curiosity across disciplines

Odds rule

“Odd” wasn’t just a goofy, ”different is better than better” sort of branding for this site.

To be clear, it is that. And if it stopped there, that'd be sufficient.

Sally Hogshead, the progenitor of the “different better than better” idea, which she created during her tenure as head of marketing for Jägermeister, really nailed that one.

The gist of her research is that “different” avoids the race to the bottom that is all zero-sum optimizations. Excellence is still a requisite, but it’s not sufficient. Finding ways to avoid zero-sum “better” traps pays dividends in anything related to branding or marketing.

I’d wager it goes even further than that.

Rarely do I find a situation in which trying to "win" or "be better" (an inherently zero-sum approach) is more useful than changing the rules of the game entirely.

When it comes to thinking and connecting with others, finding a different approach is almost always more fruitful than finding a “better” approach.

Let's say I'm trying to convince you about something related to politics (really easing us in, amirite?!).

First, that’s probably not going to happen. Two, even if I do “convince” you, you’re not going to change your mind then and there. And C: the default zero-sum framing of modern political discourse is, within a rounding error, worthless.

Using the basic framing employed in ~99% of politics, that there’s two teams and one is right and one is wrong, everyone loses. Or, if we proceed with blind optimism and assume that we’re instead arguing about policy and not sportsball but with voting, it still usually results in a conversation centered around “better,” without any aim toward synthesis.

And while politics is a particularly-obvious example of this phenomenon, being stuck in win vs lose ideological framings is everywhere.

The way we communicate must change. And while that’s not a new sentiment, it‘s less common to find suggestions about what we ought to do about it.

So, I propose a ridiculous "rule" as one method for just that. Let's call it the "odds rule"

Odds are good that unquestioned assumptions are dictating the terms of most ideas.

And yes, that is a pun. But it’s a pun useful for more than my own amusement.

In addition to that dignified purpose, it reminds us that it’s likely that the unexamined assumptions, the odd ones out, have an outsized impact on our thinking, and especially in our conversations.

If we want to think better, or connect more deeply with others, few things are as helpful as unmasking and addressing our sneaky, underlying assumptions.