🏀 meetings

How can someone demonstrate ranginess in meetings? By disagreeing.

Last week we talked about the importance of names and here's the name of a mental shortcut that can lead to disaster: the next...

'The next' almost never is. There's a joke on fintwit that being coronated the next Warren Buffett is curse worse than mean reversion. Ditto for the next Steve Jobs.

In basketball, 'the next...' comes up in player comparisons but Epstein points out that the comparison outweighs the evidence.

Years ago when basketball analytics was minuscule, Michael Lewis wrote about the moneyballing of basketball via a profile of Daryl Morey who had an interesting way of avoiding the pitfalls along 'the next...' trailhead. If a scout, coach, or player wanted to compare someone to someone else they had to choose a someone of a different race. That forced work and bypassed the shortcut.

Good decisions tend to be made by what Epstein (and many others before him) call foxes who “kind of politely antagonize each other.”

That is, good decisions come from people who disagree (which also takes work) rather than from a player, person, or situation as 'the next...' which happens to be the easy way out.

In some ways it makes sense that the Golden State Warriors earned and enjoyed so much recent success. A combination of good luck (player health), good timing (player contracts), and good decision making (a Silicon Valley approach, just wait) helped them win three recent NBA titles. In both venture capital and in basketball it's much more important to hit one homerun than four singles. The total bases are the same but the distribution of results is different.

Teams know this, and it's reflected in the player contracts. For the 463 players under contract the average salary is eight-million dollars a year but the median is four million.

Scott Kupor of venture capital firm a16z, talked about how they disagree, "antagonize each other", and don't follow the easy stories about 'that next...'. Kupor said that in meetings they don't look for consensus but instead have a debate to see, "Are the people who were advocating for a deal still pounding the table at the end of listening to all the objections and crazy ideas their partners are throwing at them?"

Or, consider a team of world renowned epidemiologists. If the World Health Organization presents them with a situation they'll converge on the answer of epidemiological best practices.

Consider the same imaginary situation from the WHO and then imagine the team has an epidemiologist, an anthropologist, a data scientist, a fashion designer, and Bill Gates. That group will have more conflict and it will come up with an outlier hypothesis. It may not be right but it will certainly be different and different is good. As the saying goes, if we're all thinking the same way then no one is thinking.

Tomorrow we'll look at the most important person in the room for good arguments.