Idea Surplus Disorder #19

In this edition: the problem with cascading goals, the tyranny of convenience, the insufficient weirdness hypothesis, a meeting cost calculator, the value of collaborating with strangers, Norm's Cheers entrances, and more.

Welcome to Idea Surplus Disorder.  I’m Matt Homann, the founder of Filament.  I'm reenergized after a week in Italy and am excited to be back here with you bright and early on a Monday morning.

In this edition: the problem with cascading goals, the tyranny of convenience, the insufficient weirdness hypothesis, a meeting cost calculator, the value of collaborating with strangers, Norm's Cheers entrances, and more.


  • We're hiring!  Filament is looking for a Senior Facilitator.  You can check out the job post here.
  • Our next N.S.F.W. (New Skills For Work) is June 21st. We're focusing on how to give and receive feedback in ways that make your organization run better.  Each attendee will get a set of our Feedback cards (a $30 value). Please add it to your calendar and RSVP here.

Ideas + Insights

This meeting cost calculator helps you calculate the yearly cost of that weekly meeting.  It is pre-populated with salary data for designers but is worth playing with a bit as you calculate just how expensive your organization's all-hands meetings really are. is a mind-mappy interface that helps you explore topics you select.  I've only played with it a bit, but am really digging it.

If you'd love to give your teams a new perspective, let them switch places for a bit:

To remain competitive, businesses must continually challenge the status quo and find ways to reinvent themselves. In a world where complacency can be comfortable, one unconventional approach can jolt organizations out of their traditional ways: It’s called the perspective swap. For example, a CEO might spend a day working as a customer service representative. Or, an HR representative might spend a week working in sales.
Perspective swaps can be applied vertically — up and down your organizational chart — or laterally across different functional groups. Vertical perspective swaps happen between leaders and their employees. Leaders often suffer from “power poisoning” and fixate on their own needs and ambitions. Perspective swaps can help detox leaders from blind spots and distorted views of what’s actually happening on their teams.

The Insufficient Weirdness Hypothesis suggests that mere intuition and extrapolation are wildly insufficient for planning for our weird future:

Our future is going to seem really weird! We know this because a) the future has consistently seemed that way to its past for a considerable time now, b) the causes of this weirdness — the ever-tighter interconnection of humanity, the increased ease, and speed with which butterfly-wing emergent properties spread across the world — are only accelerating and intensifying. […]
I provisionally define “weird” as “the jarringly unexpected, especially when referring to the results of previously implausible/unlikely juxtapositions and/or events or forces significantly influenced by what had been unknown unknowns.”
Does this mean we can’t forecast the future at all? Absolutely not! But it does mean that visions of the future which do not include great weirdness and unknown unknowns — ones which simply grimly extrapolate from today’s ephemeral trends — are guaranteed wrong.

A lot of innovation work only fails if you measure it the wrong way:

The funny thing is that a lot of innovation projects “fail” - they don’t get funding or don’t get built - but some part of the innovation work eventually bleeds out into the world. Sometimes it’s as small as a logo, or a name. Sometimes it’s a unique interaction pattern. Or sometimes the innovation is swallowed whole, consumed and only years later emerges on the product roadmap. Imperceptible, the impact of the innovation work only visible to the team that worked on it.

There are lots of reasons to eliminate cascading goals in your organization.  Here's a problem we see with our clients all the time:

The cascade often leaves things out due to the forced simplicity at the top. It can be heavily biased towards new stuff and leave out ongoing activities. Some teams openly admit that the top-level goals “don’t replace all the normal stuff we do.” The lack of connection can alienate teams, diminish teams, and generally lead to incongruence.

Another reason to attend our Filament in-person events is that strangers might make better collaborators:

"Physical spaces have a unique characteristic that is not found online: inevitability,” says Carlo Ratti, Professor of Urban Technologies at MIT and Planning Director of the school’s Senseable City Lab, who also worked on the study. “Our inability to avoid certain communities also exposes us to a diverse set of people and ideas on a regular basis.”

Maybe you should run your own personal board meeting every month as Matt Gray does.  I love his focus on revisiting his dream week:

Every month, I update my dream week: What do I truly love doing? • What's the ideal hour I chase every week? Where are the gaps in my current schedule?

How do we combat the tyranny of convenience?

As task after task becomes easier, the growing expectation of convenience exerts a pressure on everything else to be easy or get left behind. We are spoiled by immediacy and become annoyed by tasks that remain at the old level of effort and time. When you can skip the line and buy concert tickets on your phone, waiting in line to vote in an election is irritating. This is especially true for those who have never had to wait in lines (which may help explain the low rate at which young people vote).”

Maybe everyone needs a window office.

Fun Finds

LearnXYZ builds you a course (from beginner to expert) in any topic you give it – including yourself!

Ministudio is a safe ChatGPT for kids, and HoopsGPT is like having an AI-powered hoops nerd on speed dial.

Speaking of nerds, the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences.

I've shared the Perplexity search engine before, but now it comes with an AI copilot that asks questions to refine your query.

Kids don't/can't wander anymore.

I've watched this three times in the last week: the best of Norm's entrances from Cheers.

Words of Wisdom

“If you can’t do something, saying no right away usually makes it much easier for everyone.” – Oliver Burkeman
"Instead of being disciplined about hating on yourself to get things done, try being disciplined about remaining close to what brings you joy. It takes a lot of courage, actually. See what happens." – Susan Piver
"The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom." – Isaac Asimov
"Feminism isn’t about making women stronger. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength." – Indra Nooyi
"Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune." – Jim Rohn

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