To feel dumb

Imagine this.

Most texts on writing style encourage authors to avoid overly-complex words. However, a majority of undergraduates admit to deliberately increasing the complexity of their vocabulary so as to give the impression of intelligence.

As this.

Most texts on writing style encourage authors to avoid overly-complex words. However, a majority of corporate websites deliberately increase the complexity of their vocabulary so as to give the impression of expertise.

The paper introduced by the first text found that students using more difficult words actually end up giving the exact opposite impression: “needless complexity leads to negative evaluation”.

Using a very non-scientific method, I’d like to extend the findings to the situation I made up in the second text.

Nobody likes to feel dumb.

Your choice

Facebook is aware that its tools have damaging effects on teenagers, particularly teenage girls. They also know that troll farms manage some of the most successful pages on their platforms.

Amazon regularly hires elderly people to work in their warehouses, asking them to work 10- to 12-hour shifts in challenging conditions. They keep them motivated by praising their work ethics and promising a social experience. Amazon also has the most dangerous warehouses in the US, with twice the rate of injuries of an average warehouse.

Of course, these are big companies, under a lot of scrutiny. But for you as an individual the question is: are you ok supporting that?

Both yes and no are legitimate answers.

Just make sure you act in accordance with your choice.

Does it matter?

In 2012, Google launched a brilliant campaign in view of SXSW.

Project Re:Brief wanted to give old school admen, creators of iconic ads (such as this, and this, and this), modern tools to see how their campaigns would look like on the web.

It is a wonderful idea, and the campaign got very good numbers. Google also made a documentary out of this project.

A few days after the launch, one of the people responsible for the campaign was presenting the social media results to the rest of the team. Their boss, perhaps a bit harshly, asked an important question (the full story can be heard here):

Does it matter?

The point is, Google can certainly spend time and resources tracking and reporting on things that do not have an impact on their mission, vision, numbers.

But can you?

Free trial

Does your audience want a free trial? Of course.

Do you have the resources to offer a free trial that delivers the right experience to the right audience, making them excited to continue on their journey to become champions of your own perspective?

Most companies would answer no.

And yet, they offer a free trial.

And that’s because a free trial, with the right form to capture the right information – credit card, of course – is very little about experience, about user journey, about changing minds and behaviors, while it is very much about boosting vanity metrics.

Your choice.

More rounded

We think of most things as linear experiences.

That’s certainly true in business. The funnel is linear. The go-to-market process is linear. The sales pipeline is linear. The launch of a new product or service is linear. The very same metaphors we use to describe those things (funnel, pipeline, launch) are linear.

And yet, success requires that you circle back and iterate with the new information you have acquired. That you adjust the trajectory continuously with the help of what you are learning as you go.

It turns out that to be succesful in what matters we need to apply more rounded thinking.