Idea Surplus Disorder #63

In this edition: rethinking strategy, the importance of real vision, innovative proximity, working from home, late bloomers, syrup bottles, John Wick, Empire trash, porcupine quills, and more.

Idea Surplus Disorder #63

Good morning, everyone! I took a break last Monday to prep for a super-busy week. My apologies!

To make up for it, I've got a bunch of Filament news to share:

  • Thinksgiving NonProfit Applications Open Friday! We'll send out an email with the application links (we're still building them as we simplify the process. Don't know what Thinksgiving is? Watch this video.
  • Our next SuperCollider is on Friday, June 7th, so get a team together and register here. We'll also do an innovation-centered New Skills For Work if you'd like to do a cool training session with (or without) your team.
  • We've got a new team member on board. Welcome, Sydney Walker! You'll get a full intro to her next week.

In this edition: rethinking strategy, the importance of real vision, innovative proximity, working from home, late bloomers, syrup bottles, John Wick, Empire trash, porcupine quills, and more.

I'm Matt Homann, and I'm glad you're here!

Ideas + Insights

As Filament refines a new strategy model, I keep returning to the importance of an organization's purpose. That's why I loved Peter Senge's definition of vision as “a picture of a better place.”

When there is a genuine vision (as opposed to the all-to-familiar ‘vision statement’), people excel and learn, not because they are told to, but because they want to. But many leaders have personal visions that never get translated into shared visions that galvanize an organization.
The practice of shared vision involves the skills of unearthing shared ‘pictures of the future’ that foster genuine commitment and enrolment rather than compliance. In mastering this discipline, leaders learn the counter-productiveness of trying to dictate a vision, no matter how heartfelt

A company's strategy is what it does:

Its strategy is the set of choices that it has put into action over time. Like the expression “you are what you eat;” you are your choices — regardless of how or why they were made. That is the case even if those choices are not written down anywhere. That is why all entrepreneurs have strategies — even if they deny that they do, which is often the case. They spend on some things and not others. They choose to serve some customers and not others. They operate in some geographies and not others.

Speaking of strategy, David Maister suggests why many strategic plans have no teeth:

If you really want to get the commercial benefits of any strategy, you must put in a system that forces you to execute that strategy. The tragedy is that they will not accept accountability for standards. Giving them technology is like giving a machine gun to a baby. You first teach the baby that there are certain standards to live by, and only then can you give them the advanced tools.

Emergencies, problems, and inconveniences are three very different things:

An emergency involves a threat to someone's health or safety. A problem is something that has a solution. An inconvenience is just that — something that's annoying but not life-threatening.

Is the move away from in-person work keeping your team from "accidentally" influencing one another?

Researchers were most strongly influenced by colleagues at their own institutions who pursued questions “intellectually distant” from their own. On average, an individual researcher is 63 percent more likely to be highly influenced by works that tackle different subjects or present different viewpoints by colleagues at their home institution, according to the study.
[T]he findings are significant because of a university's intellectual and cultural diversity and its unique ability to allow those different perspectives to cross-pollinate through committees, seminars, speeches, athletic events, or even chance meetings. Zoom, Slack, and social media facilitate some virtual information sharing, but it’s unclear to what degree.

Here's more on working from home:

Total hours worked increased by roughly 30%, including a rise of 18% in working after normal business hours. Average output did not significantly change. Therefore, productivity fell by about 20%. Time spent on coordination activities and meetings increased, but uninterrupted work hours shrank considerably. Employees also spent less time networking, and received less coaching and 1:1 meetings with supervisors.

And yet more: Is a new, slower-speed Friday gradually becoming the norm?

If the etiquette of modern working is constantly evolving then there’s a growing sense that the most heinous thing that anyone can do to a colleague is to put a Friday afternoon meeting in their calendars.
So, let’s be real, is this how the reality of a four day week will take hold for most of us? That Friday will be kind of a catch-up day for those who need it but that many of us will work at half speed, casually ‘keeping an eye on things’. Is this becoming the unspoken norm of work?

If you're like me and in your 50s and feel like you're just getting started, this list of late bloomers might give you some more inspiration:

  • Laura Ingalls Wilder started writing Little House on the Prairie at sixty-five.
  • Frank Lloyd Wright did half of his life’s work after the age of 68, including the Guggenheim.
  • Ray Kroc was 58 when he discovered a small family restaurant called Mcdonald's. Before that he was a milkshake mixer salesman.
  • Eric Yuan founded Zoom aged forty-one.

This line about "teaching" ethics with PowerPoint-driven, check-the-box classes made me chuckle. We spray people with a hose and expect them to stay wet forever:

But are no PowerPoints that work. You cannot plonk someone in front of a computer screen for an hour and expect them to become a better person. Well-meaning researchers have tried way, way harder than that and gotten way, way less.
You can’t permanently change implicit biases with 15 minutes of screentime, just like you can’t spray someone with a hose and expect them to stay wet forever.
This is part of why changing people is so surprisingly hard—no matter how much you focus on the person in front of you, you’ll never appreciate the million tiny influences that made them who they are and that keep them that way. If you really want to make someone different, you might have to change the TV they watch, the music they listen to, the things they learn in school, the friends they hang out with, the role models they look up to, etc., and if you do all that, congratulations, you’ve started what we call a cult. Which, unlike social scientists, do have a pretty good track record of changing people.

How will we teach young professionals when all of the entry-level jobs are gone?

What happens when the traditional entry points for young people to begin their careers are eliminated? How will the next generation find employment? And if they fail to find employment, how can we expect them to fully participate in the economy as it’s currently designed?

Fun Finds

Why does the trash compactor compact trash so slowly and with such difficulty once the resistance of a thin metal rod is introduced? Surely metal Death Star pieces are one of the main items of trash in need of compacting. It thus stands to reason that the trash compactor should have been better designed to handle the problem of a skinny piece of metal. (And while I hate to be the sort of person who says I told you so, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that a one-movable-wall system would have improved performance.)

Words Of Wisdom

"Let the voice of growth be louder than the voice of fear." – Claire Lew
"Don't wait to start writing until you have something to say. Start writing so you can find out what you have to say." – James Clear
“The only way to make your present better is by making your future bigger.” – Dan Sullivan
It can be difficult to appreciate how much simply avoiding the standard ways of failing dramatically increases the odds of success." – Shane Parrish
"When people are asked to do their best, they don’t, it’s too vague." – Edwin Locke
"Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today." - Mark Twain
"It's kind of fun to do the impossible!" – Walt Disney
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few." – Shunryu Suzuki
"The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious." – John Sculley
“Every day, I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness; I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.” – Kierkegaard

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.