you are, the jester will point out the problems that you deny to yourself.
While others will cook up the facts for you before serving, the jester will deliver them raw.
Bottom line: The jester will help you see.
And seeing is the key to success.
Seeing ignites insight.
And insight is what prompts action.
Goethe wrote, “Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.”
Make no mistake: The world of work is overflowing with talent.
Genius is required to be a leader in today’s hypercompetitive marketplace.
So I ask you, geniuses.
Who is your jester? 

Your mind has a mind.

You’re walking down the street, rushing to a meeting.
Finally arriving at your destination, you discover that it’s located directly across the street.
There’s no crosswalk, and there’s little traffic.
You can continue on and cross at the intersection.
You can turn around and walk back to the previous intersection.
Or you can simply hoof it straight across the street.
Of those three alternatives, which will you choose?
The simplest, most comforting, and direct one.
The one that makes the most “sense” to you at that moment.
And you won’t even pause to consider your options.
Unless you have a really good reason.
Perhaps you’re pushing a baby in a stroller.
Or a cop is standing next to you, glaring.
Your mind goes through a similar process when it forms beliefs.
It “desires” the easiest, simplest, most comforting and direct path to an answer.
Cognitive scientists have analyzed this propensity to death.
They’ve even invented an entire lexicon known as cognitive biases.
But all you really need to know is this:
Unlike a computer, your “analytical mind” has a mind of its own.
One that “desires.”
To rapidly generalize and estimate.
To see what makes the most sense, based on what it has seen before.
To seek comforting patterns and create cause and effect stories.
To find information that confirms its assumptions.
And to remember information that’s consistent with its beliefs.
Yes, I know that referring to a “cognitive bias” as a “desire of the mind” is controversial.
I don’t care.
The human brain is not a computer.
Your mind is alive.
And it’s motivated.
Once you’ve come to terms with this mad reality.
Everything in life will suddenly become clear.

What we remember.

Have you heard the news?
A recent study revealed something interesting about Apple.
The world’s most valuable brand.
People can’t seem to remember its iconic logo.
Perhaps you can (click here to find out).
You’d assume that most people could.
After all, they’ve been exposed to it countless times.
The reach and frequency of the Apple logo is over the top.
So why can’t most people recall and draw the correct one?
I’ll tell you why.
It’s irrelevant to most people.
The details of the Apple logo simply don’t matter.
The same is true of most marketing.
The images, sounds and words don’t really matter all that much to most people.
And so they’re not stored in long-term memory.
So what’s stored?
What’s stored is what matters.
To them (not to you).
As Peter Drucker tried to make clear:
“What a business thinks it produces is not of first importance.
Especially not to the future of the business and to its success.
What the customer thinks he is buying, what he considers ‘value,’ is decisive.
It determines what a business is, what it produces and whether it will prosper.”
So if you’re interested in owning the most important real estate in today’s marketplace.
That space between people’s ears.
Make sure your message matters.
So it will be relevant to them when they’re exposed to it.
And when the need arises to recall it.
You’re probably thinking, “That’s not true.”
“I remember a bunch of advertising that wasn’t relevant to me.”
If you remember it, it was relevant to you.
At the time you were exposed to it.
It may have tickled you, puzzled you, or pissed you off.
Or the brand message was repeated so often, it became like an earworm.
But that doesn’t mean that you stored the “value” of that brand.
A value that you’ll recall when it’s time to make a marketplace choice.
People don’t pay attention to the detailed designs of logos.
We simply use them as signs in a confusing and fast moving marketplace.
They tell us which roads to take.
To get the value we desire.

They like me!

“I can’t deny the fact that you like me; right now, you like me!”
Sally Field babbled those words during her Oscar acceptance speech in 1984.
She was delusional.
The Academy didn’t “like” her.
They “wanted” her to win.
For her role as Edna Spalding in Places of the Heart.
I empathize with Sally.
I want to be liked.
You probably do, too.
We all do.
It’s how we’re wired.
And that wiring has us short-circuiting.
Especially in the marketplace.
Where we often conflate what people like with what they want.
For the record (and I’ve said this over and over for years):
People don’t choose what they like.
(That’s your delusional mind talking to you).
They choose what they want.
What makes them feel good about themselves and their decisions.
In fact, what we like and what we want are controlled by different brain circuits.
We can like things without wanting them.
And we may want things without liking them.
It sounds illogical.
And that’s why scientists were surprised by the discovery.
They performed an experiment on rats.
Cutting off their “want” circuits.
Figuring that the rats wouldn’t be attracted to cheese.
They were wrong.
The rats scurried to the cheese like Vegas gamblers to a free buffet.
But then they just stood there.
They didn’t eat.
So the researchers double-checked those “want” circuits.
And sure enough, the circuits were turned “off.”
But another circuit was lit up.
One that terminates at the same area of the brain.
They refer to it as the “like” circuit.
The mice liked the cheese, but they didn’t want it.
Most times, the two circuits light up simultaneously.
When we’re hungry, we eat what we like.
But just because we like something, doesn’t mean we want it.
Do you like your local bookstore?
Me too!
Is that where you buy your books?
Me either.
Being likable, as a business strategy, is severely flawed.
Instead, you should work to be liked and wanted.
Both circuits firing together creates the greatest impact.
The same applies to success with any pursuit.
Simply liking the idea of achieving it won’t get you very far.
You must deeply want that achievement, as well.
Yes, liking is the lubricant that makes the world go round.
But wanting is the force that keeps it growing.