What the mob can teach research analysts

Hugh Farmar

Hugh Farmar

Mob boss Toddo Aurello had a visitor waiting for him.

“Keep your mouth shut and listen” he said to his young subordinate, Sammy “The Bull” Gravano. “I want you to sit and learn.”

When the visitor came in, he said he was having a “beef” with another associate and explained why. Aurello’s job as boss was to adjudicate disputes. When the man had finished telling his story Aurello told him he would get back to him in a day or two.

After the man had gone, Aurello turned to Gravano and asked “If you were me, what would you do?” Gravano said: “I’d get a couple of guys with some bats and send them over and break this other guy’s legs.”

“Good” said Aurello. “You got balls. And you’re young and you’re stupid. I’ll show you why.”

The next day the man the visitor had been complaining about came in and told his side of the story. It was totally different. Aurello asked Gravano what he would do now. Gravano said he was totally confused.

Aurello said “Good. You know those things on the side of your head? Those ears? Use them. Listen with both ears. You listen to one story. You listen to the other one. Somewhere in the middle is the truth. You got plenty of time to react.” Gravano said it was the best advice he had ever had.

This story was told in Underboss: Sammy the Bull Gravano’s story of life in the Mafia by Peter Maas. Gravano (pictured) would eventually rise to underboss, the no.2 position in the Gambino family. His testimony led to the conviction of John Gotti in 1992.

Sifting through information and coming up with actionable conclusions is as useful a skill for research analysts as it is for mob bosses. Good editing can help to hone and refine those conclusions.