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Rohit Bhargava: How ‘Likability’ Trumps Competence

Speaking at PSFK CONFERENCE SAN FRANCISCO, author Rohit Bhargava related a personal story about resolving conflict, and how it can be applied to marketing strategy and to life in general. He begins by retelling a chance conversation he had with a cab driver in South Africa about how Nelson Mandella avoided the potential of violent conflict by inviting his enemies to sit with him and have tea, so they could discuss their issues openly and directly. Bhargava sees this simple act of avoidance as an extra-ordinary act in a world defined by conflict and dichotomy.

Continuing with this idea, many great and potentially ground-breaking ideas have gone unnoticed because of this type of conflict. Bhargava cites as an example the Dvorak keyboard, which was designed to be greatly superior to the standard QWERTY keyboard. Despite the fact that its functionality is clearly much improved, the Dvorak keyboard has only been adopted by a very small fraction of users, because it was never able to win anyone over.

So his fundamental question is how do we get great ideas to stick? Fundamentally, Bhargava believes that success lies in trust, and building human connections that other people can relate to, just as Mandela did in his peacekeeping efforts. If we just focus on the big ideas, we are often destined to fail. However if we can focus on making the right personal connections with the right people, and overall doing so in the most human way possible whether you are an individual or a brand, this will be the building block of success.