Issue #23

In this edition: some new Filament events, why the best ideas come at the end, how large projects always go over budget, yelling in disasters, writing with monkeys, and more.

Issue #23

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

In this edition: some new Filament events, why the best ideas come at the end, how large projects always go over budget, yelling in disasters, writing with monkeys, and more.

From Filament:

  • Filament Friday:  Who needs co-working with you can do some co-thinking?  Join us this Friday (July 7th) for a day of work, ideation, collaboration, and connection in our space in Cortex.  You can sign up here.
  • Last-Minute Meetings:  From time to time, we'll have a meeting day open up when a client cancels or reschedules, so we thought we'd experiment by offering one of our ready-made meetings (at a steep discount) to the first customer who's willing to take that day.  Look for more next week – along with our first "Last-Minute Meeting" Days.
  • Bookstorming:  Our business book club has a new name:  Bookstorming!  We're focusing this month on creativity, and have books by Austin Kleon, Twyla Tharp, Rick Rubin, and more.  Our discussion session is August 2nd, and you can sign up here.

Ideas + Insights

Running out of steam in your brainstorming?  Keep going, because your best ideas are nearly always your last ideas:

When generating ideas (or, for that matter, completing any task that requires mental energy), productivity does tend to decline over time, and people often take the ease of producing ideas as a signal of the quality of those ideas. In other words, people recognize that their productivity declines over time, and so they think the creativity of the ideas they produce must decline as well. But of course, this is not the case. In the creative process, the ideas that are most easily accessed tend to be the most obvious ones, and it’s only by digging more deeply that more novel, creative ideas finally emerge.

Large projects (nearly) always go over budget:

[A] staggering 91.5% of projects go over budget, over schedule, or both. Worse, less than 1% of projects are completed on time and on schedule, and actually deliver the benefits promised.

And here's one reason why:

It’s common to adopt wildly optimistic cost projections for big projects in order to overcome opposition; once things get going, everyone will feel that they’re in too deep to turn back....  This approach leads to poor execution, massive overspending, scandal, and a loss of credibility. Better to face costs honestly up front and plan with exquisite care before doing anything drastic. The longer the building portion takes, the more time for something unexpectedly bad to happen.

When disaster strikes, sometimes you've got to yell:

“In a series of experiments, safety officials ran regular people through mock evacuations from planes. The trials weren’t nearly as stressful as real evacuations, of course, but it didn’t matter. People, especially women, hesitated for a surprisingly long time before jumping onto the slide. That pause slowed the evacuation for everyone. But there was a way to get people to move faster. If a flight attendant stood at the exit and screamed at people to jump, the pause all but disappeared, the researchers found. In fact, if flight attendants did not aggressively direct the evacuation, they might as well have not been there at all. A study by the Cranfield University Aviation Safety Centre found that people moved just as slowly for polite and calm flight attendants as they did when there were no flight attendants present.”

Is it time to rethink your interview questions?  

If you ask, “Tell us a detailed story about how a co-worker expressed appreciation for you,” virtually everyone will tell a version of what actually happened. Precisely because the storytelling mode occupies us with so many details and particular structural features of the story itself, the storyteller cannot lie so easily, as that would involve juggling too many balls at once. It is much easier for the candidate to lie in response to a merely factual question, such as “Were you loved at your last job?” If you hear in response “Oh, yes, absolutely, everyone loved me there.

What if we were all just a little bit underemployed?

The irony is that people can get some of their most important work done outside of work, when they’re free to think and ponder. The struggle is that we take time off maybe once a year, without realizing that time to think is a key element of many jobs, and one that a traditional work schedule doesn’t accommodate very well.

Move over Occam, here's the Blind Men Razor:

Never attribute to malice, ignorance, or stupidity that which can be adequately explained by different information.

Looking for a style guide for your company's writing?  This one from an English bank (really) is a great place to start.  It includes this great tip on eliminating the passive voice by adding monkeys:

Add ‘ monkeys' to the end of any phrase you think might be passive. If it still makes sense, then it's passive! Easy as that.  A decision has been made to close your account …by monkeys.  This bug will be fixed in the next update monkeys.  If you make a complaint, it will be escalated to a complaint specialist monkeys.  
If you try the same thing with the active versions, they don't make sense. That's how you know they're active.  We've decided to close your account monkeys.  We'll fix this bug in the next update ... by monkeys.  If you make a complaint, we'll escalate it to a complaint specialist monkeys.  None of that makes sense, so these are all active.

Fun Finds

A "flight simulator" for salespersons?

Spoil any movie (or just skip watching it) with MovieSpoilers.

Watch nerd alert: how different watch hands got their names.

I tried to cut small talk out of my life.  It didn't go well.

Words of Wisdom

"It is better to risk boldness than triviality." – Blake Masters
"Your life is designed to get the results you are getting right now." – Shane Parrish
“That is at bottom the only courage that is demanded of us: to have courage for the most strange, the most singular and the most inexplicable that we may encounter.” – Rainer Maria Rilke
"Know safely what the rules are, and then break them with joy."
– Neil Gaiman
"Without passion, all the skill in the world won’t lift you above craft. Without skill, all the passion in the world will leave you eager but floundering. Combining the two is the essence of the creative life." – Twyla Tharp
“Creative products are always shiny and new; the creative process is ancient and unchanging.” – Silvano Arieti
“When you fight something, you’re tied to it forever. As long as you’re fighting it, you are giving it power. You give it as much power as you are using to fight it.” – Anthony De Mello

Subscribe to Idea Surplus Disorder

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.