In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interview Paul Magnone. Paul is Head of Global Strategic Alliances at Google where he is developing a growing ecosystem of partners that will unlock the next generation of business value via the cloud and related technologies. He’s also the co-author of — Decisions Over Decimals: Striking the Balance between Intuition and Information.
Amid streams of data and countless meetings, we make hasty decisions, slow decisions, and often no decisions. Successful decision-makers are fierce interrogators. They square critical thinking with open-mindedness by blending information, intuition, and experience. In this episode, Paul Magnone joins me to talk about striking the balance between intuition and information.
Questions I ask Paul Magnone:
- [2:17] Is “Decisions Over Decimals” a little bit of a play on like paralysis via analysis?
- [3:48] Is there a person that can do what you’re calling quantitative intuition?
- [5:59] Could you unpack the “I Wish I Knew” (IWIK) framework?
- [10:19] You spend a lot of time talking about this idea of working backward and having the end in mind – do you find that that is kind of counterintuitive for people?
- [12:39] How do you fight the bias to actually just use the numbers to validate what you’re already thinking as opposed to maybe steering you away from what you’re thinking?
- [13:55] You spend a lot of time on the idea that you’re gonna get a better decision almost based on how much time you spend framing the problem – could you talk more in-depth about this idea?
- [16:07] If someone spent so much time making a decision, does it make it harder to reverse it?
- [17:28] If you were consulting with somebody and you were advising them on this process would you say that one benefit of this process or going through a process like this, would be that it helps eliminate some of the risks?
- [19:03] Would you say that this process takes practice or is this something that you ought to actually use as a framework?
- [20:27] Would you go as far as to say that quantitative intuition should almost be viewed as a culture?
- [21:02] Where can people connect with you and get a copy of your book?
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(00:56): Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Paul Mannon. He is the head of Global Strategic alliances at Google, where he is developing a growing ecosystem of partners that will unlock the next generation of business value via the cloud and related technologies. But today we're gonna talk about the fact that he's a co-author of a book called Decisions Over Decimals, striking the Balance Between Intuition and Information. So Paul, welcome to the show.
Paul Magnone (01:27): Thank you for having me, John.
John Jantsch (01:30): So this book I mentioned you were a co-author. You actually had two other authors as somebody who's written a book, I can't imagine the circus that is three three authors, although I know you, you have written another book with Christopher.
Paul Magnone (01:42): That's right. Yeah. So it's a very good question and the fact is it's less of a circus because Chris and I go way back. We went to college together and we did write that first book, but the three of us have been teaching together for seven years at Columbia. So in some ways we've written down what we've been talking about with each other and with, you know, thousands of, of students in business professionals for some time.
John Jantsch (02:04): And you added a data scientist just
Paul Magnone (02:06): We, we added a preeminent data scientist
John Jantsch (02:17): So I, I'm guessing the decisions over decimals is a little bit of a play on like paralysis via analysis, like kind of idea, like a little bit of a nod towards close enough is maybe better than not doing anything.
Paul Magnone (02:35): Yeah. At the end of the day, you know, if you think about a decision represents change Yeah. And humans are not wired for change, right? And most of us are risk averse. So what happens is we retreat to one side or the other, some dive into the data, and then once they have the data, they want more data and you know, just keep feeding them spreadsheets and they're happy. Other people say, I don't wanna see any of that. I just, I'm gonna make a gut call. Which always sounds good in a movie
John Jantsch (03:12): Yeah. So, so quantitative gut calls or as you're calling it, quantitative intuition,
Paul Magnone (03:18): Right? And that by design seems contradictory. And before I say anything else, I will point out that all three of us authors are technical. We have engineering degrees, we love the math, we adore the math, but it's like prospecting in the wrong hole if you don't orient properly first. And that orientation, that deciding what to focus on is a blend of both sides.
John Jantsch (03:48): So is that, you know, it's kinda like the engineer who can sell, you know, joke. I mean, is that like, is there a person that can do, can do what you're calling quantitative intuition? I mean, is that, is there a human being wired that way or is it more a matter of like, let's bring a team of people that have this and they have this and we'll like fight over where the middle is?
Paul Magnone (04:08): Well, I, so I think large organizations do bring cohorts that are on one side or the other, and that's sort of natural within org design. But notice what I said at the top. I said, most of us are risk averse and we retreat to our comfort zones. Yeah, Right. That doesn't mean you don't have the other gears. Right? So the majority of people, they have intuition and they don't listen to it if they are really technical because they stay close to the numbers because that's what they're comfortable with and they don't listen to their intuition. Other people say, Well I can't figure out the math. Yeah. And they say, I'm just gonna make a gut call. And then you show them some of the numbers and they say, Well wait a minute, I really wanna look into that. Oh, so you actually do understand numbers
John Jantsch (05:03): So, you know, I will, you know, blatantly say that I err towards the gut call. Intuition aside, probably my favorite part of the book, however, is really your, I think it's your bridge to getting those together. And it's this idea of the questions rather than going in with answers or assumptions or even hypothesis. It's like, are we asking the right questions? And I think that, uh, that element is probably sorely missing in most leadership decisions, isn't it?
Paul Magnone (05:29): Yeah, very much so. And fact is the smartest person in the room, as we like to say, it's not the person who blurts out the answer and has the encyclopedic, you know, calculate our memory kind of thing. Yeah. But it's the person that says, Well wait a minute, have we thought of this? It's the person that asks the powerful question that cuts through a lot of what the noise is, that you have that aha moment that crystallizes and synthesizes everything.
John Jantsch (05:59): You have a couple, I already mentioned one trademarked kind of term quantitative intuition. You've got another one I w I k I wish I knew. You want to kind of unpack your framework for that?
Paul Magnone (06:11): Yeah, absolutely. So at, so many folks talk about getting to an essential question. And you hear people like Elon Musk talk about it. If you go far enough back into the classics, you see it with Plato and Socrates and everything, get to that first principle. That's wonderful. How do you get to it across a group? And most conversations before you into the first couple of sentences, you're already anchored on something because the boss already planted the anchor inadvertently
(07:16): Cuz that's what happens so much of the time. You go from there into what we refer to as divergent questions, open it up, collect all of the observations, and then start to aggregate them and say, Well, you know what, now that we've had the open conversation that you've said what it is that you wish, let's start to organize that a little bit. And you may want to know, well, is there a market for my product for millennials? That's a real simple question, but you may find out after going through an exercise like this that I want high net worth individuals, you know, millennials that live in a certain demographic that also like this kind of music that wasn't in your first question, but when you go through the steps Yeah. Pull that out.
John Jantsch (08:04): Well I think one of the things I, like you already pointed at this idea, a lot of times people are biased by, you know, coming in, people saying, here's what we're trying to do, setting the table. But that I wish I knew sort of gives everybody the permission to, I mean, you're ba first off you're saying, I don't know. And so you really then I think give everybody the permission to bring some fresh ideas.
Paul Magnone (08:24): Yeah, exactly. And it's interesting how it requires people to be brave to say, I don't know. Yeah. Right? And you shouldn't have to be brave. It should be known that the world is moving fast, technology information is moving fast, How could you possibly know everything? So having, having an open conversation to say, you know what? We've done the work to analyze what we know. Here are a few things we don't know know, and we think that this is an area to go investigate, as opposed to, let me put a little bow on the answer that you already expected and let's move on to the next thing. Yeah. Which happens too often.
John Jantsch (09:07): Well, yeah. And you know, just as a leadership trade, it's pretty empowering, I think, you know, if everybody's waiting around for you to have the answer
Paul Magnone (09:23): Oh, you, you know, we hire brilliant people out of tremendous schools. Yeah. And then put them in roles where they're not allowed to really say what they think. Yeah. So a smart leader maybe sets the parameters, This is what we're trying to investigate and then doesn't talk until the end. Yeah. You know, let the conversation flow, let the ideas come forward. Now that doesn't, that could seem unruly, but it's not. If you put boundaries around it, you put a framework around it, you time box it and you say, Listen, we need to go investigate. Go be brilliant. Do the things that are your God given abilities that we hired you for.
John Jantsch (10:05): And like all good consultants, you have your A, B, C, D process for ask, brainstorm, capture deliberate, you know, to kind you said put, you know, give it some structure so that's not just, you know, come to me with any idea you have.
Paul Magnone (10:18): Right.
John Jantsch (10:20): You, this is probably the hardest, I think this would be the hardest part for some people. And that you spend a lot of time talking about this idea of working backwards and it's, let's have the end in mind now. Let's go work backwards and find out what the story really is. Isn't that, do you find that's kind of counterintuitive for people?
Paul Magnone (10:40): It, it's kind of counterintuitive for sure. However, it's not difficult, right? If you know that, you know, this weekend we're throwing a party that's very different than, you know, this weekend we're getting on a plane trip. And you start to plan accordingly. Similarly, in business, you need to know what that end state is. We didn't say what kind of dinner party or how many people, but you start to orient your thinking a particular way. So the structure that we talk about with backwards thinking is have that end in mind, build branches to the tree, and then start crossing off the branches that are irrelevant or not going to be fruitful. And you can quickly whittle down to, ah, here is the path forward.
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(12:26): So, because data is such a big part of this, and I think, I can't remember the exact quote, but you know, I've heard it before, I'm gonna butcher it a little bit, but, you know, essentially you can make data say anything, right? You torture it long enough and you can come up with any answer you want, right? So, so how do you fight the, not necessarily the urge, but even the bias to, to actually just use the numbers to validate, you know, what you're already thinking as opposed to maybe steering you away from what you're thinking?
Paul Magnone (12:54): Well, yeah, that's an important question because with these tools and techniques, like any tool and technique, you could use it to drive in the wrong direction, right?
(13:05): But if you have the right group of people, the right cross section of people, you will ideally not be biased, you will be open up to surprise. We talk about that a bit. And as you discuss what is surprising, what is kind of the illuminating thing that I've suddenly discovered? Yeah, if somebody had an agenda, the agenda probably falls by the wayside. If you follow the instincts, right? If you follow the going back and forth between, here's the data, here's the judgment, here's the business acumen, and you're going back and forth. And I suppose a, a super talented person that controls an organization can still jury rig the decision process
John Jantsch (13:55): So one of the, the, I meant to actually ask this a little earlier, so I'm getting this a little bit of out of order here. But you spend a lot of time on, on the idea that you're gonna get a better decision almost based on how much time you spend framing the problem.
Paul Magnone (14:19): Yeah. It's, you know, measure twice, cut once. It was, uh, I think Einstein that said I'd spend 99% of the time thinking and 1% doing. Yeah. And that's really the case. It's, I see it all the time. Here's a spreadsheet that answers the question. Isn't that the spreadsheet we used last week,
John Jantsch (14:37):
Paul Magnone (14:37): But what, like, how is that relevant right now? So taking that step back and saying, well what are we really solving for? And not taking that first answer because the first answer is probably not thoughtful enough. And you know, it's interesting how the lessons from childhood come ringing through. Keep on asking why until you're exhausted and there's no more why's. Yeah, yeah. Well, why is that? Well dig a little deeper, dig a little deeper. And the mindset that we think the majority of folks should have as they go through this is to be an interrogator. Now you can be an interrogator without being annoying
John Jantsch (16:08): I adopt this process and I spend a whole lot of time framing the problem and I get the right data and I, you know, I ask the right questions and I get everybody brainstorming and I make a decision and it's pretty clear that it was the wrong decision at some point down the road. Right? Does this, I'm really teeing this up because this will, you know, this will be a softball for you, but I'm imagining somebody saying the fact that I spent so much time making the decision, does it make it harder to reverse it?
Paul Magnone (16:39): Well, you know, decisions, first off, understanding if a decision is an absolute or it is reversible is an important right point, right? Most often people lock in because they think, Well I've gotta make this decision. And once it's done, I see other organizations where every single decision is reversible. Either way, you're bogging down progress. Yeah. And so there's no guarantees here that gonna absolutely get the right answer, but what you're going to ideally do is move crisply, be more thoughtful and stop wasting company resources as you're trying to move forward.
John Jantsch (17:28): Now if you were, say you were consulting with somebody and you were advising them on this process, taking this process, would you say that one of the things that this process, one benefit of this process or going through a process like this, would be that it helps eliminate some of the risk?
Paul Magnone (17:45): It should, It should. And we talk about a decision moment model is something else we talk about, which is another little framework where we think you can map every decision along three dimensions, time, risk, and trust. Mm. So do you have no time or do you have a lot of time? No time, it's maybe it's a crisis. A lot of time it's congress or parliament. Low risk or high risk, right? No time, low risk, get the sandwich, get the salad. No, a lot of time high risk, you are gonna be in a committee for months.
(18:25): The third dimension is trust. Do you trust the information? Do you trust the person that gave you the information? Do you trust the organization that stands behind the person? And you then start to think, well, is this reputational risk for me? Or like, what, what is going on here? So as you start to triangulate on time, risk and trust, you can say, is this a critical decision that needs to be made? And how crisply can I move through it? Or is this a decision that we don't have to apply our top resources to in the moment?
John Jantsch (19:03): Would you say that that this process takes practice and that, you know, rather than once a year when you have that big decision to make, like the annual planning or something or the creating new product, you trot this out? Or is this something that you ought to actually use as a framework, you know, for maybe almost every little decision so that when the big decision comes along,
Paul Magnone (19:24): I think it's a habit that it is both a habit that you can start to pick up and start to use right away. But yeah, getting an entire organization to start using a decision moment model or an IIC framework takes a little bit of effort to get there and start small. Find that one ally that wants to give it a shot and then find that second ally. The fact is, a lot of this is just very much around mindset. And we talked about surprise before, when you leave a party, what are you talking about? Are you talking about the food? Are you talking about the playlist? Are you talking about what surprised you? Yeah. So you and your, the friends that you went with, you're talking about, oh, did you notice that? So in our personal lives, were open to talking about surprises, but in our business lives we bury that because while that's not what the boss wants to hear or we don't have time for that, meanwhile that might be the real essential thing that unlocks a better decision. So it is about that mindset.
John Jantsch (20:28): I mean, would you go as far as, I think you wrote, I think you wrapped the book up, you know, where you started with this quantitative intuition almost as culture
Paul Magnone (20:38): I, I think so at the end of the day, we've been asked why write a book
John Jantsch (21:01): Yeah, yeah. Awesome. Well Paul, I appreciate you stopping by the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. You wanna tell people where they can, I know the book is available wherever you buy books, but where they might connect with you as well.
Paul Magnone (21:13): Sure. You can find me on LinkedIn, Paul Manone, M A G N O N E, I'm out there. You can come and take our class at Columbia and we teach it both in the exec MBA and the exec ed court. And that is entitled Leading In a Data Driven World. Of course, the book is out there on your favorite local independent bookstores, ideally, but you can find it, the major players out there and the, let's see, what's today. I believe the audio book is issued tomorrow the 25th.
John Jantsch (21:44): Yeah, so depending upon when you're listening to this, we're recording it October 25th. So book will be available by the time you hear this'll be available everywhere. And then I believe you also have a website, Dod
Paul Magnone (21:54): Yes, do od the book.com. So decision over decimals is the do od the book.com.
John Jantsch (21:59): Awesome. Well, Paul, again, thanks for, uh, stopping by the Duct Tape Marketing podcast and uh, hopefully we'll run into you one of these days out there on the road.
Paul Magnone (22:07): I appreciate it, John. Thanks for the time.
John Jantsch (22:09): Hey, and one final thing before you go. You know how I talk about marketing strategy, strategy before tactics? Well, sometimes it can be hard to understand where you stand in that, what needs to be done with regard to creating a marketing strategy. So we created a free tool for you. It's called the Marketing Strategy Assessment. You can find it @ marketingassessment.co. Check out our free marketing assessment and learn where you are with your strategy today. That's just marketingassessment.co. I'd love to chat with you about the results that you get.
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