Unpacking Myth-Stakes
28/05/2014 - "Unpacking Myth-Stakes" by Donal Carroll

Unpacking myth-stakes    

Recent droppings through my letter box included 2 things from the land of ‘Share my  assumptions’ (without admitting that’s what they are). They were an estate agents’ glossed-up how to ever-inflate your house price (we’ll bankrupt the economy on your behalf) and UKIP election publicity (we’ll do the same for the social fabric of the country). To me, both were a form of propaganda – pushing a single-line story that is to accuracy what Monaco is to responsible taxing. How to respond - drown in tepid collusion, buy a lie detector, (half-lie one even better), use the app ‘challenge what is falsely obvious’ once it’s built?  

There are plenty of myths around. Here’s a few business ones I’ve recently experienced and coming in next blog, next week, how to respond and confront them: 

Myth 1: We’re a nation of entrepreneurs – In straitened times, why not be one!  

Of the UK’s 4.8 million entrepreneurs, about 3.5m employ nobody (sole traders), about1m have less than 9 people and about 200k employ 10 or more (you hear most about this). The vast majority of entrepreneurs do not earn more than their previous job. So before you ’follow your passion or dream’ make sure you know how to make it more than an expensive hobby!

 Myth 2: In the current mergers climate ‘fiduciary duty’ means ‘getting the best price for shareholders’!

Wrong: The 2006 Companies Act states that directors must promote the success of a company ‘for the benefit of its members as a whole’. This includes: long term consequences, employee interests, and suppliers and customers, impact on the community, maintaining a high reputation and acting fairly. The word ‘fiducia’ means ‘trust’, so fiduciary duty does not mean ‘get rich quick’! This entire para is nicked from ‘Stern Words’ (Stefan Stern FT, Thursdays) a subtle, weekly, business corrective.    


Myth 3: Ted Lectures work because of their hidden techniques

Oh, and their ‘inspirational’ speakers.  How can we explain the success of a C21 venture which uses a 400 yr old method (lecturing), as part of a taxidermist approach which makes an intelligent audience completely passive, to drip-feed them words of wisdom? Many commentators, rather than seeing this, cloak it in mystery –‘It’s a secret’. We can’t have everybody doing it –it would damage the exclusive brand. (See eg Carmine Gallo: Talk like TED: the 9 public speaking secrets of the world’s top minds) Roughly paraphrased, the 9 ‘secrets’ are: engage people, be passionate, conversational, brief, humourous, authentic, say something new, engage all senses (powerpoint covers the ‘visual’ then) and include a few jawdropppers. Surprisingly unmagical, they’re about as secret as the intentions of a renegade PPI cold-caller, or a UKIP supporter, or Pfizer’s ‘we’re better bigger’. This ‘narrate well’ is the kind of thing many Irish children learned on their mother’s knee: ‘Go on- now recite a different poem- surprise us!’ Throw in a few appropriate aims and objectives, some feedback, and it’s virtually standardized training. 

But this is NOT why TED lectures are successful (though clearly they help) but so do the unaired ‘secrets’-the ruthless selection procedure (many miss the cut), the rigorous training and drilling of the presenters. However, the determining element of their success is the audience mindset. They are seeing someone given a glossy expectation uplift marking the difference between them and the speakers, who are (more) ‘famous’, authoritative and esteemed. Thus, the audience are predisposed to like them and grant them favour. It wouldn’t matter a damn if speakers stuttered, slipped or hiccoughed to death, the audience are on their side. Engaged, endeared.

This is the ‘halo effect’ at work, a liking-overture, starting when you’re told to expect charm, sparkle and the sexiness of the new, which continues after the event. It is a form of bias resulting in attributing favour. (and can involve judging people more favourably then they deserve. (This I not to say many TED lecture aren’t good but many aren’t.)  

Here’s another example of the effect from the Alternative Comedy circuit which I performed on, years ago: Jeremy Hardy by then well known, would come on stage and say ‘I’m Jeremy Hardy (long pause) I’m from Aldershot’. Great (unearned?) laughter He followed with a classic ‘feel sorry for me’ line: ‘At school I was the only kid who got a platonically-transmitted disease.’ More laughter built on the opening halo.

I followed him -much less known- and fell flat. Perhaps I should have said ‘I’m Donal Carroll (long pause) that’s why I drink!’ But that’s another myth!     

That’s it for now. Let us know what you think, so far.

Next blog:  How to confront myths: develop an inbuilt crap-detector AND How to democratize TED –Do you own TED lecture. 


Visitors' Comments on this Post

03/06/2014 Comment posted by Claudia Crawley
Love your myth stakes Donal. But not sure I agree with you re Ted talks\' success. I believe you\'re underestimating people\'s capacity to recognise an interesting and stimulating talk from one that\'s not, although delivered by \'an expert\'. \'Audience mindset\' might happen sometimes, but for the most part the quality of the message matters. If it fails to engage the audience, the speaker might as well forget it. Audiences will vote with their feet.

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