Idea Surplus Disorder #17

In this edition: the Thinksgiving kickoff, a time-based-billing apocalypse, decision-making roles, the first org chart, mentorship, Socrates, a disgusting food test, horrific safety posters, and more.

‌Welcome to Idea Surplus Disorder.  I’m Matt Homann, the founder of Filament, and I’m glad you’re here!

In this edition: the Thinksgiving kickoff, a time-based-billing apocalypse, decision-making roles, the first org chart, mentorship, Socrates, a disgusting food test, horrific safety posters, and more.


May is a busy month for Filament, and we've got great events nearly every week.  Here's what's on tap this week and next:

  • Thinksgiving Kickoff:  If you're curious about participating in Thinksgiving this year as a business partner, nonprofit, or volunteer, check out this video and then join us for our kickoff party this Wednesday (May 17th) from 4-6 pm.  RSVP here.
  • N.S.F.W. (New Skills For Work):  On May 24th, we're tackling ways to think small, innovate faster, and bring experimentation into all parts of your organization.  RSVP here.

Ideas + Insights

When your entire business model is built on creating things from scratch and selling the time it took to do so, you might have a problem.  Here's more on the coming time-based business-model apocalypse (in legal) from friend Jordan Furlong:

Law firms price their work not according to the job being performed or the client value produced, but based on the lawyer who’s performing it. A lawyer who spends an hour on a mundane task and spends the next hour coming up with a brilliant strategy charges both hours at the same rate, and the second hour is a huge bargain for the client. (The system penalizes lawyers as they become more skilled, because their annual rate increases lag behind the ever-higher-impact value they provide.)
If law firms sold their services according to the value those services delivered, or even on a simple fixed-fee basis across the board, the arrival of LLMs would require little adjustment and would mostly enhance profitability. But they don’t. They sell hours of effort, and LLMs diminish those hours, and law firms have a problem.

Want better meetings?  Be clear on everyone's contribution to making decisions and implementing them. Here are the four key roles:

  • Decision Makers should be the only participants with a vote, and the ones with the responsibility to decide as they see fit. Sometimes Decision Makers will need to “disagree and commit,” to use a phrase coined by Jeff Bezos in a 2017 letter to Amazon shareholders.
  • Advisers give input and shape the decision. They typically have a big stake in the decision’s outcome.
  • Recommenders conduct analyses, explore alternatives, illuminate pros and cons, and ultimately recommend a course of action to the Advisers and Decision Makers. The more recommenders the better—for the process, not the decision meeting itself.
  • Execution Partners don’t give input in making the decision but are deeply involved in implementation. For optimal speed and clarity, Execution Partners should be in the room when the decision is made so that they can envision how the implementation will evolve from the decision.

Is AI the new McKinsey?

[The] escape from accountability is one of the most valuable services that management consultancies provide. Bosses have certain goals, but don’t want to be blamed for doing what’s necessary to achieve those goals; by hiring consultants, management can say that they were just following independent, expert advice. Even in its current rudimentary form, A.I. has become a way for a company to evade responsibility by saying that it’s just doing what “the algorithm” says, even though it was the company that commissioned the algorithm in the first place.

But could some of these AI tools also democratize workplace innovation?

Part of the opportunity with tools that use generative AI, which allow users to type questions or commands in normal language, is to include a broader group of nontechnical staff members in figuring out how it can change a company’s business.

I've been having some fun with ChatGPT acting as my Socratic teacher.  Here's the prompt:

I want you to use the Socratic method to help me improve my critical thinking, logic, and reasoning skills. Your task is to ask open-ended questions about the statement I make. Following my response, give me constructive feedback on each response before you ask the next question.

The first org chart was built for a railroad, inspired by a plant, and is really beautiful.

Remote work lessens mentorship opportunities, especially for women:

The decline in time being mentored is particularly pronounced among women—a reduction of 3.4 minutes per day, or 24%. Among men, the decline was just 1.5 minutes, or 10%.

But asynchronous collaboration may drive more creativity (again, especially for women):

However, this assumption about creativity flourishing in synchronous environments ignores variation in the team members’ social status. Studies show that women and people from marginalized communities are given fewer opportunities to speak and are criticized more harshly when they do in a range of synchronous work settings. Consequently, synchronous teams may inhibit women and marginalized people’s expression of new or risky ideas, ultimately making teams less equal and their output less creative.

Asking customers to rate your business increases sales:

Customers are more likely to convert if they're asked to rate a business, even if they don't actually rate the business.

Fun Finds

Vintage postcards from the future.

Take a food disgust test.

If you rub garlic on your fingers, you can pick up an egg yolk.

The best way to answer, "So, what do you do?"

You were warned!  The horror of Dutch safety posters.

Words of Wisdom

"Your idea of me is not my responsibility to live up to." – unknown
"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be." – Kurt Vonnegut
"Waiting for perfect is never as smart as making progress." – Seth Godin
“The only way we can make the most of our lives is to make the most of our moments.” – Cleo Wade
"The chances of an event depend on the number of ways in which it can occur." – Leonard Mlodinow
Through the years, I have learned there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration." – Steve Martin
"What is originality? Undetected plagiarism." – William Ralph Inge

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