Issue #26

In this edition: confident companies, robot salespeople, Hanlon's Razor, the Shirkey Principle, rituals of friction, the half-life of careers, an amazing commercial, LEGO kits, movie scripts, and more.

Issue #26

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

In this edition: confident companies, robot salespeople, Hanlan's Razor, the Shirkey Principle, rituals of friction, the half-life of careers, an amazing commercial, LEGO kits, movie scripts, and more.

Wanted:  More Thinksgiving Business Partners

We've had over 100 nonprofits apply to participate in Thinksgiving this year, and we need to find more business partners to support them.  Check out this video and drop us a line if you're interested in getting your business involved in an amazing experience.

Ideas + Insights

Confident companies do less:

Every time you are tempted to do more things, recognize that it is most likely a sign of lack of confidence, not a manifestation of confidence. When the temptation strikes, before jumping, ask why you are so underconfident in your current business that you feel the need to channel investment out of it into the new thing — whatever that new thing is.

Now this is a robocall!  That next sales call you're on might not be with a person.

Relax. Not Everyone is Out to Get You

If you ever feel that the world is against you, you are not alone. We all have a tendency to assume that when anything goes wrong, the fault lies within some great conspiracy against us... But the simple fact is that these explanations which we tend to jump to are rarely true.

Caroline Webb, in her book How to Have a Good Day, gives this tip for getting a tension-filled meeting back on track:

Call it out. Next time you’re in a meeting where tension is obvious, try saying out loud: “This is feeling tough right now, isn’t it? What can we do differently?” It’s almost inevitable that the group will give a collective sigh of relief as your acknowledgment allows everyone’s brain to calm down. And you’ll be much better able to move forward from that point.

What are rituals of friction – and how might we embrace them to change our relationship with technology?

Rituals of friction force you to pause before undertaking a particular action. Crucially, the goal is not to discourage you from performing the action or limit the amount of time you do it. There is no goal beyond treating the action and its object with mindful reverence. Saying grace is about gratitude, not eating less.
Such an approach might change the way we think about the problem of smartphones. Restrictive apps assume time on the phone is a waste that needs to be limited. Using those apps is the information equivalent of going on a diet. But if you say grace every time you pick up your phone or open Twitter, you might make the experience sacred by infusing it with gratitude. Instead of eliminating waste, you transform it. After all, an experience isn’t a waste of time if you’re grateful for it.

Are you using AI as a tool, your copilot, or your muse?

When time is crawling at work, get everyone to take a short break:

Injecting a moment of change or novelty is the best way to combat boredom and mental fatigue, to correct temporal distortions, to reset our cognitive load, and to come back to productivity. In a widely reported 2022 meta-analysis, researchers concluded the best solution to the “human energy crisis” facing “always on” employees today was to enable short “decoupling” activities, noting, “The data suggest that micro-breaks may be a panacea for fostering well-being during worktime.”

What's the "half-life" of your career?

While figures for the half-lives of most knowledge-based careers are hard to find, we do know the half-life of an engineering career. A century ago, it would take 35 years for half of what an engineer learned when earning their degree to be disproved or replaced. By the 1960s, that time span shrank to a mere decade. Today that figure is probably even lower.

AI can increase writing productivity:

Our results show that ChatGPT substantially raised productivity: The average time taken decreased by 40% and output quality rose by 18%. Inequality between workers decreased, and concern and excitement about AI temporarily rose. Workers exposed to ChatGPT during the experiment were 2 times as likely to report using it in their real job 2 weeks after the experiment and 1.6 times as likely 2 months after the experiment.

The Shirky Principle states, "Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution."

In simple terms, companies (or people) have a tendency to avoid fully eliminating the problem that they sell a solution for, lest they become obsolete.

We've been noodling on this one for a while (and think we may have an answer coming soon):  How might CEOs find more time to think with peers?

At a time when people expect more of their CEO and their leaders—authenticity, humanity, inclusivity, greater visibility, constant communication—these senior executives also need more time away from the office to simply think, to calm the noise and figure out what questions they should be asking but aren't. And there's no way to do that other than being either intensely disciplined about it or by sharing the load. That thinking time is crucial, even if it is just to step back and ask yourself whether you are making progress on the big goals that you've articulated for the organization.

PowerPoint has changed more than you think:

PowerPoint doesn’t seem to make us stupid—there is no evidence of lower information retention or generalized cognitive decline, for example, among those who use it—but it does impose a set of assumptions about how information ought to be conveyed: loosely, in bullet points, and delivered by presenters to an audience of passive listeners. These assumptions have even reshaped the physical environment for the slide-deck age, Kernbach said: Seminar tables, once configured in a circle, have been bent, post-PowerPoint, into a U-shape to accommodate presenters.

Fun Finds

This is the best commercial I've seen in years.

How not to name your child:

Parents should choose a child’s name with the child's future happiness in mind, not as a way of displaying their own coolness, or creativity, or nonconformism.

Stable Doodle turns your rudimentary sketches into ai-generated images.

These twenty great comedic movie scripts are free to download.

Downloadable instructions for nearly 7,000 LEGO kits.

Words of Wisdom

"If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading."
- Lao Tzu
"I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom." – Elisabeth Wilson
"Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth." - Marcus Aurelius
"Most of the time you don't need more information, you need more courage." – James Clear
"Beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living within that way of life." – Hunter S Thompson
“Curiosity is the process of asking questions, genuine questions, that are not leading to an ask for something in return." – Brian Grazer
"We will all spend the rest of our lives in the future." – Rishad Tobaccowala

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