Don’t tell people, show them

Then someone had a brilliant idea: proof always works better than a claim.

Don’t tell people, show them.

William ‘Bumper’ Harris was an employee who’d lost a leg in an accident.

He was told to come to Earl’s Court station and ride up and down the escalator.

Just that, ride up and down, nothing else.

People at the bottom would see a one-legged man with crutches nonchalantly hop onto the escalator and ride it to the top.

Then he’d turn around, and people at the top would see a one-legged man with crutches nonchalantly hop onto the other escalator and ride it to the bottom.

‘Bumper’ Harris just did that all day.

When frightened passengers saw him do it they were reassured an ashamed.

Reassured that if a one-legged man could do it anyone could.

And ashamed that they were ever frightened in the first place.

After a day of ‘Bumper’ riding up and down, everyone was using the escalator as if it was the most normal thing.

And once that happened, the problem disappeared.

Escalators became as accepted as the have been ever since.

The lesson was, it’s better to show people than to tell people.

Excerpt from: Creative Blindness (And How To Cure It): Real-life stories of remarkable creative vision by Dave Trott

On the false split between emotional and rational messages

How you say something may well be more important than what you say.

But you have to have something to say in the first place.

If you have nothing to say that will soon be apparent.

No one will be fooled.

Think of it as an oyster.

You start with a piece of grit, and build a pearl around it.

People buy the pearl, they don’t buy the grit.

But no grit, no pearl.

Excerpt from: Creative Blindness (And How To Cure It): Real-life stories of remarkable creative vision by Dave Trott

On the psychology of price

Sailing across the Aegean Sea he was captured by Sicilian pirates.

They demanded a ransom: 20 talents of silver.

(That’s about 620kg worth about $600k.)

Caesar told them they were being ridiculous.

He couldn’t possibly allow himself to be ransomed so cheaply.

The pirates hesitated, the were confused.

Caesar insisted the ransom must be more than doubled to 50 talents of silver.

(Around 1550kg worth about $1.5 million.)

Now the pirated didn’t know what to make of this.

Normally their captives tried to escape as cheaply as possible.

They didn’t understand what was going on.

But if he said he would double the ransom, why argue?

They let Caesar’s men go back to Rome to raise the money.

And in Rome, in his absence, Caesar suddenly became very famous.

No one had ever been ransomed for such a vast sum before.

He must be very special, he must be very important/

That ransom demand put Julius Caesar on the political map.

He had just invented the Veblen effect.

Excerpt from: Creative Blindness (And How To Cure It): Real-life stories of remarkable creative vision by Dave Trott

On using political influence creatively to solve problems

So he wrote to the Russian embassy in Washington DC.

He told them the story about the poverty-like conditions the people of Vulcan, West Virginia were living in.

He told them America couldn’t even afford to build a bridge.

He knew that Russia had a foreign aid budget that could help build a bridge where America couldn’t afford to do it.

The Russians know this would be a major propaganda coup. They immediately sent a reporter, Iona Andronov, to visit Vulcan.

He could write the story about how the USA couldn’t support their own people.

How the poor people of America were crying out to Russia for help.

But the Russian embassy had to get permission from the US State Department before making the trip.

The US government wanted to know why they were going to the middle of nowhere.

When they found out about Vulcan’s bridge, things began happening.

This could embarrass the US worldwide.

The government told the state to fix it, NOW.

Excerpt from: Creative Blindness (And How To Cure It): Real-life stories of remarkable creative vision by Dave Trott

You talk to the audience in their language. Not yours

Horse Power was comparison everyone could understand.

Suddenly, Watt had put the steam engine into a language that made sense to the layman. Which is exactly what Steve Jobs did when he launched the iPod.

He didn’t compare it to to other MP3 players for speed and fidelity.

That would have been a market-share comparison.

Steve Jobs had a much bigger opportunity in mind, market-growth.

That’s why he compared the iPod to something ordinary people could understand.

He simply held it up and said “A thousand songs in your pocket.”

Because 200 years later the rules for creative communication haven’t changed. You talk to the audience in their language. Not yours.

Excerpt from: Creative Blindness (And How To Cure It): Real-life stories of remarkable creative vision by Dave Trott