Welcome to Idea Surplus Disorder.
In this edition: leadership lessons, "spiky" points of view, silence as a superpower, holiday small-talk guide, thinking in metaphors, gadget catalogs, corn mazes, superglue, and more.
Ideas + Insights
Cultivate more "spiky" points of view:
A spiky point of view is a perspective others can disagree with. It’s a belief you feel strongly about and are willing to advocate for. It’s your thesis about topics in your realm of expertise.
How can silence become your superpower?
Our culture has an uncomfortable relationship with silence. Don’t believe me? Next time you’re in a conversation, try waiting five seconds after the other person stops talking before you respond to them. Just five seconds. See what happens.
Studies show that the typical gap between when one person stops and another person starts speaking is just 200 milliseconds long. A fraction of a second. Another study found that people started to feel uncomfortable when the gap in a conversation stretched to four seconds. So, a gap of five seconds? I bet one of you rushes to fill the void.
Silence is hard to maintain, and that’s why mastering the void between words can be a true superpower.
What do facilitators and leaders have in common? (Almost) everything:
Like leadership, facilitation is all about people first. It is the art of balancing processes, tools, observations, and human dynamics and creating a space around it that allows psychological safety to evolve and grow. Facilitators are skilled in using the right tools at the right time and carefully play with the balance between empowerment and disruption.
I loved this insight from J. Edward Russo's Winning Decisions:
What metaphors do your boss, team members, partners, and competitors use most often? Use the elements of those metaphors to help expand your view of highlights and shadows. Try to become more sensitive to the imagery in people’s speech and view it as a window into their hearts and minds.
If you've got to recommend a difficult decision that your leader must make, write two memos:
Recently I’ve been tangentially involved in writing an internal memo. The purpose was to lay out the analysis for a decision to be made high up in organisational hierarchy. However, the work kept dragging out. More revisions. More changes. Pushing the deadline. When we stepped back and looked at it, the memo had become a battleground between different agendas. No matter how much we tried to create alignment, the work would always be futile because the stakeholders involved were simply not aligned and would never become aligned. In the end it would have to be decided by someone higher up.
When this became clear we could shift to a different approach where we stopped pretending to align and instead made two separate documents that each represented a clear voice.
These are great leadership lessons. Some favorites:
- Do the right thing for the right reasons. If that goes against someone’s rules, be ready to explain or face the consequences. Be as transparent as possible about your decisions and reasoning with anyone who shows interest.
- Be nice. Say yes until you absolutely can’t.
- Recognize that real collaboration requires some confrontation and disagreement. Better to disagree openly than to be passive-aggressive. Resolve disputes clearly and openly. Seek compromise and build common ground.
- Relentlessly apply common sense. Be pragmatic, even at the expense of perfect outcomes. A fast, good result is better than a slow, perfect one.
- Share everything: Ideas, work, learnings, clients, food, chocolate, and especially credit. Encourage others to do the same and reward them for doing so.
- Measure a few key things that matter rather than trying to measure everything. Spreadsheets are time consuming and soul destroying. Key numbers and measurable underlying forces must command focus, but exponential growth of spreadsheets comes at the expense of exponential growth for the business itself.
Defining the problem in multiple ways unlocks multiple ways to solve it:
[T]he most consistently creative people and groups are ones that find many different ways to describe the problem being solved. Some of those statements will be specific and talk about the objects being acted on (e.g. vacuum bags). That leads to retrieval of specific information that is highly related to the problem (e.g. different types of vacuum bags). Then, groups should find several ways to describe the essence of the problem being solved in ways that focus on the relationships among the objects or a more abstract description of the goal (e.g. separate dirt from air). Each of these descriptions will help people to recall knowledge that is more distantly related to the domain in which the problem is stated.
A reminder from Steven Pressfield:
One hour a day is seven hours a week, thirty hours a month, 365 hours a year. Three hundred and sixty hours is nine forty-hour weeks. Nine forty-hour weeks is a novel. It’s two screenplays, maybe three. In ten years, that’s ten novels or twenty movie scripts. You can be a full-time writer, one hour a day.
Need to make some small talk at a holiday party soon? Just remember the acronym FORD:
FORD stands for the four big topics of small talk — family, occupation, recreation, dreams — and it can guide you to come up with questions to keep the conversational ball going.
We don't grow into creativity; we grow out of it:
The current approach to education leaves little room for exploration and experimentation. The emphasis is on getting the right answer, rather than exploring different possibilities and developing new ideas. Students who are focused on achieving top grades may be reluctant to take risks or explore new ideas for fear of making mistakes.
The curriculum should take greater inspiration from actual career skills needed in the creative industries such as the stages of idea development, how to spot inspiration, what is it and how to then translate it into something final. Even confidence to present, talk to camera, get familiar with video and storytelling formats (beyond written story) to allow children who see writing as a barrier to explore their ideas in physical and visual styles.
- What's so super about Super Glue?
- The golden age of gadget catalogs.
- Map of the Best filters restaurants by location, stars, reviews, awards, and more. Way more helpful than a generic Yelp search.
- The life of a corn maze designer.
- I've been waiting for this: An AI Courthouse to solve disputes with your friends.
- Instantly turn your LinkedIn profile into a personal website.
- How to discover new music.
Words of Wisdom
"A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be." – Rosalynn Carter
“Silence is the ultimate weapon of power.” — Charles de Gaulle
"A wise response may not erase a dumb mistake, but it can redeem it." – James Clear
A strategy is nothing more than a commitment to a set of coherent, mutually reinforcing policies or behaviors aimed at achieving a specific goal. – Gary P. Pisano
"It’s hard to be either consistent or efficient, and it is even harder to be both at the same time." – Vaughn Tan
“Wealth is what you don't see. It's income not spent. Wealth is the nice cars not purchased. The diamonds not bought. The watches not worn, the clothes forgone and the first-class upgrade declined. Wealth is financial assets that haven't yet been converted into the stuff you see.” – Morgan Housel
“At night, if I think of something that's funny, I have to go get a pen and write it down… Or if the pen is too far away, I have to convince myself that what I thought of ain't funny.” – Mitch Hedberg
“The only sustainable competitive advantage is an organization's ability to learn faster than the competition.” — Peter Senge