The 3 Ps of Ideas

Many of those NFL teams will make mistakes because someone will confuse a preacher for an expert.

Philip Tetlock spends most of his time studying the judgments people make and what drives their decisions. In Adam Grant’s excellent new book “Think Again,” he explores Tetlock’s breakdown of how we receive a new idea before making a choice. Essentially, there are three modes, according to Tetlock:

  1. Preacher: In Preacher mode, we hold a fundamentally inarguable idea that we will passionately express, protecting it with great devotion. We will stand on any soapbox to sell it with tremendous enthusiasm. We share our views with everyone, refusing to evaluate the other side because we believe we are infallible with our opinion. 

  2. Prosecutor: This occurs when we pick apart the opposite side's logic to prove our own point, highlighting the flaws in others. We attack, not caring about the truth; our main function is to destroy the other idea and win the verdict. 

  3. Politician: This is when we attempt to marshal the crowd or sway people with our powerful words to support our position. The politician is smooth, willing to say whatever he/she needs at the moment to win the vote. 

At the end of April, the NFL will conduct its annual draft, which will rely on teams placing players in the correct order, but many of those NFL teams will make mistakes because someone will confuse a preacher for an expert. Some will mistake a prosecutor for a person in search of balancing both sides of the argument. And some will mistake a politician as a person with knowledge in many areas, but none in the area of the decision. They can talk the talk but not walk the walk. 

Every time we head into a meeting, whether we’re discussing NFL draft prospects or simply today’s sales, there are three kinds of people in the room. We have to balance their opinions accordingly.