Why Great in the Market Place of Ideas Means a Power Drill not a Revolver

Last week Jason Calacanis sent out an email of his post that was up on The Launch blog called The Age of Excellence. In the post Jason argued that in a world of relentless openness and transparency it was no longer enough to be good, you had to be great.

Jason illustrated this by an image of a revolver, saying that your reviews had to look like a gun with lots of five star reviews making up the barrel, a few four stars making up the chamber, and very few 3 to 1 star ratings making up the handle. This creates an image as follows (from the launch post)

I agree that this totally applies to the world of start-ups and applications where the user experience and word of mouth from that experience is all important. However it is a dangerous analogy or way of looking at things in the world of ideas even though I have followed it almost exactly when buying books on Amazon. Reading this post has made me change my behaviour which is the greatest compliment anyone can pay to someone writing about an idea.

If you are involved in making applications for tablets or smartphones, or in producing movies for pure entertainment value  then you should be aiming for this sort of picture. However most of our work is involved in the marketplace of ideas and we deliberately avoid trying to achieve this picture. When I present a keynote at a conference I am actually looking for a picture that looks more like a portable power drill with a batter pack at the bottom:

Image from Amazon

With lots of fives, a few fours, then hardly any twos or threes but a fair number of ones.

The reasoning behind this is that we are trying to push people to change their thinking and re-examine their mental models in order to actually change what they do. The people that will do that are contained in the group that gives us a five star review. However if everyone loves what I have said or presented then I have not pushed the 5-star group hard enough. If I haven’t done that then there is likely to be less action in the five star group. Our mission is to leverage our skills and thinking to enable other people to take action.

There are plenty of quotes out there about ideas that change things first have to be seen as subversive or ridiculous. Therefore it is my view that if everyone likes what is being presented to them then it is too bland and too mainstream. That is fine in the area of entertainment or applications but it is dangerous in the market place of ideas. Our mission is to leverage our skills and thinking to enable other people to take action so if we are not pushing hard enough we are failing to be great. I agree totally with the sentiment of Jason’s overall post which is that in a modern world you have to be great because good is not good enough. However being liked and being great are not always the same thing.

Paul Higgins

If you want to see more about how we present and some of our audience ratings go to the Keynotes and Presentations section of our website