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Mar 2, 201510:55 AMOpen Mic

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What Neil deGrasse Tyson can teach us about business

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Do you recognize the name Neil deGrasse Tyson? He’s an astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, host of the 2014 version of the show Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, and director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City. Why would this brilliant scientist be a regular guest on The Daily Show on Comedy Central? Why would he have made appearances on The Tonight Show and Late Night with Conan O’Brien?

Astrophysicists are not sought-after guests, right? Dr. Tyson is, though, and his popularity continues to grow. Without deliberately doing so, he’s sharing a crucial lesson with all of us who are not astrophysicists.

Why do we like Neil deGrasse Tyson so much?

Is it because he’s a brilliant astrophysicist? Do you know any astrophysicists who are not brilliant? Is it because he’s on TV at lot? Nope. The vast majority of people on TV couldn’t sell out the Overture Center (like he did on Jan. 26 of this year). Is it because of his great mustache and tendency to wear solar system-themed vests? Hmm ... maybe.

Sakichi Toyoda, founder of Toyota Industries (parent company of Toyota Motor Corp.) died in 1930. However, an idea he devised can help us figure out why we like Dr. Tyson so much. Are you familiar with the 5 Whys concept? When you have a question or problem, ask “why” five times to help you find the answer or solution.

Neil deGrasse Tyson continues to rise in popularity

  1. Why? He’s on TV more and more.
  2. Why? Companies will pay a premium to advertise during his programs.
  3. Why? Consumers have a positive association with him.
  4. Why? He makes people feel smarter.
  5. Why? He takes really, really complex topics and makes them simple.

What’s the lesson for business owners?

The last “why” from the example above is the critical answer from which we can all learn. Our customers know we’re smart, especially when it comes to the business we’re in. What makes them trust us, though, and what makes them want to do business with us is when we are able speak in terms they understand. Regardless of our industry, there are complex topics involved that we know much, much better than our customers.

What if Neil deGrasse Tyson just wanted to show everyone how smart he was? He could give incredibly complex presentations and have the audience’s head spinning in less than 60 seconds. What kind of appeal would he have then? He would amaze a group of his peers, but most people would just be confused. Dr. Tyson, better at astrophysics than almost anyone else on the planet, is able to take incredibly difficult concepts and put them in terms a 10-year-old can understand.


Mar 4, 2015 08:27 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

How fun - never connected NDT and business before! But it's true - create something comfortable and fun and interesting and your fans/customers will follow. Be positive - make them feel better and smarter. Good lessons.

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