In this edition: dotted lines, Groucho clubs, specialness spirals, circles of competence, collecting compliments, cosmic schmucks, toothbrush problems, neverending songs and more.


Welcome to 2023's penultimate issue of Idea Surplus Disorder.

In this edition: dotted lines, Groucho clubs, specialness spirals, circles of competence, collecting compliments, cosmic schmucks, toothbrush problems, neverending songs and more.

I’m Matt Homann, the founder of Filament, and I’m glad you’re here!

New Skills For Work

Ready for a retrospective on your 2023? This afternoon (December 11th), we're hosting the final New Skills For Work (N.S.F.W) 0f the year from 4-5:30 at Filament. RSVP Here.

Insights + Ideas

I always look forward to Tom Whitwell's annual 52 Things I Learned post. Here are some new things he (and I) learned in 2023:

  • A specialness spiral is when you wait for the perfect time to use something, then end up never using it at all. “An item that started out very ordinary, through repeated lack of use eventually becomes … seen more as a treasure”
  • The number of supercentenarians in an area tends to fall dramatically about 100 years after accurate birth records are introduced.
  • 40% of people shown a photoshopped image of themselves riding in a Viking ship as a child claimed to remember the (fictional) incident. This replicates a similar experiment from 2002 involving a fictional balloon ride

If you're doing long-term planning, perhaps you might want to engage young people and help them imagine their future (vs. the one we think they'll want).

Youth foresight refers to the same systematic way of imagining possible futures and informing decision making, but with a particular focus on the perspectives and needs of young people. Youth foresight can be used in policymaking, planning and decision making processes at the local, national and international levels to inform future strategies, programmes and investments that will impact the lives of young people.

Half of people who left a job in 2022 did so because they felt underappreciated.

What's your circle of competence?

Within your circle of competence, you operate with an advantage. As you approach the perimeter (the limitations of your knowledge), your advantage starts to reduce. As you cross the perimeter, not only does your advantage vanish, but it transfers to other people. Suddenly, you find yourself playing in an area where others have an edge.

I wish St. Louis had something like the Groucho Club. Who wants to start one?

When you begin a meeting, ask each attendee to check in with EVSP to see how everyone views their meeting role:

  • Explorer - You're eager to discover new ideas and insights, and want to learn as much as possible.
  • Shopper - You will look over all the available information, and you're happy to leave with one new useful idea.
  • Vacationer - You're not too interested in the meeting, but are happy to take a break from the day-to-day work.
  • Prisoner - You feel forced to attend, and you'd rather be doing something else.

This list of 30 useful concepts/principles included these gems:

  • Segal’s Law: “A man with a watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure.”
  • Benford's Law of Controversy: We tend to fill gaps in information with emotion. We fear what we don’t understand, love what we naively romanticize, etc. As such, the things that fire people up most are usually the things they understand least.
  • Cosmic Schmuck Principle: There are two kinds of people in this world: those who sometimes worry that they’re a moron, and actual morons.
  • Toothbrush Problem: Psychologists treat theories like toothbrushes; no self-respecting person wants to use another’s. Theorists are incentivized by ego and professional pressures to overly rely on their own theories, so they often ignore the best models in favor of their own, applying them ever more widely, contorting them till they’re warped.

Do you ever look at an org chart and wonder what a "Dotted Line" even means?

Some think that a dotted line implies some sort of supervisory responsibility. They grant that the business units can decide what is to be done, but corporate staff try to decide how things are done (professional practices). Some even go so far as to influence career paths and contribute to performance appraisals. Others think that a dotted line gives them some sort of power over people who don't report to them. They feel they have the right to approve, or even command, activities done by (and funded by) business units.
The truth is, dotted lines are meaningless... A dotted line gives corporate staff no real authority over business-unit activities. And a corporate executive certainly must not accept accountability for others' behaviors without any real authority.

Collect compliments:

When I receive a kind, heartfelt email from a reader, I add it to a folder titled ‘Confidence Boost’. So whenever self-doubt strikes or I’m in a creative rut I consult that folder to be reminded of what really matters: connection.

Fun Finds

Words of Wisdom

"Don't be afraid your life will end; be afraid that it will never begin." — Grace Hansen
"A questioning mentality is far more effective than a knowing mentality." – Laurence Enderson
"We’re here on Earth to fart around." – Kurt Vonnegut
“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”
— César Cruz
"It is the quality of time at work that counts and the quantity of time at home that matters." – Brian Tracy
"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." — Alvin Toffler
"You cannot learn what you think you already know." —Epictetus
"Nothing is perfect in advance." – Roger Martin
"Perfectionism is dangerous because if your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything — you sacrifice how gorgeous and perfect it is in your head for what it really is."  – David Foster Wallace

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.