Company Lessons (from YouTubes “Hot Ones”)

 I recently discovered “Hot Ones” on YouTube. If you haven’t seen any of the episodes, you should (because they really are fantastic). This isn’t really a controversial opinion: their YouTube channel has 12 million subscribers and almost 2,6 billion views.

The show has a few lessons that I think are worth noticing/stealing. I’ll discuss 3 of them here (even if they are kinda random).

1) Genuine Warmth

One would expect the show to lean on a kinda gotcha-slapstick routine: we all laugh at celebs suffering, but that isn’t really how it goes. The host (Sean Evans) suffers every moment with his guests and is super empathetic throughout. It’s not adversarial at all and guests reaching the end have a kind of shared bond with the host (and the audience).

Lots of companies are polite to customers (in front of them) but snicker about them behind their backs. Everyone recognizes the meme of tech-support insulting “idiot users” who just don’t get it. Even if this stuff isn’t said directly, it can’t really be hidden. It eventually seeps out of an organizations pores.

This is one of the reasons we focus so hard internally on customer love. We aren’t just doing it to be polite. We know that our customers could have bought anything, but they bought us. We deeply want them to win and we deeply want them to get it. This also can’t be hidden (and also seeps out through our pores).

Putting in the work (off camera)

Sean Evans is an incredible interviewer. There are a bunch of compilations online of guests being impressed by the depth of his questions.

Part of this is because the hot-sauce takes out guests ability to answer:

But the questions are definitely deep and super well researched:

Interviews in the past few years explain how they get this right:

Between episodes is when the real work begins…

Once a guest is booked, the three-person research team goes to work. “There’s a lot of armchair psychology that goes into the show,” says Schonberger. In practice, that means Evans’ brother — Gavin, who lives in Chicago — will compile a dossier. “He’ll basically read like every article there is, every profile, every Reddit AMA, like reading everything that he can find and create,” says Schonberger, noting that they can run to something like 30 pages long. “It’s almost like we’ve created our own Wikipedia template that’s suited to the show.”

Sean, on the other hand, does the videos. He’ll consume 12-24 hours of clips, looking for breadcrumbs. …

Schonberger does some of the podcasts, which means he listens to everything he can get his hands on. It’s the same idea as with the videos, except people are usually less guarded on podcast appearances than they are during video shoots. Then they compare notes, and Evans and Schonberger come up with ten topics to hit during the interview.

the verge

 We’ve been championing this line of thinking forever. Boxers don’t win their fights in the ring. It’s why we push so much for putting in the miles. It’s why we spend so much effort working on the tiny details that most people won’t see. It’s because the results are worth it (even if most ppl don’t know what’s behind it).

Following a Script (This is an unusual / subtle one)

When a new person joins us in customer-success/pre-sales we teach them about Canary, why we build it and how we demo it. One personality archetype quickly decides that they will learn the product but will wing-it for demos. They seem slightly surprised that we stay close to a fixed format even if we have been demo’ing Canary (or building it) it for years. Following a script almost seems like an insult to them:  they have a mic and they are smart and they can show off the newest features. 

With all the praise (in the previous point) for Sean, and now 18 seasons of the show under his belt, it’s worth checking out this quick super cut of guests starting and then clearing the final wing:

Once it locks in, he almost never deviates from the script. We’ve already established that he isn’t lazy, so why do they do it that way? 

The same reason we do. Because it works. There are places to customize, and places to go deep but in key areas, it runs on rails. The script works and they’ve stuck with it for 18 seasons.

We understand why some new people don’t want to demo close to the original script: they are smart enough and skilful enough to not need guide-rails. It’s also human nature that after you’ve done a demo n-times, you want to do the n+1th differently. 

When you showed 10 people the basic features of the system, you somehow expect that the 11th person needs to see the advanced features because you already spoke about the basics 10 times, but this is a fallacy. The 11th person is also seeing the product for the first time and they may smile through the advanced features – but you aren’t giving them the same experience you gave the first 10 and theres a good chance you leave them confused.

The show is worth watching – you should check it out…

[All this was to allow me to watch tons of YouTube videos calling it management-research]

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