I’ve often spoken on the Legion Strength & Conditioning podcast about the desire for “simple solutions to complex problems.”
I figured I’d reframe and refine that discussion for a solocast based upon the cynefin decision-making framework, Julia Galef’s great new book “The Scout Mindset,” and some marketing intuition from years of running a small business.
Over years of creating content for a fitness audience, I’ve learned that the things that resonate with people are often not the things that are actually correct. Understanding the difference between a “complicated” environment and a “complex” environment has helped me clarify what’s going on here.
People tend to listen to podcasts, read articles, and buy coaching products to solve problems that they know they have. Most people intuitively frame things as “complicated” problems — meaning that there is established expertise out in the world that, messy as it may be, can come up with a flow chart or system that will guarantee an outcome if followed correctly.
Instead, most real-life things are complex — meaning that outcomes are only loosely coupled with the “correctness” of inputs, nonlinearities, emergent phenomena, and threshold effects dominate, and it’s really hard to extract signal from noise.
So, if I were being more parsimonious in my statement, I could rephrase it as “people want complicated solutions to complex problems.” Here’s why the best way to market yourself as a coach is not the best way to actually coach.
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- [00:13] Introduction to the cynefin framework — Obvious | Complicated | Complex | Chaotic
- [05:14] Moving from the realm of the complicated to the complex in real life environments like training, coaching, and business
- [11:40] The Scout Mindset — and the weakness of epistemic humility when marketing to people thinking in a “complicated” not a “complex” way
- [16:10] The prestige trap — and the desire to copy what successful people do under the misconception that there is a linear path to accomplish what they’ve accomplished (like people complaining that Mat Fraser’s new programming doesn’t show exactly what he did leading into his final CrossFit Games championship)
Links and Resources Mentioned:
- Cynefin framework
- “A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making” from the Harvard Business Review
- Threshold Effects
- Insulin resistance
- Julia Galef
- “The Scout Mindset” by Julia Galef
- Philip E. Tetlock
- Hybrid Unlimited: Ep.83 Putting a strength coach in your pocket ft Mat Fraser and Ian Kaplan
- Dr. Ian Kaplan
- Hayden Bowe