What They STILL Don’t Teach at GSB About Screwing Someone Hard

by Larry Chiang on December 5, 2011

Larry Chiang is an instructional humorist and has an IQ of about 88. What he lacks in academic prowess, he more than makes up for in wisdom. He is not a Jedi but has instincts stronger than Obi-Wan Kenobi when it comes to boardroom shenanigans. Read this and the force will be with you too. After an Harvard Law keynote, Harvard Business wrote: “What They Don’t Teach You at Stanford Business School“ (it is the same title as his NY Times best seller). After a BASES keynote, he did Q&A  via text message, revealed “What They STILL Don’t Teach You at Stanford GSB About Scamming and now uncovers, “What They STILL Don’t Teach at GSB About Screwing Someone Hard“ (this first appeared as a Stanford BASES blog).

By Larry Chiang

If you work in business long enough, you are going to meet a person you read incorrectly and that person will try to screw you. It won’t feel good, but maybe reading this article will help you a tad.

I can read people pretty well. When I was a pitcher, I wanted to read batters as well as Jesus or the devil reads people. I wrote about reading people in Chapter 4 of my book and called it “character compassing”. I first learned about reading people in business situations in my mentor, Mark McCormack’s, book, “What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School“.

TechCrunch’s Mike Arrington just got screwed by his friend, Chandra Rathakrishnan. As a fictitious example case study inspired by real events, here are the best ways to screw someone hard: (note: many of these are taken from my BusinessWeek article)

-1- Ambush.

The element of surprise is important when facing a superior force. If you’re screwing over a business partner, ambushing entails springing new facts, introducing a last minute project change or just plain ex-communicating them in an abrupt manner. Ideally, your ambush involves whacking them when they least expect it.

Countermeasure: Call out the ambush maneuver. Don’t get mad but do assume the worst. Assume all of your assets are compromised. Get a war room organized immediately that includes resources, real losses, anticipated losses and a plan to stop the bleeding.

-2- Higher Authority.

A higher force is blamed for so much so let us use it to screw people. This unseen higher authority is your imaginary bad cop that you are just a puppet pawn to. Claim that this higher authority is the evil one that is making you behave badly. Repeat after me. Your deal is changing…

– because of gas prices (higher force: OPEC),
– due to higher interest rates  (higher force: the Fed),
– because of my boss (higher force: my wife’s father)
– mostly due to my shareholders’ limited partners (higher force = bull shitake).

Countermeasure: Call out the higher authority maneuver. Tell them that you are holding THEM accountable. Don’t even bother asking for their higher authority because you will only get stonewalled.
-3- Play Dumb.

Playing dumb also couples well with playing foreign. “No noh nuh no, I deed nut say tenty five. I’s said forty five”. You have two choices in this situation. Get just as foreign and kick his ass verbally to enforce the original deal or lay down like most midwesterners and sit for the screw.

Countermeasure: Fantasize for a moment that they are in hell… smile and take it in the butt.

EDITORS note: the writer, Larry Chiang, is foreign (sort of) and is playing the foreigner card which mandates that all foreign people can pretty much be as racist as they want to be. The writer is not caucasian. I repeat: the writer is not white.

-4- Undo Written Agreements

Remember, the FTC has a very small enforcement budget so you can repeatedly change the public’s deal. There may be a hail storm of fury in the blogosphere, but the FTC doesn’t even own the website called FreeCreditReport.con because they were forced to register AnnualCreditReport.com. True story.

Hire a huge legal team and undo your written agreements. Yeah it will be strange that legal expenses are 25% of your operating budget, but if screwing people by changing deals is a part of your business, 25% is cheap. Read Video Professor case study.

Countermeasure: “If you have it in writing, you’ve got a prayer. If not, you’ve got nothing but air”.

-5- Drag Out Putting It In Writing.

Use the word of your freshly minted partner and their GSB contact to NOT issue them a contract. Blame corporate. Blame the CEO. Blame the Chairman’s shih tzu. Drag out the contractual inking as long as possible. Verbal contracts are way easier to gerrymander and Shanghai.


If a contract is unavoidable because they read this a Larry Chiang, street smart, BASES blog post… leave lots of “wiggle room”, “escape clauses” and “future addendums”.

Countermeasure: Sign this napkin with this sharpie NOW or we are parting friends immediately.

-6- Fake New Info

There has been no peace in the middle east for two thousand years. Is there new information?! No! So you’re gonna have to fake some new info before you ink your next peace agreement. Make sure you use the software called Peace Agreement version 270.0

Countermeasure: Ask for proof of life.

Friends No MoreFriends No More Photo credit: TechCrunch on Facebook

-7- Get Emotional Commitment.

Dancing and romancing your victim softens them up before you change-their-deal. If you’re a publisher dealing with an author, fill their heads with thoughts of marketing support, resources and bestseller-ness. Kill them with kindness, get them emotionally in at a 45 degree angle and then, WA-BAM, change their deal.

News flash: They will all sit for the screw.

Countermeasure: They call it “show business’… not show friends. And to quote Gorden Gecko, “If you want a friend, get a dog”.

Les Grossman, played by Tom Cruise, does not let deals changeLes Grossman, played by Tom Cruise, does not let deals change in “Tropic Thunder”. Here he almost covers his cellphone with a gallon of spit and a bucketful of explicatives.

-8- Opt for the Thermonuclear Option

This is also called the “No One Wins Option”. The person doing the screwing normally says, “I hate showdowns, no one wins”.

Watch out because this works a couple of time before karma catches up.  Character compass right before opting for nuclear option. Read people and character compass them wrongly and you’ll be on the fuzzy end of the lollipop.

Countermeasure: Get a gas mask because it will feel like it is helping after the nuke goes off. Plot spoiler: gas masks are useless when the nuke goes off.

If you would like custom advice in brainstorming countermeasures to keep your deal changing, paypal me $495.00 to larry@larryChiang.com with your cell in the subject line. JK, I just changed your deal from five hundie to ‘free’. Text me at             650-283-8008       during office hours.


Follow me on Twitter @larryChiang or join my 9 person fan club on Facebook. Remember, my book’s 14 chapters are reprinted free at a website called BusinessWeek. If you cannot sleep, watch my 90 minute panel that would’ve put half the room to sleep were it not for my dog Baxter storming the stage.

Good luck hustling hard and watch your back. If you sponsor a party, I am hosting events at Sundance and SXSW, don’t change my deal ;-)

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