The recent Netflix documentary “What the health” seems to be the fastest way to become vegan.  Everyone who watches it become vegan or substantially decrease their animal protein intake.

I first heard about it from colleagues.  It was before the start of a meeting.  You know when people usually chit chat.  One colleague said, “have you watched What the health” and 5 people jumped out of their chair to explain how it made them change their diet.  I did not pay that much attention to it at that time. I loved meat way too much to even think about it.  Then a month later, during a business trip dinner, I heard again about the documentary.  Hearing the same thing from 2 different sources in less than 3 months, made me wonder what was so special about his documentary.  Most importantly I wanted to know, how a 92 minute documentary from almost unknown directors/producers Kip Andersen & Keegan Kuhn, could make serious meat lovers move away from their favorite food.

So I decided to watch the documentary and form my own opinion during a long flight to Laos.  Spoiler alert, by the time I landed, I was looking for a vegan restaurant.

This post is not about convincing you to become Vegan.  This post is about explaining how a documentary can change one of people most emotional behavior.  This post is most importantly about showing how they convince people both the right way and “wrong” way.

The right way:

Bringing facts together to create a new picture.  There are more and more information available thanks to the internet.  Information is no longer power.  Connecting the dots to really understand what is going on is power.  When you do this well, you build on what people already know is true, and add extra value by bringing a different perspective.  The documentary did it well by highlighting conflicts of interest between nutrition groups and food companies, the link between amount of antibiotics used in agriculture and growing health issues like antibiotic resistance.

The wrong way:

Use real facts to lie.  This one is tricky, so let me use an example from the documentary:

  1. The director claims “eating 1 egg per day is just as bad as smoking 5 cigarettes per day for life expectancy” based on Greger, M.D, Michael “Eggs vs. Cigarettes in Artherosclerosis“. NutritionFacts.org video. Volume 12. March 11th, 2013How could it be a lit? I once heard for any “expert” saying something, you can find 10 that would state the opposite. This is the case in this situation. Especially when the publication dates from 2013.
  2. The director also refers to an IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) 2013 report stating that eggs and cigarettes are both “group 1” carcinogenic agents.  the IARC is a World Health Organization. It is part of the UN.  This is probably as strong as it gets for credibility. Here the issue is in the definition of “group 1”. “Group 1” suggests that all agents in that group are equally harmful.  This is not the case.  Moreover, it seems that the director is referring to an outdated report because eggs are no longer in that group.

Is there really a wrong way to influence people? At the end of the day, you want to convince people to behave a certain way.  There are many definitions of the word “influence” and “negotiation”.  But none mandate, to tell the truth at all time.   This is more than ever true as we see the Paul Manafort indictment story developing as I write this post.

While you can cut corners to influence people, you should consider this:

  1. Is it worthwhile?  Sure you may get away with it. But what are the consequences of getting caught?  I have seen people act in a questionable way for event tickets, bottles of champagne, etc… They are nice treats but are they worth putting your job or your reputation on the line?
  2. What about your ethics?  I know this is a word that we hear more and more, but that we see less and less.  We have all done in our teenage years less than ethical things.  Remember how you felt, how you wish you could go back and fix things.

Although I enjoyed watching “What the Health” and other similar documentaries, it is important to keep a critical mind and cross-check facts.  The same goes in negotiations. W. Edwards Deming famously said ““In God we Trust, all others bring data” and Tupac said “trust nobody”.  This should be your mindset in a negotiation, because unfortunately many people will not hesitate to fool you.