Idea Surplus Disorder #20

In this edition: building your encyclopedia of happiness, the benefits for women of walking negotiations, non-consultative consulting, collaborative sulking, the power of 85%, sleep, mouth gestures, maps, and more.

Welcome to Idea Surplus Disorder.  I’m Matt Homann, the founder of Filament, and I'm glad you're starting your week with me.

In this edition: building your encyclopedia of happiness, the benefits for women of walking negotiations, non-consultative consulting, collaborative sulking, the power of 85%, sleep, mouth gestures, maps, 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

I want to start building my own Encyclopedia of Happiness (and think creating one for an organization would be fun, too):

Back in 2013, I had the novel idea to start writing down one thing every day that made me happy. I wasn’t feeling particularly happy at the time, so I figured this exercise could help me see past my current situation, and appreciate the small things that make a day and a life not entirely bad.
So I started a Google Doc, called it the “HappyMappy” and began a habit of nightly documentation....  10 years later, the doc is now 421 pages long (!) and has become a living record of the big and small moments that have made up fully one-third of my life.

Women get more from negotiations when they walk and talk:

Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Margaret Neale rounded up 160 volunteers and put them into same-sex pairs that were then asked to conduct a mock job offer negotiation. Half did the exercise seated across from each other at a table. Half did it while walking outside.
While the men who walked didn't see much benefit -- in fact, they reported more negative emotions than seated pairs -- getting away from a proverbial negotiating table had big benefits for women.
"They achieved more equitable results, as measured by points assigned to their final outcomes. They also reported fewer negative feelings about the negotiation exercise than women who stayed inside,"

We've avoided the term "consultancy" at Filament, but I do think we're doing a lot of what Matt Webb suggests here:

That a small group is a powerful way of thinking, and of creating action. That repetition matters, and informality.
It might be possible to help with strategy without providing original thought or even active facilitation: To consult without consulting. The answers and even ways of working are inherent in the group itself.
My hunch is this: To answer a business’s strategic questions, which will intrinsically involve changing that business, a more permanent solution than a visiting consultant might be to convene a small group, and spend time with it, chatting informally.

So perhaps we might position ourselves as strategic stewards instead?

The idea of the consultant making a set of recommendations (or a strategy deck) and then walking away is simply a poor model of consulting. Clients don’t want this model, and you don’t want to see your recommendations sit on a shelf either.
A good reminder any time, but especially in these economic times, clients want consultants that will actually DO something. Consultants that will help ideas, strategy and recommendations actually come to life.

Stuck?  Perhaps the Periodic Table of Visualization Methods might help.

Goal setting won't work with teams until you ask everyone to share the tradeoffs they're willing to make (and those they're not):

Conventional goal-setting sucks because it overlooks the actually important part of agreeing on goals collectively, which is to also agree on what you’re willing (and unwilling) to give up to achieve those shared goals. By not paying attention to what tradeoffs stakeholders believe are (or aren’t) acceptable, conventional goal-setting makes conflicting actions and unhappy, ineffective organizations practically inevitable.

The AI "Canon" from Andreessen Horowitz gives you everything you need to know about AI, from a gentle introduction all the way to a deep dive into large language models, business implications, and more.  I'm going to try to get through as much of it as I can in the next two weeks.

I love this strategy planning question:

What assumptions or predictions are behind our choices and what is our degree of certainty in them?

Forget motivating your team to "give 110%."  Shoot for 85% instead:

To help coach employees to get to and stay in this sweet spot, managers can ask, “What does it feel like to be at 100% intensity?” and then follow up with: “How can you keep this closer to the 85% level?” This type of perceived level of exertion is a concept used in physical rehab to prevent latent — or hidden — fatigue, but it can also be used by managers to help their employees stay in their sweet spot (see the following figure).

I never thought about this, but really good sulking requires intentional collaboration:

Withdrawing verbal communication enables the sulker to communicate indirectly that they are upset and that discussion of the matter is off the table. A successful sulk prompts the target to meet the sulker’s needs without discussion. Of course, this requires the target to interpret the sulker’s indirect communication of their feelings and needs. This is where Grice’s thoughts about cooperation come in. Beginning from the assumption that the sulker is a cooperative communicator despite their withdrawal, the target must decipher what the sulker is trying to communicate by pretending not to communicate.

It's worth remembering that everything must be paid for twice:

There’s the first price, usually paid in dollars, just to gain possession of the desired thing, whatever it is: a book, a budgeting app, a unicycle, a bundle of kale.  But then, in order to make use of the thing, you must also pay a second price. This is the effort and initiative required to gain its benefits, and it can be much higher than the first price.
A new novel, for example, might require twenty dollars for its first price—and ten hours of dedicated reading time for its second. Only once the second price is being paid do you see any return on the first one. Paying only the first price is about the same as throwing money in the garbage.

Fun Finds

Is The Simpsons good again?  After 34 seasons, 750 episodes, and a decades-long funk, the show innovated its way back to popularity and relevance.

The military method for falling asleep.

An illustrated guide to mouth gestures from around the world (more interesting than you think).

Most Canadians live south of Seattle, and other map facts that will surprise you.

Beautiful video of the sun, but in blacks and blues.  Threw this up on my HD tv and was wowed!


Words of Wisdom

"Organizations like to perpetuate the problems they’re paid to solve.” – Marty Neumeier
“There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet. Who would call a day spent reading a good day? But a life spent reading -- that is a good life.” — Annie Dillard
"You want to be as smart as you can about being stupid." – Mel Brooks
“Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work.”— Gustave Flaubert
"Only those who go too far know how far they can go." – Twyla Tharp
"An idea can't be bossed into existence."  – John Hunt
“The dead outnumber the living 14 to 1, and we ignore the accumulated experience of such a huge majority of mankind at our peril.” – Niall Ferguson

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