Idea Surplus Disorder #67

In this week's edition: a wonderful selling question, how to think about your organization's "work to do the work," a gentle way to keep devil's advocates from poisoning new work, and a bunch more cool stuff I found last week.

Idea Surplus Disorder #67

Welcome to another issue of Idea Surplus Disorder.

I've got a lot to share today, including a wonderful selling question, how to think about your organization's "work to do the work," a gentle way to keep devil's advocates from poisoning new work, and a bunch more cool stuff I found last week.

But before we get to all the stuff, I had a bit of an epiphany this morning.

While this is the just the 67th edition of this (mostly-weekly) newsletter, it was preceded by 223 versions of my "Monday Morning Meeting" newsletter before I changed the name.

That means that I've spent close to 1,500 hours curating this weird mix of cool business ideas, quirky finds, and inspirational quotes that you're reading now, which is just shy of a full year's worth of full-time work.

So I have a favor to ask: If you find this newsletter valuable, please write about it, share it on LinkedIn, or just forward to a friend – and when you do copy me, share a link to Filament, or tag me on LinkedIn. I'd really appreciate it!

SuperCollider for Nonprofits

We're doing a nonprofit-only SuperCollider on Friday, July 12th before our regular SuperCollider programming resumes on the First Friday of August. We'll cover the Thinksgiving application process, challenge building, and do a super-cool New Skills For Work on feedback.

Look for a signup link next week.

Ideas + Insights

This is a great question to ask prospective clients:

The most important question I have learned to ask during the past 15 months of running a freelance business is “why do you need me?”

What's your work to do the work to work ratio (WTDTW:W):

One of the most interesting metrics of company culture is what I call the "work to do the work." How much time is spent on information gathering, stakeholder alignment and decision making, and how much is spent on actually doing the thing?
The problem with a high WTDTW:W ratio isn't just that it slows teams and companies way down, but that it changes the incentives of an organization. In a company with a 10:1 ratio, for example, employees are rewarded for their ability to navigate and influence the organization, rather than producing results. 

Does your onboarding have a hidden curriculum?

Is it time to recenter your organization on your people?

Too many organisations have dehumanised themselves, either deliberately in the name of efficiency, profit or exploitation, or unconsciously, as purpose and meaning become crushed beneath to-do lists, deadlines and targets.

We underestimate how willing people are to offer help:

People underestimated by as much as 50% the likelihood that others would agree to a direct request for help, across a range of requests occurring in both experimental and natural field settings. 

Just show up:

Showing up. Showing up with your whole self, showing up with your values and beliefs, showing up with what makes you unique, but above all — showing up with consistency.

Does it feel like your team is stuck doing the safe things again and again? Get provocative:

The PO (short for Provocative Operation) Creativity Method is a process for engaging Lateral Thinking by deliberately challenging conventional wisdom or perspectives on a given topic. The process is quite simple:
Make Provocative Statement: Begin with a provocative statement that appears entirely absurd or contradictory. For example, I might say, "Cars don't need wheels."
Engage the Statement: Fight back against your bias to reject the statement. Engage with it in good faith. How might the statement be true? What would that world look like? Explore the new ideas and possibilities. Using our example, I might start envisioning how a car would move without wheels (perhaps glide or sit on a magnetic field?).
Extract Useful Concepts: From the exploration, pull out any creative ideas or perspectives that can be refined for use. Concluding our example, I might pull out a few futuristic design ideas that enable cars to move in any direction and improve traffic flow.

We've all seen Celine's Second Law in action:

Honest communication occurs only between equals. If one person has power over another, then the less powerful person can’t risk saying what they really think. Thus, in any hierarchy, honest communication only travels horizontally.

Forget the "straw man" and argue with the "steel man" instead:

The Steel Man Technique is the logical antidote to this fallacy: Create the strongest form of the opponent's argument; Understand the merits of the argument in depth; and Engage with the Steel Man version of their argument.

Want to do something super cool and are worried you're not the first to act on the big idea? Remember, most people won't.

What if, for every different ad a company runs, it must improve its customer experience in a small way? British Airways is trying:

For BA that was 500 new ads, 600 improved touchpoints. Your numbers may be humbler. But, even if this year you develop, say, one new TV spot, three new outdoor executions and half a dozen unique digital ads, you’re looking at making 10 substantive improvements.
And they’ve got to count. They can’t just amount to tinkering. BA shows the way again, with another jaw-dropping number. It will invest £7bn in its improvement programme. Seven billion! Much of that will go on new aircraft but that still leaves billions for IT upgrades, better seats, new cabins, superior layouts, modernised lounges, and more airport and call-handling staff to shorten queues.

I wish I could share all of these 101 Rules:

  1. Listen for when someone is dismissing your ambitions. Only the petty do that. Avoid them. Instead, seek out those much better than you; they’ll make you feel that you can achieve your dreams, as theirs are probably even larger. They’ll wave you on to the finish line.
  2. If you lose the desire to be silly, the power to laugh, and the ability to poke fun at yourself, you will lose the power to think. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy for one reason: It kills off his imagination.
  3. If an idea doesn’t scare you in some way, it’s not really a good idea.
  4. Hire Tigger. Never Eeyore. Surround yourself with optimists. They will build futures into existence.
  5. Perhaps. Maybe. Possibly. Someday. These are among the most damaging words a creative person can use. Lose them.

And from the same list, I love this so much:

To ensure your creative work has time and space to land, ban all of the devil’s advocates from the room before you show a thing. Then say this: “We are here to create something new. New ideas can be fragile because they are unfamiliar. You may not like something you see here, but you are not allowed to say that for now. We’ll have to edit and remove some of this work later, but for now, everything will be in play. So find something, anything, you like in every idea. A color. A word. An image. A sentence. Anything. In the end, we find what we look for. And today we are going to look for the new.”

Fun Finds

Words of Wisdom

“The truth is, everything will be okay as soon as you are okay with everything. And that’s the only time everything will be okay.” – Michael Singer
"To understand what another person is saying, you must assume that it is true and try to imagine what it could be true of." – George Armitage Miller
"No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else." – Bill Joy
"The act of creation causes imagination, not the other way around." – Simon Sarris
"Human communication usually fails except by accident." – Osmo Wiio
"Workaholics don’t save the day, they just use it up. The real hero is already home because she figured out a faster way to get things done." – Jason Fried
"When talent doesn’t hustle, hustle beats talent. But when talent hustles, watch out." – Brian Collins

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