🚀 Breathe.



The best leaders are those that say this is what we're doing and this is the logic behind it. And then when presented with a different and more compelling logic based on new, and perhaps previously unavailable information, a good leader would say, I know that I had said this, but we've learned something new, and therefore we're concluding something different.

In this episode

Leaders must be decisive, it’s part of the job. But what if authenticity is better?

In episode 82, Steven Goldbach and Geoff Tuff, co-authors of “Provoke: How Leaders Shape the Future by Overcoming Fatal Human Flaws” explain why authenticity triumphs decisiveness. Steven is the Chief Strategy Officer and Geoff, the Principal of Consulting at Deloitte

In this episode, we cover why experimentation will give you better answers than studying and why leaders should pair curiosity with action

Tune in to hear their insights on human behaviours and experiences and how those aspects tie into leadership.

Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.


Reflections from long time executives


Study uncertainty


Staying curious, but do something about it


Creating cognitive diversity for teams



Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  00:00

 Steven, Geoff, welcome to the show.

Steven Goldbach and Geoff Tuff  03:11

Thanks much for having us.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  03:12

I’m very excited, very excited to have you both on the show. You’ve both had such interesting careers. And you know, you’ve now written this, this book called provoke how leaders shape the future by overcoming fatal human flaws. And congratulations that I hear it’s a Wall Street Journal bestseller.

Steven Goldbach and Geoff Tuff  03:32

Yeah, we were blessed to be on the list for several weeks. So we were grateful for everyone’s support on that dimension.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  03:39

Yeah, that’s amazing. And so is this. Is this like the first book that you two have worked on together?

Steven Goldbach and Geoff Tuff  03:45

No. And the next question is probably why did you do it again, then. So we, Steve and I are we’re longtime colleagues we’ve been working together for I’m not sure we’ve ever actually nailed down the exact amount of time. But somewhere around 20 or 25 years, we didn’t start writing in earnest together until about five or six years ago. But our first book, which is a book called detonate came out in May of 2018. And for our sins, we seem to have put up with each other well enough that we decided to give it another go for this one. But thankfully that our readers seem to enjoy the outputs.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  04:18

Yeah, no, this is I mean, this is awesome. What a great topic. And so you’re both have very senior positions at Deloitte, you’ve worked with a lot of companies. I’m excited to dig in. And one of the questions that we like to start with is to almost maybe not necessarily embarrassed but to bring up some mistakes. And so we love to start with mistakes and errors. And I’d love to know from each of you what was maybe some of the things that when you first started leading teams or were in a leadership position, what were some of the things that may be some of the early errors, mistakes or different ways that you used to do things that maybe you do less of today,

Steven Goldbach and Geoff Tuff  04:56

you know, I when I saw this question before For an ad because you were kind enough to give us a couple of prompts in advance. I had not thought about this as a topic or as a question. And I’ve my knee jerk reaction was to say, Well, geez, I never did anything, anything wrong. And it was a smooth ride all the way through. But actually, it forced me to think back to my first managing position, and I did make it make a mistake. And it was a glaring mistake, which in retrospect, should have been dead obvious. But without staring without going through my entire backstory, I like to think of itself as being a different type of form when I arrived in consulting 30 years ago, pretty much traditional background, very non-traditional experiences, as far as the typical strategy consulting world was concerned. And it was a big deal to me, as a junior employee, as an analyst to show up as my authentic, authentic self, and to make sure that the little bit of kind of hippie bohemian that I had in me was allowed to be at work, and that I was able to work on my hours and work on my terms. And I made a lot of noise about that. And, and to their credit, my managers at the time, let me do that. And let me prove that I could get my work done while still living my own life. I do remember when I first had the responsibility as what we call back in the days at the company where Steve and I came from monitor group, what we call module leaders. When I had my first module leader opportunity, I, unfortunately, forgot what it meant, and how important it was to bring your authentic self and be allowed to be your authentic self. And I found myself dictating the way work was going to be done. And not quite the hours that the teams were going to work. But I was very heavy-handed in declaring what I wanted to see and what my expectations were. And it constrained a lot of the teams that I was leaving at the time, from doing things their way and being able to demonstrate that there are different ways of doing things than then than what I did. So I haven’t gotten clobbered, clobbered both upwards and downwards from that experience, I got over that pretty quickly. But in retrospect, it was a really important lesson. And, you know, it’s something that I have carried through to me today. And even in the writing that Steven I do together, we bring very different selves to the table. But mixing those selves seems to work pretty well.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  07:03

And so I was gonna ask you, you know, how did you come upon the realization, but it sounds like you heard about, I guess you heard complaints from both the top and bottom like you said,

Steven Goldbach and Geoff Tuff  07:16

complaints, but also comments about myself that just didn’t ring true that like that I was heavy-handed and too controlling and too dictatorial. And I was like, Well hold on a sec, though. I’m not any of those things. I’m this hippie, free spirit guy. And it made it did me Leave me to reflect that I had been not acting like myself in those moments.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  07:35

And Steve, do you agree that Geoff is a hippie, free spirit guy?

Steven Goldbach and Geoff Tuff  07:40

Resist the temptation. Geoff is an absolute Geoff is absolutely a free spirit. And the thing that God bless, Geoff, when you get to know him, he listens incredibly well. And we’ll take it into account. I think the thing, I find interesting about the way people react to leaders is that they often don’t necessarily believe or take them at face value. So when they say something like I’m open to different perspectives, they assume the opposite like I’m not open to different perspectives, or I’m not flexible. You know, I think it’s just interesting. So Geoff, is absolutely what he describes, even if some people don’t always experience Him in that way, but that’s important to know, I think someone Someone gave me good advice one time, it’s really important to know what your blind spots are. It’s interesting, as I thought about this question, Aiden, I had a similar story. So I’m not going to share the story. Because it’s similar to Jess, which was sort of about you know, when you first get to be a leader, you kind of want to micromanage because you think that that’s what leadership is about, like telling people what to do. And for me, the lesson has been, but then I think people start to get away from, you know, that enough and don’t give enough feedback and direction, they just sort of let people wander off and do their own thing. And I’m increasing of the view that good leaders do work to the leaders who just assume that the work gets done by everyone else. And they’re just to some extent, the generals oftentimes forget what it’s like to be in the other person’s shoes. And so I think it’s really important. And the lesson that I’ve I’ve tried to bring is that you are probably overcorrected when you first become a leader to do more micromanaging because you feel on the hook, and there’s pressure, and usually, you’re a junior to middle manager, so, therefore, the pressure from above is still pretty high. And as you get more senior, you tend to err in the opposite way where you just tell people what to do and assume that they’re going to do it well, but I think oftentimes, being a good leader is about demonstrating what good looks like by doing it yourself. And I think that that’s a really important lesson to learn for what it’s worth. I make mistakes all the time. And one of the things I hope, you know, to bring with the folks that I’m working with is The willingness to be corrected both in the moment and over time. I don’t think there’s ever any person who’s perfected leadership. And so we all want to both I would say both Geoff and I want to bring humility to whatever we’re doing because God knows we’re not perfect.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  10:17

Yeah, no, I think that is a perfect, perfect explanation and answer I agree with you that everybody makes mistakes. It’s hard. It’s more, sometimes more art than science. So I want to talk about the book, one of the questions I had is like, it’s such a fascinating topic, how did you decide to write about it, like what series of events led you to write about this topic?

Steven Goldbach and Geoff Tuff  10:42

Well, so I in some ways, in this, the journey started way back when with detonate, because it was after our first book came out, and we kind of stayed in touch and shared ideas that this book came about more naturally. But, you know, the original impetus to work together to start writing about something, honestly, was just because we kind of wanted to do something more than just go deliver client work together. And it was Steve’s idea originally, and he was very dismissive of my, my first idea of how we might write together when I offered him a fantastic co-blogger, or a co-author, opportunity guest blogger on my blog, but he did push us to do something bigger and better and detonate was indeed bigger and better. But you know, if you go at the heart of what both books are about, they’re just about our experiences with people through the years. And, you know, we have been in the field of client service me for my entire career, Steve, for the vast majority of his and we’ve had the opportunity over time to not just work with organizations and think about strategically how to reposition organizations and help them achieve their goals, etc, but work with the people and understand individual human motivations around change, and looking forward to new opportunities and, and, and ways of growing in a way that does create events. We’re both strategists at heart interested in helping companies create advantages. And, as Steve and I first started to talk about the ideas would detonate, you know, we shared client experiences, we’d strike tried to identify some patterns. And pretty quickly, we were able to identify some things that we saw all the time, across some of the world’s most successful companies, the world’s most famous executives, they were all still prone to the same human foibles that prevent people from being able to be more effective managers and being able to advance in the face of uncertainty. And so, you know, this started five or six years ago, people continue to be human beings, as far as we can tell. And we continue to have observations about them. I think we’ve, what we’ve done with provoking the new book is we’ve turned from the topic of the first book, which was about blowing up the playbook to the past to progress and instead, taking a future orientation to say, how do we take individual leadership characteristics and capabilities and create a future in which we have an advantage? One of

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  12:55

the thing that I have as a quote is most leaders today when faced with uncertainty, choose to study it and study it and study it until it resolves itself and becomes certain is one of the I mean, is this one of the fatal human flaws that you discuss?

Steven Goldbach and Geoff Tuff  13:12

Well, it’s a, it’s a product of the fatal human flaws. So the quick version of the fatal human flaws is that there are several cognitive biases, that when in combination with the tendencies that large scale organizations have and how they interact with each other, they form blinders that prevent people that prevent organizations from seeing the shift in trends from a matter of if they’re going to happen to a matter of when they’re going to happen. And the the the biases that we’ve got are things like the status quo bias, where we have a preference for the status quo, or the availability bias, where we select data that is easily accessible in the way we work because we either see it every day, or it’s in our social media feeds. And the algorithms there don’t exactly provide a lot of diversity of thought. And so we tend to have patterns, in REC in recognizing things. And because of these blinders, we don’t see things and so when we get presented with anomalies, we want the natural tendency is to instead of saying boy, that anomaly might be true. And what might I do about it, the tendency is to say, Well, that can’t possibly be true, because it doesn’t conform to my pre-existing worldview, even when presented with considerable evidence that it might be growing and getting more prevalent. The biases that we have to stop us in our tracks from actually saying, Okay, well maybe we might be wrong to say, well, I need more information before I do anything about it. And so we believe that instead of studying better approaches tried to provoke it a little bit. And why that because truly uncertain things, are not studied of all based on looking at the past. And therefore the best way to figure out what something is is to poke it a little bit, see if it moves and sees what the contours are. But if you can’t see you if you’re in the dark, fumbling your way around something, you kind of start to feel for where the walls are. And we think that that’s sort of the thing that you need to do with matters of uncertainty, that action is going to get you better learning than quote, unquote, studying in the way that organizations tend to do it.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  15:43

So that’s interesting. I’d love to dive into an example of a story of something that you’ve seen with maybe one of the clients you’ve worked with day by day.

Steven Goldbach and Geoff Tuff  15:52

I think you got to take the floor on this one because you opened our book with us with a real-life story you had about an executive that that was that fell prey to those fatal flaws. Yeah, this is so this story, to some extent was so perfect, you know, people think it’s made to some extent made up. But this actually happened in, in around 2007 2008. It’s been sufficiently long ago that the precise date. It’s, it’s sort of in that timeframe. We have done some work in the video content, internet telephony space. And we had done some customer research. And we got this curious result where there was a really small segment of customers who were behaving in a way that we hadn’t seen before. They wanted super high-quality internet but didn’t want any of the video programmings that were often bundled with internet access. And they didn’t want to phone either. So they didn’t want the proverbial triple play or double play. They just wanted the good internet, please. And typically, in this particular industry, when customers said they didn’t want something, the reflexive instinct from executives, well, maybe they can’t afford it. Maybe there’s an income correlation that ought to be explored. But it turned out that these were not folks with lower incomes, on average, they skewed a little younger, but they weren’t necessarily lower income. And so we started just being curious about like, what’s causing this behaviour. And this, of course, now that we have seen the rest of the movie plays out, this was the first instance of cord-cutting behaviour, where people said, I can get the content I want from, you know, watching it online, and how I want to watch it at the time I want to watch it. And I don’t want to pay for a whole bundle of programming, where I went might watch a small percentage of it. But when we took it to one of ours, the client that we were working for asked us to take it to a couple of other companies to get their perspectives on. We took it to one and they literally said, 1.75%, why would I care? And it was to some extent, you know, indicative of the kind of responses that demonstrated a lot of the biases that it demonstrated the effect heuristic bias, where small things don’t seem to influence our points of view. And it’s demonstrated the overconfidence bias. But if you had sort of tugged on the thread, just even being curious about it, you would have quickly arrived at business models today that are worth, you know, hundreds of billions of dollars like Netflix or, or other or other services. And this particular company is not like it went out of business. But it certainly lost lots of opportunities to get out ahead of what now became a pervasive trend. And this eight nine say it was such a perfect story for the book in a lot of different ways. But one of the ways beyond demonstrating cognitive bias and some of the fatal flaws we talked about. My guess is and we don’t talk about this explicitly in the book, but my guess is what the executive did, either actually or proverbially is tuck, put his head back down and said, You know what, I’m going to pay attention to this to the customer segments that matter, I’m going to analyze the data I have on hand, I’m going to figure out how to continue to incrementally advance the business model I have today. And I’m just not going to worry about that. 1.75% Imagine a different reaction where the executive might have said, You know what, I don’t think that matters. But I’m gonna go find out. And I’m going to go, I’m going to go live, I’m going to send some ethnographers into the homes of this 1.75% for five of them and just see what’s going on and try to figure out, Is there something real here is there like what’s underneath the some of the requests they have? We don’t know if that might have had set this company on a different course. But it certainly would have been a very different reaction and provoked the reaction from those early cord-cutters that would have given us this company way more information than they’d got by putting their head back down and looking at their dominant customer segments.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  19:58

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Steven Goldbach and Geoff Tuff  21:22

stay curious for a little bit longer, but do something about it, like go fre out a way to add contours to the uncertainty not because it’s knowable, not because you’re going to be able to resolve with confidence, what’s going to happen but because by edging by exploring, you will get more information and some circumstances, you might acquiesce the outcomes. And so there’s a whole lot by the way that is going on in our even our personal lives today not to mention our professional lives having to do with new variants of COVID. You know, we there’s one reaction to this, which is we either write it off and say the very until sort itself out wearable here from the from here in the US the CDC, pretty soon that the that we’re covered by the vaccines, and we’ll be okay. And I’ll just kind of wait and see. But there are other things that we can do that either can take more protective measures or different decisions we can make to whatever what may be doing in our lives. This, by the way, is having on my mind right now, because my family and I have an international trip planned in three weeks. And so I’m trying to think about how to act in the face of this uncertainty in a way that allows me to make good decisions. But uncertainty is everywhere around us these days, not just because of COVID. It’s a reality of our personal lives and our professional lives. And we need to start to learn to act in the face of it and act in small ways to provoke those reactions that Steve talked about before.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  22:40

I think that makes a lot of sense in so let’s talk about just decisiveness. You said I think Steve, you once said that decisive you wish that decisiveness was not a characteristic of leadership. I’d love for you to maybe explain that because I feel like we tend to look at decisive leaders favourably.

Steven Goldbach and Geoff Tuff  23:02

We tend to we do tend to fetishize decisiveness as like, oh, obviously, this leader, leader, they’re highly decisive, and I when I wake that when I make that statement, I don’t say that I think decisiveness is necessarily a bad thing. I think that decisiveness that leads to an unwillingness to adopt a different point of view, in the face of different data is a, you know, is a is challenging thing, I think the best leaders are those that say this is what we’re doing. And this is the logic behind what we’re doing. Right. And then when presented with a different and more compelling logic based on new and perhaps previously unavailable information, a good leader would say, I know that I had said this, and we’ve learned something new, and therefore we’re concluding something different. I feel like we’ve we’vthis hallmark of leadership and you’re decisive and therefore you’re infallible. And I think no, the world is moving far too fast. For any leader to feel like they’re always going to have all the information. And so I think being authentic and saying I’m making information, and this is the information I’m basing it on, and this is what we’re learning, I think for what it’s worth going back to COVID for a second, I think there’s been a lot of mistakes and how we’ve communicated about the choices that have been made and the policies that have been said, that presented the policies like this it’s 100% this and it’s always this and I think that when you stray away from communicating about nuance, you’re to some extent assuming that your audience is stupid. And I think that’s never a good idea. I think sharing your logic sharing the why and when things change, being willing to admit it is is the hallmark of a good leader and I’ve seen that that’s not a political statement. I’ve seen that mistake from the angle. In this pandemic,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  25:03

you know, one he one of the things that we hear often is the that’s important for people to understand the why. And I can see the subsequent benefit of this is that it also allows you to make decisions. But also, when presented with new data, if people understand the framework that you use arrived at something, you don’t have to be, let’s say, someone who flip flops and can’t make up their mind, you active at things in a very, you know, logical way. And if you can explain that people can buy by that, then, if data does change, it’s not hard, you know, for you to be a to make a different decision. I think that’s exactly right. One of the questions then is, you know, going back to the original example that you brought up and using numbers, I think, did you say 1.75%? And so I guess, would a potential course of action? In that case bee,n? Let’s monitor this number? And if in the next six months, it goes to 2%, then potentially do something? I guess, like, the question I’m asking is, like, how fast? Should you try and start doing things? Or when do you do this provoking? Because, again, we get so much signal old all day, or so much noise all day. So it’s sometimes hard to figure out what the signal is. 


First of all, it’s a very good question. And it’s a multi multi-layered because the and I’m going to, I’m going to answer your direct question, but then the obvious underlying one is, okay, so what signals do you need to pay attention to and what once you actually need to worry about versus not, and we’ll come back to that afterwards. But it would have been a bad decision to say, Okay, we’re gonna wait and monitor this and decide whether to take action once it reached some certain cert should level of concern, without an underlying hypothesis about what was going on, and why we need to pay attention to it. And so going back to my build on Steve’s story, I think the right action at that moment, and it would have been then at the 1.75%, within that quarter was, was to go and explore it in more detail and explored by getting as close as possible to the individual users that were behind that to better understand and form some hypotheses about how that how this might impact your business. If you understand it more at that stage, then you can start to say, okay, not just oh, wait till it’s randomly 2% 5% 10%. But, you know, if really what’s going on here is that these people are showing signs of being of actually not wanting bundled services likeasve had in the past, but they just want superfast internet, then, when this reaches some proportion of our market, we need to start exploring what it would look like to create that offer. And it may be 2%, or maybe 5%. But you’ll know, if you have an underlying hypothesis, you know what that threshold is going to be and you know why you’re paying attention to that threshold, because then you can take action on essentially, in a way that will create the advance stage for yourself, if you just set some arbitrary number to say, we’re going to wait and see when we get there and then start exploring it, then in all likelihood, especially with the impact of exponential these days, you’re probably pushing decisions out too late to act something about

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  28:14

them. I guess one of the questions then is, you talk about the concept of diversity and how it can help you expose well help expose more information allowing you to act sooner faster. What are your thoughts on creating cognitive diversity for leadership teams?

Steven Goldbach and Geoff Tuff  28:35

Well, maybe I just want to go back to why cognitive diversity is the antidote to some of the challenges that we’ve been articulating here in terms of seeing the future. So cognitive diversity has been proven to be an effective way to get to better solutions, particularly for complex and novel problems. It’s been there’s been tremendous work by Scott Page and a number of his contemporaries in the cognitive psychology and the leadership field. And so we were quoting their work. We’re not this is not original, original thinking. However, why does it happen? Why is cognitive diversity better? So those biases are biases, because we have our human biases caused us to pick different data that we deem important, right with all the different information that’s available to us, and also process it differently, and therefore draw different conclusions. So we can’t possibly pay attention to every signal or every bit of information that we get. And so, therefore, we very quickly process what we think is important, and what we think is unimportant. And our brain does this without even knowing it. And that’s the reason these are cognitive biases. that, that if you’ve got a cognitively diverse team, you will select different bits of data that you’re seeing in the world. And you’ll process it differently. And you might arrive at different solutions. But this allows you at least to have a much better informed of the real problem because people are picking different elements. And that’s been proven like you’ll get better economic forecasts. For example, if you add a theatre major to the Forecasting team, rather than a six or seven, economist, you just do Where does cognitive diversity come from? It comes from real-world diversity, diversity and upbringing where you grew up how you were raised, your lived experiences, which is, which is very different by race and ethnicity. And so, therefore, as you create if one of the ways you can create cognitively diverse teams is to go get real-world diversity and put it on your team, but you have to pair it with inclusivity. And the reason why it must be paired with inclusivity is that if some of the voices feel like they actually can’t speak up, then you’re not going to get the benefit of what there might be seeing differently or how they might be processing it differently. So that’s the rationale for why cognitive diversity helps you get to better outcomes as it relates to these, you know, novel problems that we’re seeing.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  31:23

That is one of the best explanations of the business case for diversity that I’ve ever heard. It is so true that depending on who you are, I, you know, I always talk about my brother and me, for example, we’re very different, although we had a very similar upbringing, so maybe not, but we’ll watch the same movie and you know, have afferent conclusions based on what happened. And so we also work together, so it does benefit, we see completely different things. And then we get a more holistic picture. By putting those two things together.

Steven Goldbach and Geoff Tuff  31:55

Here’s an interesting observation of what she said that I want to call it because I’ve never thought of it before you know, it always. Geoff will laugh because he’s got a creative writing background, and probably has studied lots of works of literature. It when I was a young, like high school student, I was always amazed at the way and amazed and not a good way, like the sort of mildly annoyed that you know, the degree to which we would study, you know, great works of literature and draw out all the different allegory and, and, and, and things that might have, the writer might have embedded in it. But when you think about it, the reason why these are great works of literature might be because they do represent society, well that different people from different backgrounds can see different things in them. And if you think about the qualities of an artist to paint a picture of what the real world might look like, the real world is complicated and diverse, and multifaceted. And when you take a very simplistic view, you might reach one audience and not another, but great works of literature tend to people find something in them. And so maybe that’s why I’m just as you said that, Aiden that that made me think of that. So I’d be curious if either of you hasn’t I was a very quick extrapolation from watching the same movie to the great works of literature. But thank you for supporting those of us out here with English degrees. Steve, as you, as you might imagine, I agree with that observation. And I do think it’s interesting at that, that to call out the same principles that Steve was talking about applying to individuals from the same family. And I think it does, it drives home the reality that there’s no way to control perfectly for the right cognitive diversity because it can come from anywhere, but you can increase the odds that you’ll have cognitive diversity by making sure that you have people from different backgrounds who look different, to act differently, who believe different things at the same table helping contribute to decisions,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  33:55

it’s so important. And it’s one of those things that I was chatting with, when other guests on the show, it’s it’s the sort of thing that you can eventually realize as a leader, but it will take you a long time to get there. Because I think again as new leaders might say, might fall into the trap of hiring people that are like them. And you only ever realize that that’s bad once you start working with other teams and saying, Hey, like this other team, I’m a part of I’m exposed to all these new ideas and these new ways of doing things. And only then will you, you know, maybe realize that, Hey, maybe I should have a more diverse team myself. So it’s I think this is a very good point. And, if people can learn this from the get-go, they will just build better teams. One thing I did want to also talk about is just human behaviour and how understanding human behaviour is necessary if you want to scale a large organization. I’m curious, like, how do you how do people do that? When you say like learning or study human behaviour more

Steven Goldbach and Geoff Tuff  35:04

well, so how you do it and why you didn’t do it are two different parts of the question. But let me see if between the two of us we can address both of those. So first of all, I’d say the reason Steve and I care and I’ll call, I’ve called myself publicly a behavioural as I’ll call him one now as well. But we do believe in human behaviour as I think and this may have been aligned in detonate, but as the basic subatomic element of business and change in business, if ultimately when change happens, and we’re usually focused on positive change, then someone somewhere is doing something differently than they have historically, it’s just reality, I don’t care how digital business you are, these days, for change to happen, someone’s got to change something they’re doing or some collection of people or some segment of people need to change what they’re doing. So if you want to strip away all the unnecessary processes and unnecessary activities in a business and get to the heart of how do you advance, whatever your objective is, then what you should be aiming for is number one, understanding all the behaviours in your what I call a value system. So for many profit-oriented companies, the creation of economic value is their purpose. And they want to pay for that at that economic value. And there is a value chain, sometimes stretching outside the four walls of the organization, from suppliers through to the end market, which constitutes how they create value for the business. That value chain is made up of a whole bunch of people. And they sometimes when we talk about behave human behaviour, people think we’re just talking about market customers, but there are lots of other humans in value chains. There are partners and suppliers and employees, and in some situations, regulators, and there are all sorts of other people in the mix that you have to consider. But if as a business you can set you can understand, number one, who are the people in that business system. Number two, where will one type of behavioural change better advantage me than another type of behavioural change. And that sounds like a massive, competent, Tutorial challenge. But actually, most companies know where the economic hotspots of their business are enough to know where to focus. But then you can do the math, like if I get customers to pay two percentage points more for this product versus getting our suppliers to drop their cost by one percentage point Where’s, where’s the value going to come from, then disproportionately align your resources on focusing on driving those behaviours like that’s, that’s the definition of really unencumbered success. If you can do those things, then then you’re going to be successful. But if any of us think about how much of the activity on any given day we put into understanding human beings, and understanding which behaviours will be advantageous, and how to change those behaviours, I guarantee you it’s minuscule for most people, because it’s just not what the business of business is these days. And we think that’s really, in many ways, a waste of resource.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  37:46

I’d love to dig into an example, is there something that comes to mind where you’ve seen someone or company do this, or some organization do this successfully?

Steven Goldbach and Geoff Tuff  37:56

Most people find it Not particularly? Well, it doesn’t make people happy when you take a successful company, and you highlight them. But the company that I think does this incredibly well, is Amazon. But I’ll point to some very specific things where people can refer just what they discovered, like the fundamental behavioural discovery that allowed Amazon to go from, you know, successful focused company to wildly successful in a lot of different dimensions, I think, was the notion that anytime there’s friction in a buying process, then that that that leads to just less optimal outcome. So the whether it’s the one-click button, or whether it’s the notion that I want to, I care more about the observation that I care more about knowing when my product is coming, than it being there immediately, and I can get control or I don’t need to talk to anybody or see the product, I just need to know that I can easily return it. If it’s the case, I mean, they eventually bought Zappos, but Zappos was another one where people were classically saying, Who’s ever gonna buy shoes the, on the internet? Because you need to try them on right? It was like, well, we’ll ship you, you know, eight pairs of shoes, and you can try them all on and ship them back. It turns out that people prefer that. So I think they, it starts with a hypothesis about what would be better for human beings like not because there’s data about it, but because they say like, people don’t love going to the store, do they, they prefer to do other things with their family. And if we can free up that time and show them this better way, I need to show them. And so I think that Amazon has been a great demonstrator of that principle of there’s just got to be a better way for humans, and they’ve done that consistently. Look at how they dealt with their whole foods acquisition doing pandemic I mean, the the the way they did pickup and delivery service, I think probably ingratiated a lot of customers when that became super important to have contactless delivery. So I would, I would call them out as someone who’s taken a very human-centred approach, even though they’re often viewed as like the data company. It’s extraordinarily human-centric.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  40:22

That is, that is super interesting to point out that way. I know that like, I’ve also heard, I guess, Geoff Bezos talks about things like other things that humans are always going to want, like, who are not going to want lower prices all the time. And so just baking that into the business model, or who doesn’t want faster shipping. But, you know, it made me think about something else that we started the discussion with. So we started about the, you know, when we were talking about when Geoff was saying, maybe he was a little bit dictatorial in those early days of management. And, you know, when I think about just understanding, you know, humans at a very basic level, like to take the same approach of like, really understanding humans, I think, like humans crave autonomy and flexibility. And all these sorts of things, if you kind of maybe understands those things at a deep level allows you also to be a better manager and incorporate and optimize for allowing people to have those things.

Steven Goldbach and Geoff Tuff  41:27

Yeah, I. So I would say that’s true, but within reason, so it’s good to know that it’s good to know the general trends and the general realities of what it means to be human. But without the specificity of what matters to individuals, either in managerial moments where you’re one on one working with someone who may have a different style from yours, or at a customer segment level, or what have you, you have to be ready to hear and see the nuance, because there are as far as I can tell, except for some very metaphysical ones, there are no immutable laws about human beings we are we are different and we act differently. And we act surprisingly in certain situations. And we will increasingly act surprisingly, as we work in a world of uncertainty. So we have to know to your point eight and the general rules, the general realities of what people are looking for, but also be ready to pay attention to the nuance.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  42:16

Yeah, that’s, that’s good cautionary advice. So we have talked about a lot of different things. I mean, we started with, with some mistakes, we talked about uncertainty, decisiveness, diversity. We talked about really understanding human behaviour. So it’s been a very wide-ranging discussion that I’ve enjoyed. One of the questions that we like to ask all of our guests on this show is for all the managers and leaders constantly looking to get better at their craft. Are there any tips, tricks or parting words of wisdom that you’d leave them with?

Steven Goldbach and Geoff Tuff  42:52

I would say me, the, the one thing I would I kind of pride myself on doing. And I would say, is probably, there’s no downside to is looking for ways to incorporate new things into your worldview. So when you’re like, and that requires you to be curious about it, and so constantly don’t have a stance about the world that you think explains everything. Right. And I think the more experience we get, the more we think we figured everything out people who have learning and a growth mindset adopt is, boy, there might be something I’m missing. And look for ways to incorporate new developments in the world into your view and test your hypothesis about does this conform or not, like challenge yourself to say like, oh, is this new bit of data conform to it? Is it explained by it? Or do I have to rethink my theory about how the world works? So I think doing some of that self-reflection and having curiosity and challenging yourself with new information, I think it is really important and doesn’t like you got to make time for that. We’ll all fill our calendars up with useless other Bs, and that will be far more useful to you in the long run.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  44:16

Yeah, that’s awesome. And Geoff, well, so

Steven Goldbach and Geoff Tuff  44:19

despite everything I just said about human beings being inherently different, I’ve got a very similar answer to Steve which may tell you something about how often we have spent time together. And I’ll just offer it in the form of a famous quote, it’s not a famous quote, I’m trying to see if I can make Steve laugh because it’s a quote that’s stolen from a poem that I wrote for my kids when I turned a certain age. But, it is a poem that I’ve learned through the journey that Steve and I have been on in writing together and a lot of the observations that that that we’ve made together and this part of the poem this quote goes as follows meet uncertainty, with curiosity and a bias for action instead of worry and a bias for analysis. And so that that I think is a phrase is one that pops into my head a lot of the time, not just in the work that we’re doing, but in my personal life as well. Because no matter how much I believe it and would like to think that it’s, it’s a reality of who I am, I struggle with it all the time as well.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  45:16

Yeah, well, we will make it a famous quote today. Today is the day that it becomes a famous quote. That was, that was great. Geoff. Stephen, thank you so much for doing this. It’s been a great pleasure.

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