A Better Goldman Sachs Metaphor

There have been many analogies and metaphors used to describe the Goldman Sachs fraud case.  I think alot of them are bad.  John Stewart was very funny talking about them.

Metaphors and Analogies are important tools for User Experience (UX) design.  Not only is it helpful to explain to your peers what you are trying to accomplish, it helps sales and marketing to wrap their heads around the spirit of the product you are building.  Being good with these tools will help you achieve a better overall UX.

For Goldman Sachs, here is the one I came up with on the ride to work today:

Imagine you are in elementary school.  In gym class (Physical Education).  The gym teacher comes out of his office next to a kid named John Paulson.  (John is smiling).  The coach gathers the class and says, “OK kids, we are going to play kickball today.  Here are the teams.”

You notice that all the bigger, more athletic kids are on one team and all the smaller, weaker kids are on another.  You are on the weak team, and John Paulson is on the stronger team.

You say, “Hey, are these teams fair?”  The coach replies, “Yes, I am certain they are fair.  Absolutely.”  You trust the coach because he is a teacher.

Well, not surprisingly, you lose the game miserably.  Later you find out that John Paulson picked the teams.  You are mad because the coach didn’t tell you the teams were rigged.  He said they were fair.

OK, now imagine “winning kickball” means winning billions of dollars and losing…well, you lose your shirt.

The point of a good analogy is to make the other person feel the emotions that are relevant.  In this case, it is the feeling of being cheated by a trusted source.  Of course, John Paulson is an asshole, but he never pretended to be a nice guy.  Goldman Sachs pretended to be trustworthy and therefore committed fraud.

I love metaphors and analogies.  Wouldn’t it be great to be a professor of metaphors at Stanford? or Chief Analogy Officer at some big company?  Ahhh, a beautiful dream.

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