How to Create a Monopoly

Practice to Create a Monopoly

People in companies don't use conversation as a tool to create and transmit value. People meet, talk, persuade, sometimes sell. But they don't engage with their knowledge and skills creatively through conversation. A measure of value is its power to move you days, weeks, and months later.

Writing can create and transmit value as well. Write and converse enough that soon you arrive at the ideas and principles that underpin your work. But shaping ideas into deliberate conversations and structured memos is too much work.

What ends up happening is mostly verbal status updates and bullet points. Or notes that might go into a deck somewhere. Disembodied from context and narrative. These choices save time in the short term, but create more work over the long haul.

The process of having a conversation and writing to create and transfer value crystallizes what you're thinking.

Over time, the body of work you build this way becomes intellectual capital you can capitalize on. It creates a permanent record of foundational thinking you can tap into when you make decisions. This thinking feeds culture and draws from it in a positive feedback loop.

All the conversations and writings allow everyone to contribute their knowledge, skills, talent, and experience to company culture. Do this consistently, and you can tap into that energy to create and transfer value that is uniquely you. This is a monopoly.


Build foundational thinking

Conversation and writing are qualitative tools for the use of language, logic, and exposition to build knowledge. They help you make sense of information, data, and evidencethings that are more quantitativeto connect, relate, influence, educate… all things we do to build and sell.

Deliberate practice with conversation and writing to create and transfer value leads to foundational thinking.

This is the thinking that informs ideas, services, and products only you can build and deliver. The more you practice, the better your thinking and decisions.

Amazon has created a culture of writers. Through the discipline of the six-page memo, the multinational technology giant has built a distributed system of foundational thinkers. Through this practice people learn to innovate by iterating and building on ideas. Keep what works, toss or improve what doesn't.

The ancient Greeks knew how to use conversation as a tool to create and transfer value. They had more words to talk (and thus think with) than many modern languages. And they used those words to advance their understanding of the world.

Astounding discoveries in astronomy, biology, and physics, excellence in mathematics, zoology, botany, and cartography, significant advances in philosophy and geometry come from their foundational thinking.

Their massive influence in the early concepts of science is still visible today. Most symbols used in physics and math equations come from the Greek alphabet. The water mill and the alarm clock are Greek inventions. The earliest practice of medicine traces back to ancient Greece. And so does the concept of democracy.

To build foundational thinking, you need a consistent body of work. It's the same process athletes use to excel and win.


Be like gravity

In March 1994, when in Key Biscayne for a tournament, Perry Rogers invited Brad Gilbert to dinner with Andre Agassi at an Italian restaurant on Fisher Island. After they're settled in their seats, Perry asks Brad for his take on Andre's game.

“You try to his a winner on every ball, when just being steady, consistent, meat and potatoes, would be enough to win ninety percent of the time.”# When you try to be perfect all the time, your confidence takes a hit. Because things won't work perfectly every single time. 

The entire argument is that when you stop swinging for the fences, you actually start hedging your bets and managing risk better. Why try to score every time, when you can let others fail. Odds and percentages say the house always wins.

Your strategy should be to become the house.

Companies that try for perfection assume too much risk. Every decision becomes critical. Every conversation or piece of writing better be the winner. There's little iteration to work out kinks or explore adjacent ideas. Especially in digital this won't work well.

The winner is a constant and consistent stream of ideas, conversations, memos, articles, visualizations, and more conversations to dial t hings in, fine tune. Do this day in and day out and it becomes easier to keep going.

Chasing the perfect turn of phrase, meme, or viral hit consumes a lot more energy for something that doesn't exist. It's all about context and timing. The fewer ideas and practices, the fewer chances you'll get into a rhythm… the less likelihood you'll tap into a mood or developing trend.

A culture of conversation and writing as a tool opens possibilities and creates opportunity.

Conversation agents, writers, and editors create and underlying current of energy that talks to the market and engages people. It's the opposite of a closed-off inner culture that talks to itself in sure bets.

Writing and having conversations consistently is like gravity: it keeps building your foundational thinking and body of work. 


Create a monopoly

The world is moving more to distributed teams. This will impact your strategy in more than one way. Now that talent could be literally anywhere, some companies have already shifted who they hire, for example. But they have not shifted how they hire.

Because it's not so much the ability to work through digital that is critical. Though that matters and is important. If you can use conversation as a tool and writing to create and transfer value, if you can build foundational thinking, this means your world is now your oyster.

And you need people who already have mileage and tons of practice in using conversation and writing to iterate and build. You want people for whom these tools are second nature, no matter where you and they are.

You need creators who are also very competent and experienced in a discipline. This is especially valuable in marketing, communications, product, research, and business development. But also in law, science, and engineering.

Agassi describes the experience of having the conversation with his friend Perry. He marvels at Perry's ability to reorganize and structure what comes out of his mouth. Every time, from a bundle of stories and emotion, he sees the path forward. Strategists do that. Perry becomes a lawyer.

It takes more than resolve to embrace change. “Our best intentions are thwarted by external forcesforces that we ourselves set in motion long ago. Decisions, especially bad ones, create their own kind of momentum, and momentum can be a bitch to stop, as every athlete knows.” Decisions become actions. Actions become habits. Mental habits dictate choices. And around you go.

Who's the Perry in your company? Do you have one? Better yet, how do you distribute these skills throughout?

Foundational thinkers are natural innovators. They can iterate quickly, because they capitalize on a rich depository of intellectual and social capital. Your monopoly. This is renewal energy when it finds a culture open and conducive to consistent practice.

The ball is in your court.



  • Open: an Autobiography by Andre Agassi is an enormously enjoyable and educational journey into the heart and mind of a world class athlete.
  • Brad Gilbert is an Olympic gold medalist turned ESPN analyst.
  • Perry Rogers is the CEO and founder of sports management and corporate consulting company PRP. Andre Agassi played tennis professionally from 1986 to 2006, winning over $30-million in prize money, and often ranking as #1.
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