Idea Surplus Disorder #51

In this edition of Idea Surplus Disorder: strategic choices and operating imperatives, evil PowerPoint, open-mindedness, value propositions, chatty colleagues, time travel, WKRP, View Masters, Rubik's Cubes, and more.

Idea Surplus Disorder #51

Good morning, and happy Monday!

In this edition of Idea Surplus Disorder: strategic choices and operating imperatives, evil PowerPoint, open-mindedness, value propositions, chatty colleagues, time travel, WKRP, View Masters, Rubik's Cubes, and more.

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

Filament Friday

Join us this week for Filament Friday, our unique mix of co-working, creative thinking, and problem solving. I've opened up a bunch of slots on my calendar in case you'd like to book some time with me to chat about an idea you have or a challenge you're trying to think through.

Ideas + Insights:

Strategic Choices vs. Operating Imperatives

We make Strategic Choices when we want to gain an advantage over our competitors. That doesn’t happen when we do the same things as competitors. We follow Operating Imperatives when we want to avoid falling behind competitors on a meaningful dimension.
You should have a limited number of Strategy Choices. The number of Operating Imperatives can be longer — say five-to-ten. More than ten and they cease to become real imperatives, in my experience. But there should be three-to-five Strategy Choices. It shouldn’t be one because a singular unique choice is easier to replicate and hence not sustainable. If it is more than five then you are probably going to underinvest in each of the five most important in order to do number six, seven, etc. 

PowerPoint: Does it Suck, or is it Evil?

The software profoundly shaped basic social expectations, technical conditions, and architectural pre-requisites for speech yet it was uncritically absorbed in nearly every quarter. PowerPoint does not zoom. It does not allow spontaneous comparisons. It does not accommodate several screens, multiple threads, or distributed live collaborations. It makes the analytic move of systematic comparison, so prevalent in late nineteenth and early twentieth century information presentations, extremely difficult to make.
Moreover, its expansion has meant that once distinct situations have become more alike. Meetings, sermons, lectures, and talks increasingly employ the technics of commercial demonstration. Twenty-first century occasions for speech are structured by a platform that enforces the paradigm of one-slide-at-a-time.

Kevin Kelly is thinking about long-term doing.

One of the few scarcities in the future will be a long attention span. There will be no shortage of amazing materials that can do magic, astounding sources of energy to make anything happen, and great reserves of knowledge and know-how to accomplish our dreams. But the gating factor for actually completing those big dreams may be the distractions that any society feels over the centuries. What your parents and grandparents found important you may find silly, or even embarrassing.
To build something that extends over multiples of individual lifespans requires a very good mechanism to transmit the priority of that mission. It is much easier to build a rocket that will sail 500 years to the nearest star, then it is to ensure that the future generations of people born on board that 500-year rocket maintain the mission. It is very likely that before it reaches the 250-year halfway point, that the people on board turn it around and head back to a certain future. They did not sign up for this crazy idea!

Open-mindedness is a leadership superpower:

Innovation thrives on the clash of ideas. By being open to different viewpoints, even those seemingly outlandish, leaders tap into a wider pool of possibilities. This leads to solutions that wouldn’t exist otherwise, like the Post-it note born from a failed adhesive.
When a leader demonstrates openness, they send a powerful message: “It’s safe to challenge, experiment, and think outside the box.” This unleashes the creative potential within the team, leading to a constant flow of novel ideas.

I love this description: your value proposition is a utility poem.

It’s the most concise way to explain what you do, and who you do it for, and why that’s important.

This isn't going to be true just for lawyers:

Our empirical analysis benchmarks LLMs against a ground truth set by Senior Lawyers, uncovering that advanced models match or exceed human accuracy in determining legal issues. In speed, LLMs complete reviews in mere seconds, eclipsing the hours required by their human counterparts. Cost-wise, LLMs operate at a fraction of the price, offering a staggering 99.97 percent reduction in cost over traditional methods. These results are not just statistics—they signal a seismic shift in legal practice. LLMs stand poised to disrupt the legal industry, enhancing accessibility and efficiency of legal services. Our research asserts that the era of LLM dominance in legal contract review is upon us, challenging the status quo and calling for a reimagined future of legal workflows.

Your chatty colleagues are your office's biggest productivity killer.

A quarter (23 percent) of office workers say chatty colleagues are the biggest in-office distraction, a survey by Currys has found. The poll of 1,000 UK office-based workers looked to ascertain their ideal working environment, and how their working environment can affect productivity.  Other major distractions cited included internet issues (22 percent), mobile phones (21 percent), too many emails (20 percent) and too many meetings (19 percent).

If you're "tipping" your GPT, go big or go small:

If you're tipping your GPT4, it's better to promise to tip it $20 or $100,000+; those amounts will give the longest answers.

Is it time to rethink venture funding?

Over the last 14 years, venture capital made the tech industry dependent on equity fundraising, then redefined words like “startup” and “disruption” to lionize market dominance through the nakedly unfair competitive advantage of not having to build a business that makes a profit. […]
Real techno-optimists — people actually interested in a better tech industry — should campaign for a venture capital industry that doesn’t sit on its cash and focuses it on funding new ideas and new founders.

Speaking of investing, here's the one startup mistake investor Paul Graham sees again and again:

What you will get wrong is that you will not pay enough attention to your users. You will make up some idea in your own head that you will call your "vision", and you will spend a lot of time thinking about your vision. In a cafe. By yourself. And build some elaborate thing without going and talking to users, because that's doing sales, which is a pain in the ass, and they might say no.
You will not ship fast enough because you're embarrassed to ship something unfinished, and you don't want to face the likely feedback that you will get from shipping. You will shrink from contact with the real world, contact with your users. That's the mistake you will make.

Do you have a formal transition from work time to personal time?

To make sure you can be fully off-the-clock later in the evening, have a wrap-up routine that you start at least 30 minutes before you need to end work. This could include doing a final check to make sure that all critical emails have a response, looking over your task list to know that you have completed what’s essential, and if you do realize that you will need to work later at night, decide on exactly what you will complete and when.
For example, you might determine, “I will review this proposal for an hour or less starting at 8 PM.” The reason it’s good to have that specificity is then you won’t have a cloud over your head all evening that you should probably do some work without a clear sense of exactly what you will do and when. You can mentally disconnect until 8 PM and then also feel free to completely stop at 9 PM. when the objective and the time frame are clear.

This is totally NSFW, but there's some profound insight in this Unified Theory of F*cks.

Maybe time travelers don't come back to visit us because the economics don't work:

[T]he major cost of time travel is likely to be the energy cost, whilst the largest benefit of time travel is knowledge which the present possesses, but the future has lost. Focusing on this benefit, it is extremely unlikely that we possess a piece of knowledge which is sufficiently important to a future civilisation (system critical), but also has been lost by said civilisation. This is to say, we may not have been visited by time travellers because we are not important enough.

Fun Finds

Words of Wisdom

"Desire is a contract you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want." – Naval Ravikant
“Nothing can become truly resilient when everything goes right.” – Toby Lütke
“Most successful people are just a walking anxiety disorder harnessed for productivity.” – Andrew Wilkinson
"Half of tracking is knowing where to look, and the other half is looking." – Alexandra Horowitz
"The secret to doing good research is always to be a little underemployed. You waste years by not being able to waste hours.” – Amos Tversky
"It’s easiest to convince people that you’re special if they don’t know you well enough to see all the ways you’re not." – Morgan Housel
"Luck is not chance, it's toil; fortune's expensive smile is earned." – Emily Dickinson
“You can miss something, but not want it back.” – Paulo Coelho
“I was waiting for something extraordinary to happen, but as the years wasted on, nothing ever did unless I caused it.” — Charles Bukowski

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