In this edition: deep reading, complex problems, super-busyness, super-linearity, Super Mario, stupidity, and more.
- October 24 | NSFW – Your Company's Performance Review: It’s annual review time — but this year, instead of giving feedback to your employees, consider the feedback you’d offer your own company or team. We'll share a new facilitation tool you can use with your team to give your organization its annual "review."
- October 27 | Filament Friday: Back by popular demand, join us Friday, October 27th, to work in our space, meet some innovative folks, and play some bocce! We'll also have Thinksgiving Office Hours for anyone who'd like a final dose of Thinksgiving facilitation coaching before our big day.
Ideas + Insights
Being ‘too busy’ means Your Personal Strategy Sucks:
I often work with my CEO clients, to take a chunk of time out of their calendar. Usually, the target is either 12 or 24 days — i.e., one or two days a month. We can always find the days and repurpose them to more valuable activities. It typically requires help from the CEO’s chief of staff or executive assistant to install an EMS that prevents back-sliding.
But you can do it yourself. “I’m just too busy” is a profoundly unpleasant feeling. But it is also very unproductive. It is bad for you and bad for those around you.
Remember that strategy is what you do not what you say. So, even if you don’t think of yourself as having a personal Playing to Win strategy, step back and reverse engineer what it actually is based on what you actually do.
How might you define your organization by the things you won't ever do? I love these from the band Wire:
"The only things we could agree on were the things we didn’t like,” observes Bruce Gilbert. “That’s what held it together and made life much simpler.” Recalling some unofficial Wire rules, Graham Lewis summarizes this negative self-definition: “No solos; no decoration; when the words run out, it stops; we don’t chorus out; no rocking out; keep it to the point; no Americanisms.
There is never only one way of understanding:
Each one of you lives in a business world in which only one process for gaining understanding is acceptable. You were taught that in business school (or in economics or engineering if that was your educational path). It is being reinforced and will continue to be reinforced every day of your business life.
There is another path to greater understanding of our world. Tackle mysteries by living in the world and observing it thoughtfully and rigorously. Analyze your observations, draw conclusions, and create new theories. Recognize that the development of a strategy is just that — the creation of a theory to guide you into the future.
Speaking of understanding, the age of deep reading is over:
But digital literacy has changed reading. When you read a book on paper, you can be entirely inside the experience, absorbing hundreds of pages of nuance that begin to capture the world’s complexity. Online, says Maryanne Wolf of UCLA, we are “skimming, scanning, scrolling”. The medium is the message: doing deep reading on your phone is as hard as playing tennis with your phone. Recently, a bright 11-year-old told me I was wasting time on books: he absorbed more information faster from Wikipedia. He had a point. But digital readers also absorb more misinformation. And they seldom absorb nuanced perspectives.
Design your business for superlinear returns:
Whenever how well you do depends on how well you've done, you'll get exponential growth. But neither our DNA nor our customs prepare us for it. No one finds exponential growth natural; every child is surprised, the first time they hear it, by the story of the man who asks the king for a single grain of rice the first day and double the amount each successive day.
Avoiding stupidity is easier than seeking brilliance:
The point is that most of us are amateurs, but we refuse to believe it. This is a problem because we’re often playing the game of the professionals. What we should do in this case, when we’re the amateur, is to invert the problem. Rather than trying to win, we should avoid losing.
Complex problems aren’t actually problems at all:
They are non-determinate systems, systems that change based on how we engage with them. Push on one part of a complex problem and a different part will change the system. Healthcare, climate and technology systems are all complex problems.
When facing a complex problem, it helps to embrace the fact that we’re dealing with a system that shifts over time. One where the rules and the solutions evolve in non-predictable ways.
Nomophobia is the fear of being separated from your smartphone and is short for "NO MObile PHOne."
If you're making a big change in your life, here's a difficult reminder from Michael Bungay Stanier that there isn't room for everyone:
It’s not only who travels with you on the journey, it’s also about who you choose to leave behind. Who in your life wants you to stay unchanging? Who takes more than they give? Who in your life sows seeds of doubt? Who has betrayed you and may betray you again? Whose idea of you is historical, rather than future facing? Who stains you with the worst thing you’ve done, rather than reminds you of the best you can be? Who triggers the worst in you, or at least the less than great? Who contributes to you being numb? Who contributes to you being afraid? Who colludes with you not stepping towards the Thrilling, Important, and Daunting? These aren’t small questions, and these aren’t trivial decisions.
Using AI in your job? Be careful what you work on:
Using generative AI for creative product innovation improved performance by 40% compared to a control group, while using it for business problem-solving resulted in a 23% decrease in performance.
There are few stances that are easier and safer than describing what needs to be done, and placing the weight of inaction at someone else’s feet. And there are few stances more courageous than putting yourself on the hook, getting your own hands dirty, and walking the path from idea to implementation.
- Practice pitching your idea to an AI "investor" and get feedback.
- The Steve Jobs Archive curates some of the Apple founder's best ideas.
- All of Super Mario's power-ups.
- AI-Powered YouTube Video Search.
- 200+ downloadable hi-res posters from 1880-1918.
- The greatest science fiction books of the 2010s.
- A collection of the shortest scientific papers.
Words of Wisdom
"You fuel your heart with six things: what you watch, what you read, what you listen to, who you surround yourself with, how you talk to yourself, and what you visualize." – Joshua Medcalf
"Write your obituary and try to figure out how to live up to it." – Waren Buffet
"The least competent people are usually the most confident in their abilities." – Tasha Eurich
"One idea I taught was the importance of regaining presence and clarity of mind after making a serious error. This is a hard lesson for all competitors and performers. The first mistake rarely proves disastrous, but the downward spiral of the second, third, and fourth error creates a devastating chain reaction." – Josh Watzkin
"Don't listen to people who weren't brave enough to follow their own ambitions when determining your own." – Julie Gurner
“Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things." – Theodore Levitt