One Weird Trick, Explained

I'm the author of Tipping Sacred Cows, a book that explains the dangerous pull of virtues like collaboration and fairness. The book launches on March 12, 2013, but you can order it today from Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

You've seen the ads. One weird trick from a mom on how to lose belly fat, or one weird trick on how to cut your electricity bill, or weird trick to stay asleep all night. It's an old idea, used by advertisers and journalists for 100 years or more. But why does it still work so well?

  • ONE: By promising a single solution, the advertiser makes their claim seem easy.
  • WEIRD: Just as the campaigns to "Keep Austin Weird" and "Keep Portland Weird" celebrate the counter-culture aspects of cities that want to stay special, a weird trick is a celebration of a special secret you're not going to get from your doctor. It's forbidden, and maybe dangerous. 
  • TRICK: Staying with the theme of subversion, a trick is something you do to gain an unearned advantage.

Match the words "weird" and "trick" together and you've got a secret subversion. Add in "one" and now you've got a simple, secret subversion. Subversion is attractive, especially for those who don't consider themselves to be the powerful elite. Which, by definition, is most of us. Make that subversion a simple secret, and it's hard to resist. Don't you want to find out?

Leaders can learn something from the magic of "one weird trick." I don't suggest you tell your teams that you've got one weird trick to help meet this year's numbers. But try to give the group a sense of purpose and meaning by letting them in on a simple secret to subvert something in the status quo, and they'll be with you.

For example, a sales leader at a tech company found someone on her team having unusual success with a new method of demonstrating the product. At a team meeting, the leader set things up with the drama and intrigue of an Agatha Christie novel. And so when the successful young sales person finally took the floor to explain the novel approach he'd been using, you could have heard a pin drop.

Tipping Sacred Cows explains the dangerous pull of virtues like collaboration and fairness. The book launches on March 12, 2013, but you can order it today from Barnes & Noble or Amazon.