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Weekly 3: Promiscuous Tech, Better Arguments & “Liquid Networks”

Summary: Hedge your bets on tech. Use a pyramid to make better arguments. Think like a liquid to be m

Idea Journal Weekly 3

December 17 · Issue #13 · View online
We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Hedge your bets on tech. Use a pyramid to make better arguments. Think like a liquid to be more innovative. (~6 min read)

#1. To help predict which technologies will be used in the future, “bet on connectors.”
New York Times technology columnist Farhad Manjoo writes that given the pace of technological development, consumers risk purchasing products that lock them into a technology ecosystem that may not even exist in the near future. 
He cites the example of people who purchased Barnes & Noble’s Nook, only to later discover that Amazon’s Kindle would be the more widely used and successful product in the e-reader market. Similarly, and more recently, Apple decided to remove the headphone jack from its iPhone line, leaving behind millions of now-obsolete headphones and forcing customers to upgrade to compatible (and often more expensive) versions.
As a form of insurance against “tech extinction” in an uncertain future, Manjoo suggests spending your time and money on “connectors”: products like Dropbox that can be accessed across multiple devices, and whose business model “depends on it working everywhere.”
This strategy of betting on connectors may be just as useful for people creating or making financial investments in technology solutions: as cloud computing becomes more advanced and ubiquitous, technology products and services that can work across devices and applications will have an advantage over those that can’t.
#2. Use the “Pyramid Principle” to make your arguments more effective.
Entrepreneur and former McKinsey consultant Ameet Ranadive suggests using the Pyramid Principle to better structure your arguments and be more persuasive.
Ranadive covers both the rationale behind the Pyramid Principle, as well as details on how to use the tool, in the following 3 steps.
Step 1: Start with the answer first: Many people are used to making their arguments by presenting facts and analyses, and then building up to a conclusion at the end. But Ranadive points out that this isn’t an effective approach when you’re dealing with busy executives, who don’t have a lot of time.
Instead, it’s better to start with the answer first, for the following reasons: 
  • It allows you maximize time with your audience: even if the meeting or discussion is cut short, you will have communicated your most important point.
  • Many executives think in a “top-down" manner about the “big picture” – beginning with your answer fits with their mental model.
  • You sound more assertive and confident, and are therefore more persuasive.
Step 2: Group and summarize your supporting arguments: Your audience is naturally going to begin doing this in their heads as they listen to or read your argument. You can make this process easier for them, and also ensure that your key points are communicated without getting buried in unnecessary details.
Step 3: Logically order your supporting ideas: You can use a few different categories here:
  • Time order — if there’s a sequence of events or steps that form a cause-and-effect relationship, you should present the ideas in chronological order.
  • Structure order — break a singular thought into its parts to make sure that you have covered all of the main supporting ideas.
  • Degree order — rank supporting ideas in order of importance, from most to least important.
Ranadive suggests using the below chart to help visualize your structured argument.
#3. To understand how innovative environments work, think of a “liquid network.”
In his book Where Good Ideas Come From, author and researcher Steven Johnson writes that we should think of a good idea as a network of thoughts and influences – instead of a single thing, it’s “more like a swarm.”
Johnson argues that certain environments are better at producing good ideas, and uses a metaphor involving the 3 states of matter – gas, solid, and liquid – to make his point.
If you think of ideas as molecules, in a gas chaos reigns – new configurations are possible, but because of the volatile environment they are disrupted and disappear shortly after they are created. In a solid, the opposite happens: patterns are stable, but they are also rigid and resist change. 
A liquid network, however, serves as a happy medium and creates a more successful ideation environment: “New configurations can emerge through random connections formed between molecules, but the system isn’t so unstable that it instantly destroys new creations.”
For Johnson, from the perspective of innovation, a city and the World Wide Web share one key characteristic: “both environments are dense, liquid networks where information easily flows along multiple unpredictable paths.”
Quote of the Week
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.”
Steve Jobs in a 1996 interview with Wired Magazine
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