Taste: The secret ingredient

A client and I were recently analysing the surprising success of the canned water brand Liquid Death, now valued at over $700 million.  In case you’re not familiar with it, Liquid Death is notable because the entire brand is essentially one big joke – it’s water (obviously a pure and healthy substance), presented in a “dangerous” […]

Don’t try

There’s an idea which permeates our schools, workplaces, and culture at large which goes something like this: The more effort you put in, the more results you get out. It’s a truism so bland and uncontroversial that it barely registers as an “idea” at all.  It’s more like a scientific law, taken for granted as […]

“The great flattening”: A visual companion

These essays tend to be a bit wordy, so I thought I’d mix things up today with a few pictures. This is courtesy of blogger David Perell, who by chance compiled a few images the other day which directly speak to some of the trends we’ve been discussing. He calls it “The Great Flattening”, by which […]

What I learned being fired twice

This is a slightly tricky essay to write.  Not for the obvious reason that it brings up potentially embarrassing episodes from my past, but actually for the opposite reason: that these days it’s hard to write about “being fired” without it sounding like you’re bragging. It’s a weird thing, but as we have discussed before, in this perma-revolutionary […]

Devil on your shoulder: The role of temptation in strategy

Today I want to introduce you to a concept I call “choice gravity”, but which you might know by a slightly more conventional and spicy word: temptation. What does temptation have to do with strategy?  One hell of a lot really (hell, in a sense, being the operative word here). How so? Well, I’m sure you’ve […]

The crucial difference between imagination and creativity

“I’m not creative”. Have you ever said this?  It’s a phrase you hear often, even from founders, which is funny when you think about it, because founders are by definition creative in the most concrete sense. The thing is, for the most part when we say “I’m not creative”, we generally don’t actually mean that.  We mean […]

Why successful founders give the worst advice

I’ve written before about the inherent limits of expertise, and how it is at that boundary that strategy takes over. What I’ve not written about however is the limits of strategy. The reason for that is pretty obvious of course, it’s hardly in my best interests.  I’m here to sell you on strategic thinking, and the […]

Two cool concepts for intellectual humility

If there’s one thing all the world’s ancient wisdom traditions agree on – from the Bible to the Tao Te Ching – it is the power of intellectual humility.  Meekly embracing the limitations of your understanding is, paradoxically, what grants true understanding.  Surrendering your certainty takes you further than clinging on to it. This is […]

Can a person have a strategy like a business?

One of my favourite concepts is the difference between expertise and strategic ability: Expertise = knowing things Strategic ability = knowing how things interact You can be extremely knowledgable and yet useless strategically because you can’t grasp the dynamics that lie between the things you know; and conversely you can be totally ignorant and yet strategically insightful, […]

How to be truly rebellious

In 2022, there’s nothing more conformist than being revolutionary. I’ve written about this before, but I still think it bears repeating that it can be quite hard now to find brands who don’t present themselves as being in some way maverick, rebellious, and counter-cultural – even (or especially) amongst corporate giants. They all stand with […]