Idea Surplus Disorder #12

In this edition: Filament launches a business book club, fascinating salads, heroic stories, lazy leaders, word calculators, and more.

Welcome to Idea Surplus Disorder.  I’m Matt Homann, the founder of Filament, and I’m glad you’re here!

In this edition: Filament launches a business book club, fascinating salads, heroic stories, lazy leaders, word calculators, and more.


Filament Focus Club:  If you like to read business books, join us as we launch a unique book club at Filament on May 10th.  Here's how it works:

  • Each month, we’ll choose five amazing books centered on a single business-critical theme.  
  • Once we announce our theme and selections, sign up for the Club, select your book, and commit to reading it before we gather in person at Filament.  Our first discussion session will be in June.
  • As soon as you arrive, we’ll get down to business. We’ll talk about the theme, and then you’ll break into smaller groups to discuss the book you selected with others who’ve read the same one.
  • Next, you’ll connect with others who’ve each read different books from our list. With them, you’ll continue to explore the evening’s theme, discuss what you learned from your book, and why it matters.
  • Finally, we’ll ask you how you might implement at least one idea from the evening’s discussion in the next 30 days. We’ll capture your commitment and help to hold you accountable.

New Skills For Work (N.S.F.W.) is April 24th and we're going to learn some brainstorming best practices – including ways to incorporate AI tools to turbocharge your teams' ideation.

Ideas + Insights

Our brains aren't built to understand talking computers:

We go around assuming ours is a world in which speakers — people, creators of products, the products themselves — mean to say what they say and expect to live with the implications of their words.... But we’ve altered the world. We’ve learned to make “machines that can mindlessly generate text, but we haven’t learned how to stop imagining the mind behind it.”

What's your company's fascinating salad?:

Every good restaurant should have two different salads on the menu.  The boring salad is the regular kind. It’s there for people who know that they want a reliable, repeatable, unremarkable salad.
The fascinating salad is a chance for the restaurant to bring surprise, delight and care to the person who orders it. It’s remarkable in the way it combines unexpected elements, and even though the ingredients it uses make it accessible to people who have careful diets, it’s still extraordinary, and worth what it costs.
A fascinating salad is a marvel. It’s not that hard to create, but it demonstrates the passion of the person who produced it in a memorable, almost emotional way.
Too often, freelancers end up offering just a boring salad. It feels safer than getting rejected. Or they pretend to offer a fascinating salad, but at the end, they lose their nerve and simply charge more than they should for a boring salad that’s pretending to be fascinating.

Everybody on your team should be able to tell a story where they're the main character in your organization's success:

As a manager you are seen as the default main character of your team. In group meetings, you tell the collective story that guides everybody.  But an important part of being a good manager is to have others be the main character as well. You should give each of your reports space to write their own individual story in one-on-ones.
By definition, they are the main character of their own story. But large companies often don’t make them feel that way. This is universally demotivating. If you don’t feel like the main character of your story, you don’t do much, you lose agency.

Lots of thought-provoking prompts in this customer-focused list of fifty what-if questions to reimagine the future, like:

  • What if your customers could customize every single detail of your product
  • What if you were charged a fee for delivering a bad customer experience?
  • What if you could reframe your service into bite-size components?

Breakthroughs come when you follow your offbeat obsessions further than others might:

It’s enormously valuable to simply follow your curiosity—and follow it for a really long time, even if it doesn’t seem to be leading anywhere in particular. Surprisingly big breakthrough ideas come when you bridge two seemingly unconnected areas.

I think this could work for organizations, too.  Throw a "retirement party" for your inner critic:

I recently heard a story about a woman who asked her "inner critic" to retire. The "inner critic" being that self-critical voice that pipes up under the guise of protecting me from failure or pushing me to be better. Inspired by this idea, I bought my "inner critic" a retirement gift — something tangible I can see or hold in my hands — so that when the doubting, perfectionist voice speaks up I can gently remind her she's been retired, and show her the small of token of appreciation I bought as proof. Shifting my focus from anxiety to gratitude.

Still not using AI in your business?  Here are 101 ChatGPT prompts to get you started.

I love this comparison!  Stop thinking of AI language tools like ChatGPT as search engines or answer machines, but as calculators for words:

This is reflected in their name: a “language model” implies that they are tools for working with language. That’s what they’ve been trained to do, and it’s language manipulation where they truly excel.

You'll get more customers when you praise your competitors:

Participants viewed a tweet in which Kit Kat praised Twix: "Competitor or not, congrats on your 54 years in business! Even we can admit—Twix are delicious.” In a follow-up survey, people were more likely to buy a Kit Kat, while their preference for Twix remained unchanged.

Do lazy leaders make heroic managers?

When we use this lens to explore why managers are routinely being asked to go above and beyond, we find that it’s usually because leaders have failed to do one or more of the following: First, they weren’t clear enough about what they wanted; second, they were not realistic about how long execution would take or how much it would cost; and third, they weren’t consistent enough in the signals they sent about what was important.

Fun Finds

What if your entire office floor was a treadmill?

Want a cool virtual Zoom background?  Steal one of these pics of real agency offices.

Loved this version of New Order's Blue Monday, but on 1930's instruments.

Rainbows are actually full circles!

For a fun trip down memory lane, check out this collection of remastered videos from the Midnight Special archive. It includes dozens of 70's and 80's rock, country, and soul artists/acts performing live.  

Words of Wisdom

“If you don’t become the ocean, you’ll be seasick every day.”– Leonard Cohen
"Life is short, and art is long." – Hippocrates
"If you weren’t at Los Alamos in 1943, you probably thought nuclear weapons were 20 years away." – Alexey Guzey
"Character, like a photograph, develops in darkness." – Yousuf Karsh
"The world will ask you who you are, and if you don't know, the world will tell you." – Carl Jung
“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” ​— Thích Nhất Hạnh
Books are frozen voices, in the same way that musical scores are frozen music. The score is a way of transmitting the music to someone who can play it, releasing it into the air where it can once more be heard." – Margaret Atwood

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