Jay Clouse

Spiky points of view and shared language

publishedover 1 year ago
3 min read


A couple months ago I went through a course with Maven, a new marketplace for cohort-based courses (CBCs). Pat, Matt, and I went through Maven's "How to Build a Cohort-Based Course" (a cohort-based course itself) as we developed our own new course at SPI on how to create an online course. Super meta, I know.

The founders of Maven are Wes Kao and Gagan Biyani. Gagan is the former founder of Udemy and Wes co-created AltMBA with Seth Godin. So between the two of them, they have a ton of relevant experience in online education (and I was glad to have the opportunity to invest in their recent round of funding).

Anyway, one of the lessons I really took away from the Maven CBC was Wes's viewpoint on Spiky Points of View.

Here's Wes's definition:

A spiky point of view is a perspective others can disagree with. It’s a belief you feel strongly about and are willing to advocate for. It’s your thesis about topics in your realm of expertise.

She goes on to provide five rules for Spiky Points of View:

  1. A spiky point of view can be debated
  2. A spiky point of view isn’t controversial for the sake of it
  3. A spiky point of view teaches your audience something relevant they don’t already know
  4. A spiky point of view is rooted in evidence, but it doesn’t have to be a proven fact or universal truth
  5. A spiky point of view requires conviction

In my opinion, the point of a SPOV is to be a bit provocative or even polarizing. Non-universal truths and positions that can be debated allow for strong advocates as much as they allow for strong opposition. No one is going to get up in arms about the sky being blue – we know that to be true, so the belief doesn't need advocating for.

But the real reason Spiky Points of View are powerful is the shared language and vocabulary they create. There is so much power in articulating a belief (or set of beliefs) because articulation is hard. And when someone articulates for us the things we implicitly feel or believe, we adopt their language for explaining it ourselves.

Which means that the person who created that language gets credited with it and it builds a beautiful flywheel of attribution. I'm here talking about Wes's language around Spiky Points of View right now!

I have some ambivalence towards this idea, because I also see how creating language and frameworks for the benefit of marketing can lead to duplicative or unnecessary NEW frameworks. But, I think the net benefit is worth that tradeoff.

All of this to say, there is a lot of benefit to articulating your Spiky Point of View as a creator. It's a clear stance that you and your people can rally behind. It becomes the beachhead for new audience growth. It becomes the subject of your keynote, the headline of your book.

I've developed a couple Spiky Points of View myself:

  1. I believe that the most successful freelancers don't find clients, they create them
  2. I believe that it's actually very difficult to make a living online (despite what online business gurus will tell you)
  3. I believe that commitments are more powerful than habits

What do you believe?

Does it sit at the intersection of both true and surprising?

Does it make people lean in and nod along when you talk about it with them?

As I work through this brand refresh for my personal work, I'm thinking a lot about my Spiky Points of View. And I think you should too.

On Creative Elements 🎧

Mignon Fogarty the Grammar Girl

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network and creator of Grammar Girl.

Grammar Girl has published more than 700 episodes since 2007. The podcast provides short, friendly tips to improve your writing and feed your love of the English language. It's one of eleven shows on the Quick and Dirty Tips network.

She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame and a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards.

She loves the word "kerfuffle" and hates the phrase "Grammar Nazi." And she once appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show!

In this episode, we talk about the growth of Grammar Girl and the Quick and Dirty Tips Network, trends in podcasting, book publishing, and how her obsession with Learning has steered her creative career.

Click here to listen

Thanks for reading! I hope your summer is off to a great start.

How can I help you this week? I'd love to compile some listeners questions into a reader mailbag edition. If you have a question you'd like to hear my input on, hit reply and let me know! You can even send me your question in video via Loom.

I'm also carving out some time to offer another live workshop in the coming if there's a topic you'd love for me to speak to for an hour, hit reply and let me know.

Looking forward to hearing from you!