Best of the Month – Win Bigly
Editor | On 11, Jul 2018
I tend to have a soft spot for books that polarise readers. Especially in these days of every book, record or movie seems to receive a meaningless four-star review. If I can believe Scott Adams, Win Bigly and the series of Trump-election-campaign blog articles that form the foundation of the book, has been so polarising, it has pretty much cost him his career as (anti-corporation) Dilbert cartoonist, and made him an unwanted darling of the pro-Trump brigade.
A lot of the book is about Trump’s skills (or rather his advisory team’s skills) as ‘master persuader’. A lot of it too is about confirmation bias, and how we all tend to read only what confirms our current biases. Win Bigly isn’t a pro-Trump book, but it will be read that way by Trump supporters. Similarly, it’s not an anti-Trump (‘the truth is irrelevant’) book, but anyone who’s against Trump will merely seek the parts of the story that will confirm what they already think. Or, actually, probably won’t pick the book up in the first place, lest it do something to corrupt such preconceptions. Either way, Adams was probably on to a no-win situation. Except, maybe, for readers who can get beyond confirmation bias (including Adam’s own confirmation biases – he seems to think that the US, thanks to Trump, is now in the throes of a new ‘Golden Age’ – as opposed to the Gilded Age reality) and are able to read the book as, what I think is a very compelling playbook of the master persuaders art.
Adams, with his usual adroit touch and sense of humor, offers an enjoyably provocative guide to the art of persuasion. In 2016, Adams predicted that Donald Trump would win the presidency when few others considered him a serious contender. What did Adams see that experts missed? Declaring himself a “lifelong student” of the art of persuasion, Adams offers sharp insights into how Trump persuades people, keeps the spotlight on himself and the topics of his choice, and used these skills to talk his way into the White House. Using examples from Trump’s campaign, Adams outlines the tools and methods he sees as typical of master persuaders. He discusses why it’s effective to create a visual image such as the “big, beautiful wall,” which captured voters’ attention with a simple solution to a complex problem. Even though the reality is that the details of its eventual possible creation are largely irrelevant. The main things being to, a) get the media talking about you, arguing over extreme stories you know were never intended to be true, and, b) never get sucked into any kind of detail that prevents people from forming their own vision and image of what ‘the wall’ looks like. To improve a social or business reputation, Adams writes, link to a strong “brand,” just as Trump did by borrowing his campaign slogan from Ronald Reagan’s successful 1980 campaign. In addition to a highly readable—and persuasive—guide to presenting ideas effectively, Adams has also written an insightful study of how Trump bested seasoned politicians, and just enough of the population to get where he’s now got.