🏀 the final mistake and some solutions

Once an organization argues well and gets top-down support, they can start to decide what they're really talking about. There's a spectrum of legibility and we'll note three waypoints.

  • Invisible. The unknown unknowns, latent needs, or 'Black Swans.'

  • Salient. The recognized but not quantified.

  • Measured. The metrics an organization (deems) important.

One example we've seen move from one end of the spectrum to the other is ride sharing. No one knew the solution to ‘more cabs’ was really ride sharing. It was a latent need. Then when Uber and Lyft grew the demand for cars became salient and the company names turned into generic vowels and nouns like Kleenex or Xerox. Then the companies measured and tracked and gave feedback with stars, driver bonuses, and profit (or loss?) per ride.

We get muddled around the middle, salience. There's a there-there but we just don't know what it is. Ranginess pushes observations from invisible to visible.

Zach Lowe said that his favorite people to talk to "are the ones who are going to say something I never would have thought of and take my brain in a different direction.” They're people who move Lowe from invisibility to salience. Another tricky point is the next step, from salient to measured. Sabermetrics is one example. Shane Battier, the No-Stats All-Staris a basketball example.

Though what’s measured may not be important. The easy metrics can be ambiguous predictors.

Writers have an easy metric, words. Some writers are regular about the number of words they write each day but most aren't and there's a good reason. Words may be easy to measure but they aren’t the metric for a good story.

This stuff is complicated.


“I think what frustrates people about this whole (decision making) arena, there is no way to know, you can’t know.” Zach Lowe

"We have a name for this in academia, Irreducible uncertainty and people don't like to acknowledge and accept irreducible uncertainty." Wharton Professor, Cade Massey

The Philadelphia fans adopted a 'trust the process' mindset because of the 'frustration' and 'irreducible uncertainty' in the decision making process. One way to get better is to be rangy. How?

  • Read more fiction.

  • Avoid 'the next...' trailhead and find a harder path through the woods.

  • Argue fairly and vigorous, especially in outlier and winner-take-most competitions.

  • Embrace intellectual diversity and weird teams.

  • Create the right culture, from the top down.

  • Avoid the principal-agent problem and it's CYA cousin, Cover-Your-Ass.

  • Make the hidden salient and the salient measured, carefully.

Thanks for reading.