How news works

A weird thing happened happened while watching a news story.

Like many news stories, it used word salads to lead viewers to a conclusion that the news story itself wasn’t technically drawing.

Other folks watching the story with me drew the conclusion, but with skepticism. “Well, I think they are saying this, but they they haven’t really said it.”

I agreed, but said there’s no reason to draw the conclusion if the story itself hasn’t drawn it.

Here’s the weird part. The others saw me as the bad guy for not giving the news story the benefit of the doubt and drawing the conclusion.

Why am I bad guy for taking what the news story reported literally. Why isn’t the news outlet the bad guy for appearing to want to lead viewers to a conclusion they themselves would not draw?


Good soccer players are often unaware of how they got good

Once, when I coached soccer, a player had spent a few weeks doing the ball homework I assigned and showed some noticeable progress in a game by dribbling past a defender, instead of kicking the ball into space and chasing it.

I said, “It looks like that ball work is starting to pay off.”

He responded, “I don’t think so. I think soccer is just starting to click for me.”

Those types of experiences stick in my mind when I hear the answers when I ask good adult players how they got good.

I expect to hear that they worked their butts off, they loved playing with the ball more than anybody else or had family members that knew about soccer.

But, they usually say that they’ve always been “a natural.”

Like my former player, maybe their ego keeps them from objectively analyzing what contributed to their development. It’s less magical to think a skill can be acquired through repetition than to believe that somehow you have a natural gift.

ROI on mountain bike trails?

Lots of cities have invested millions in youth sports complexes hoping to attract out-of-towners to youth sports tournaments to book hotel rooms (and pay hotel room taxes) and buy Gatorade at the gas stations (and pay sales tax) to get a return on investment.

I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos on the mountain bike trails in Bentonville, Arkansas. Home of Walmart’s HQ, one of the Walmart family foundations has been turning Bentonville into a mountain bike hamlet by building lots of mountain bike trails.

That made me wonder if there is ROI on building mountain bike trails that can attract some out-of-towners who might buy a few Gatorades at the local convenience store or more.

Cutting trails through unused woods on parkland is requires little investment compared to covering hundreds of acres with fake grass.

While I don’t think a town needs to go as whole hog as Bentonville to become a full on mecca, they do need it to be more than a convenient trail for locals.

Compare and contrast: pro/rel vs. closed league attitude

In the MLS, Luton Town FC’s stadium would have barred them from entry into the MLS.

In England, it does not. While the Premier League is evaluating options for their home stadium to meet their Professional League Standards, they are not barring Luton Town FC from entering the PL because its current stadium doesn’t make the cut.

Recently, Don Garber, MLS commissioner expressed concern about MLS teams playing Open Cup games on inferior fields of non-MLS opponents, saying it’s not a good product and not what viewers want to see.

I’ve often seen business leaders mistake their own personal preferences for those of their customers and I have often seen them to be way off.

Years ago, when I tuned into an FA Cup game and saw one of the top PL teams playing against a club I never heard of in a stadium that looked like a high school or small college stadium and the top pros didn’t seem the least bit bothered by it, I was intrigued.

I had never seen anything like that and it got me more interested in learning how sports was structured there.

I think MLS places too much emphasis on the entertainment value of window dressing, like stadiums and game times, and not enough what is about 10x more important — how the good the soccer is on the field.

And, yes, the top PL team (or mostly its B team) handled the small club in the FA Cup withough, even in an inferior stadium. Critics of pro/rel would say that was a boring game because, of course, the team with the bigger payroll won.

From an casual entertainment standpoint, that’s probably true.

I didn’t think it was boring. I found it really interesting to see the differences in the level of play — the quality of touch on the ball, the speed of play, the wider variety of options, less predictability, quality of finishes, passing, tactics and athleticism.

I also thought it was interesting to see the lower level team just get the chance to match up against their heroes and maybe spot a player or two on their squad that looked more on level with the top team.

Those things are harder to see when both teams on the field are on the same level in most of those aspects.

Suggestion for Twitter & discussions

(and other discussion platforms)

I think a good use of AI would be to to highlight logical fallacies.

Like Community Notes, this could be an add-on to a comment. It would detail the fallacies contained in the comment, why they are fallacies and why they do not productively add to the dialogue.

I would also suggest, as a general rule of discussion, the first to use a fallacy loses. Or, score could be kept by keeping tabs on good points and fallacies.

A popular fallacy I’ve seen on Twitter of late is a combination of two fallacies: a personal attack (ad hominem) and changing the subject (red herring). It goes something like, “You appear to have a reading comprehension problem. I must be talking to an idiot. Have a nice day.”

I call this a combo fallacy because it’s a personal attack, but also designed to change the subject from the topic at hand to whether the person has a reading comprehension problem and to end the discussion with the user of it feeling they have won.

This doesn’t score points with me. If you feel your discussion partner misread something, simply point out what they misread.

An anti-dote to talking in circles

I need to remember the anti-dote for getting out of circular discussion. I’ve found myself in a few of these lately and forgot to pull the rip cord.

These discussions typically go something like:

“I think we should make this new product. It ties together clever insight #1 and clever insight #2, so it is sure to work!” (Please pat me on the back for my clever thinking!)

“What about about insight #3? Doesn’t that go against what you just said?”

“Well, I’m not sure that applies.”

Then, more back and forth and the circle continues. Nothing gets accomplished, except some folks might win some brownie points here or there from others for sounding like they presented a smarter case.

How do you pull the rip cord on circular discussions? Rather than try to counter, I encourage them to find a way to try and prove out their theory in the real world.

“That doesn’t sound like a bad idea. You never know until you try. What’s the minimal amount of effort you would need to do to see if would work in the real world?”

In other words, encourage them to put their money where their mouth is.

It can be funny at how quickly that can stop them. Just the mere thought of considering their idea standing the true test of reality can be enough to shake their confidence and cause them to consider that it might not be such a good idea after all.

It’s like watching someone trying to hold onto a deflating balloon. “Oh, it’s not my job to try out new ideas. That’s another group.” Or, “Well, we wouldn’t do it the way it ought to be done, anyway.” But, you can hear in their voice that they really liked the idea of having an idea a lot more than proving it out.

They liked the idea of having an untested idea that sounds good. They don’t want to let that go, even if they might learn something.

In one case, the idea was that the company hasn’t spent enough on marketing for awhile, so there’s a whole segment of potential customers out there that doesn’t even know about the product.

Instead of providing the counterpoint that the company has pulled back on marketing because it did not have a good ROI (which was true), I asked how they might prove that out? Can we pick a small market and design a marketing campaign to get a read on how many of those potential customers we could win?

They initially pushed back that one market wouldn’t be enough. Then, if we just tried it in one market, competitors would find out and copy it before we could benefit from it. It would have to be all or nothing and they slowly trailed off as they heard that the words coming out of their mouth were not making much sense.

But, sometimes, good things can happen. The conversation can shift, as it should, to devising creative ways to test the theory and to investigating the company’s history or competitor experiences that might provide some clues to how the idea would work in reality.

How people respond to ideas in your organization signals its innovation productivity

In organizations with anemic innovation cultures that produce little innovation that significantly changes the path the business is on, people reflexively reject ideas.

In healthier cultures, people are more likely to ask how can we can try the idea out and see if works? These cultures will have more innovative successes.

Here are a few ways anemic and healthy cultures deal with new ideas differently.

Anemic — Leaders need to buy into the new idea for it to be tried. Healthy — Leaders ask how would I know what will work? Try it and find out.

Anemic — We don’t have enough resources to try too many things at once. Healthy — How can we try lots things in small ways to learn something? Let’s get creative.

Anemic — Our systems can’t handle it. Healthy — Let’s learn about it and see if it’s worth changing our systems.

Anemic — We can’t risk putting products out that are not fully baked that might tarnish our brand and reputation. Healthy — Let’s explore strategies to minimize risks for putting out prototypes, like making it available in limited quantities, using a different brand name and letting customers know.

Anemic — We tried that before and it didn’t work. Healthy — Let’s review what we tried to see if there are new ways of looking at that experience based on recent learning or variations on the idea that might work better.

Anemic — Status earned by explaining why an idea won’t work. Healthy — Status earned by trying ideas and learning from them.

Anemic — Thinks it can beat the odds by being smart. Healthy — Plays the odds by trying lots of things on small scales in hopes a few will work out.

Anemic — Fierce competition for credit for the few ideas that get tried. Healthy — So many ideas are being tried, nobody needs to steal credit.

Anemic — People put distance between themselves and failures and learn nothing from them. Healthy — Failures are the norm and learning from them can lead to breakthroughs that works.

Anemic — Confuses small, marginal improvements of 1-3% bumps with innovation rather than seeing it as optimization. Healthy — Looking for game changers that can bump the needle 5%, 10%, 20% or 100% or more.

Anemic — Applies linear problem solving processes that serve well in optimizing existing operations to new ideas. Healthy — Uses creative problem solving to try new ideas.

Anemic — Settles on a single solution for new idea that will be rolled out before seeing if customers want it. Healthy — Tries various ways to solve the same problem on small scales to see if different variations work better than others.

Anemic — The current, leader-sponsored idea is going to work! It’s just great! We have to believe in it for it to be successful!


Consider your organization’s revenue trajectory over the past 10 years.

If it has largely been a function of external factors, like population growth or growth of the industry, you are probably in an organization that treats new ideas like the anemic culture described above. The future of the business is not in your company’s hands.

If you can point to a steady stream of moderate to big successes that have significantly altered the company’s revenue path from the industry around it, congratulations.

Coolest thing I’ve seen in 2023

This video also made me wonder if how much of my engineering background inspired my view on how innovation works.

The inventor of this new way method of drone delivery stresses the importance of failure and trial-and-error, which is something corporations say they embrace, but when it actually happens politics tends to cause the organization’s bureaucrats to want to hide and shun the failures while the seeming messiness and chaos of the trial-and-error process makes the tidy bureaucrat extremely uncomfortable.

BTW…the 2nd coolest thing I’ve seen in 2023 was this. It may have happened in the waning moments of 2022, but I’ll count it.

“Why would someone invest $300 million in MLS with the threat of relegation?”

This is a common question posed by the strange opponents to promotion/relegation in the U.S.

I say ‘strange’ because I find it a bit strange at how concerned these folks are with billionaires’ investments, while nobody has asked the billionaires what they think. Many of these billionaires have invested in clubs that are in promotion/relegation systems. So, it seems by their own actions, the fear of being relegated isn’t a big concern.

But, also, the folks who don’t want to replicate the structure of soccer in other countries seem fine with copying other things, like their team name conventions (e.g. [City Name] FC or [City Name] United) and uniforms.

Why be against copying the structure of soccer and not be against copying these aspects?

‘Could be’ ‘Possibly’ Who can know?

Much of the news would evaporate if they didn’t report on what ‘could be’ or might ‘possibly’ happen if such-and-such yada yada.

The boy has cried wolf long ago.

How many ‘BOMBSHELLS’ turn to turds? ‘The walls are closing in’, you know it’s ‘just a matter of time,’ before nothing happens. “BREAKING:,” somebody reported something that will turn out to not be true, but we hope we got your attention.

‘This raises questions’ that our paid staff contributors who know nothing will sit around all day letting you know what they think, rather than just saying, ‘I don’t know, it’s stupid. Move on.’

When you hear or see such phrases, you will be fine tuning out, changing channels, scrolling past, dusting your end tables and you will find that you were much more productive.