Welcome to another edition of Idea Surplus Disorder. This week, we've got Hollywood show-running rules, bad meeting stats, customer behavior hacks, weird AI writing, lying pants, sharp knives, spaghetti mayhem, and more.
- September 13th | NSFW – Your Meeting Muse: A lot of people have asked how we're using ChatGPT, Claude, and other AI writing tools. In our next New Skills For Work on September 13th, join me as I share ways Filament is partnering with our new robot overlords to work faster, think smarter, be more creative, and make meetings better.
Ideas + Insights
My favorite read this week was the 11 Rules of Showrunning (pdf), which is filled with relevant "management" advice from the world of Hollywood television shows. There's lots to like in the essay, but "Always Describe a Path To Success" really hit me:
"Do not leave a meeting without letting everyone there know what they are expected to do/deliver next." If you tell your staff how to please you, two out of three times they will come back with a way to do exactly what you want. If they can't, they will often come up with a number of better ideas out of a desire to address the spirit, if not the letter, of a clear directive.
Every clear directive you issue is a gift because it relieves your staff of the stress of having to divine your goals. A clear directive is an indication of trust: your way of saying "I have taken the time and effort to figure out our goal. I now acknowledge that you have the knowledge and resources to figure out the process."
This article has lots of great examples of "weird" ways to use AI tools to write better:
The real value of AI comes not from having it emulate old ways of solving problems, but, instead, by helping us unlock new capabilities... To do this, we need to experiment with weirder uses of AI tools, and we need to do that while paying close attention to the ethical concerns and technical limitations of AI. Careful experimentation is the key to success.
Here are Some sobering stats on how meetings are perceived:
- Nearly all (93%) of American workers have complaints about their company’s typical meetings, and 45% say their meetings are too long.
- Nearly half (47%) of workers say that more than half the meetings they attend could be canceled and a quarter (25%) say more than half of their meetings are useless.
- Workers would rather be doing…anything else. Half (50%) of workers would rather send an email/text, voice or video message instead of having a meeting. 42% of workers say the highlight of a work meeting is if it’s canceled, and yet 43% of workers don’t feel empowered to suggest canceling meetings.
- And a surprising number of workers are fighting fire with fire. Nearly two in five (39%) workers admit they’ve booked new meetings to try to get out of existing meetings.
You're probably paying less attention than you used to:
Gloria Mark, a professor of information science at the University of California, Irvine, and the author of “Attention Span,” started researching the way people used computers in 2004. The average time people spent on a single screen was 2.5 minutes. “I was astounded,” she told me. “That was so much worse than I’d thought it would be.” But that was just the beginning. By 2012, Mark and her colleagues found the average time on a single task was 75 seconds. Now it’s down to about 47.
Curiosity is the first step in finding (and doing) great work:
There's a kind of excited curiosity that's both the engine and the rudder of great work. It will not only drive you, but if you let it have its way, will also show you what to work on. What are you excessively curious about — curious to a degree that would bore most other people? That's what you're looking for... Boldly chase outlier ideas, even if other people aren't interested in them — in fact, especially if they aren't. If you're excited about some possibility that everyone else ignores, and you have enough expertise to say precisely what they're all overlooking, that's as good a bet as you'll find.
While not quite the four horsemen of the apocalypse, these four core business challenges are nicely defined:
- Drag, the resistance that comes from sluggish markets, the inability to pivot the business model, or enterprise-wide misalignment of strategies and objectives.
- Inertia, the resistance to change that can build as headcount increases, approval layers multiply, and functional silos emerge.
- Friction, which increases when products or services are misaligned with the customer experience, behavior, and expectations.
- Waste, resulting from out-of-date KPIs, a lack of continuous improvement, and leaders who are not active in process optimization.
Opinionate allows you to create an AI-powered debate on any topic you choose. Here's one response by the "Pro" AI debater on eliminating PowerPoint in meetings:
PowerPoint can often be a distraction in meetings. Instead of fostering meaningful discussions and active engagement, it tends to encourage passivity among the participants. People become fixated on the slides, focusing more on reading the text or deciphering complex diagrams instead of actively listening to the speaker. This can hinder the exchange of ideas and diminish the opportunity for collaborative problem-solving. Meetings should prioritize genuine interaction and dialogue, which can be better achieved by dispensing with PowerPoint and encouraging a more free-flowing conversation.
We're terrible at predicting how others view us. Here are several research-based misperceptions about personal interactions:
- You underestimate how much you’ll enjoy talking to a stranger.
- You underestimate how much new acquaintances like you.
- You underestimate the positive impact of giving a compliment.
- You underestimate how much someone will appreciate you checking in with them.
This is an oldie but a goodie on productivity from Marc Andreessen:
I sit down at my desk before I go to sleep, pull up my Todo List, and pick out the 3 to 5 things I am going to get done tomorrow. I write those things on a fresh 3x5 card, lay the card out with my card keys, and go to bed. Then, the next day, I try like hell to get just those things done. If I do, it was a successful day.
Nick Kolenda has compiled a summary of all the customer behavior tactics he shares in his weekly newsletter. Really worth a bookmark!
Got a goal, but struggle with traditional goal-setting methods? How about building the path to achieving it like a syllabus?
A syllabus sets expectations and gives you tools for moving forward, while deliberately learning something new. The practices and guidelines common in higher education are available to all of us—you simply have to set them yourself. And you can apply their principles to any project, starting now, with the intention to learn, discover, and build.
The Decider gives you the right decision-making framework for your challenge.
Maybe we need to stop "finding more time" for work?
The question to ask with all those things isn’t, “how do I make time for this?” The answer to that question always disappoints, because that view of time has it forever speeding away from you. The better question is, how does doing what I need make time for everything else?
- This shook me: Men's pants are lying.
- Good movies as old books.
- Deep thinking on sharpening knives.
- AskAtticus reviews your contracts and suggests improvements.
- A new take on the Monkey Business Illusion.
- Spaghetti Mayhem (just as bizzare as it sounds).
Words of Wisdom
"There's one element necessary to all early creativity: naïveté, that fabulous quality that keeps you from knowing just how unsuited you are for what you are about to do." – Steve Martin
“People have niceness and kindness mixed up. Niceness might mean saying positive things. But kindness is doing positive things: being thoughtful and considerate, prioritizing people’s humanity over everything else.” – Luvvie Ajayi Jones
“Half of the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm; they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.” – T.S. Eliot
“Vulnerability doesn’t come after trust—it precedes it. Leaping into the unknown, when done alongside others, causes the solid ground of trust to materialize beneath our feet.” – Daniel Coyle
“I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center.” – Kurt Vonnegut
"When I think of all the books still left for me to read, I am certain of further happiness." – Jules Renard
“It’s not greed that drives the world, but envy.” – Charlie Munger
“We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.” – John Dewey