Issue 2

Issue 2

Welcome to the second edition of Idea Surplus Disorder – and the first on our new platform.  I’m Matt Homann, the founder of Filament, and I’m glad you’re here!

In this edition: big Filament news, the commitment excuse, the Munger two-step, fractal knowledge, awkward 1:1s, odyssey evil vs. stupidity, HyperEncabulators, and more!


  • First, we're excited to welcome Emily Muhoberac as our newest team member and VP of Strategy.  Here's what she had to say about joining Filament.
  • We've launched our new website.  It's still got a few rough edges to smooth over, but we love to "experiment tirelessly" at Filament, so we couldn't wait to share it with you.
  • We're piloting our first new event next Monday called New Skills For Work (also known as N.S.F.W.).  We'll cover the Filament Meeting Canvas and share some simple meeting tips you can immediately put to work.  It's free to attend, and you can RSVP on the site.


We're all busy, so why do we keep saying "yes" to new requests?  Perhaps it is that we don't have a great way to say "no."  Here's one:  "I'm sorry, but I'm fully committed."  

"I'm sorry, but I'm fully committed" brooks no objection: it's stronger than merely saying you have lots on your plate at the moment, which leaves open the possibility of adding something more. But it takes responsibility for the situation, too; it's not that the other person's request is low in value, just that my schedule happens to be full. Finally, it's so obviously true: who isn't "fully committed", in some sense? There's no need for the subtle self-aggrandisement of claiming you're "really busy at the moment". You're just fully committed – a fact that the asker will probably recognise as being true about their life as well.

And here are some more – along with some canned emails for other common situations.

Want to make better decisions?  Try the Munger Two-Step:

A simple and easy approach to decision making that prevents us from being manipulated.  1. Understand the forces at play.  2. Understand how your subconscious might be leading you astray.

Also, stop asking, "What should I do?"  Ask "What could I do?" instead:

Although individuals intuitively consider the question“What should I do?”when contemplating moral dilemmas, we find that prompting people to consider “What could I do?” helps them generate moral insight.

Another place to start is to find more problems:

Problem finding is more important than problem solving for several reasons, here are 5 of them:
1. Innovation: Problem finding is the first step in the innovation process, it allows organizations to identify new opportunities and create new products, services, and processes that can give them a competitive edge.
2. Adaptability: Problem finding helps organizations anticipate and proactively address potential issues, rather than simply reacting to problems as they arise. This allows them to be more adaptable and resilient in an ever-changing business environment.
3. Growth: Problem finding is essential for business growth and expansion. Identifying new problems and opportunities can lead to new markets, products, and revenue streams.
4. Creativity: Problem finding requires creativity and a willingness to think outside the box, it encourages employees to challenge assumptions and come up with new ideas.
5. Continuous improvement: Problem finding is a continuous process, it allows organizations to continuously identify and address new problems and opportunities, which can lead to continuous improvement and business success.

New ideas live in the gaps:

The way to get new ideas is to notice anomalies: what seems strange, or missing, or broken? You can see anomalies in everyday life (much of standup comedy is based on this), but the best place to look for them is at the frontiers of knowledge. Knowledge grows fractally. From a distance its edges look smooth, but when you learn enough to get close to one, you'll notice it's full of gaps. These gaps will seem obvious; it will seem inexplicable that no one has tried x or wondered about y. In the best case, exploring such gaps yields whole new fractal buds.

If you wait until you're motivated, you've already lost:

Surgeons don’t always feel like doing surgery. Teachers don’t always feel like teaching. Parents don’t always feel like cooking. Firemen don’t always feel like rushing into a burning building.  If you let motivation dictate your actions, inertia conspires to keep you in place. Action creates progress. Progress creates momentum. Momentum creates motivation.

The Odyssey Planning process is geared to individuals but could work for organizations, too.  Here are the personal prompts:

1. What would your life look like in 5 years if you continued down your current path?
2. What would your life look like in 5 years if Plan A disappeared and you pivoted and took an alternative, completely different path?
3. What would your life look like in 5 years if money, time, and other constraints were no object?
For each prompt, the goal is to sketch out real detail on what that timeline, journey, and end state looks like.

Should we fear stupidity more than evil?

Stupidity has far greater potential to damage our lives. More harm is done by one powerful idiot than a gang of Machiavellian schemers... That’s why it’s a dangerous weapon: Because evil people find it hard to take power, they need stupid people to do their work. Like sheep in a field, a stupid person can be guided, steered, and manipulated to do any number of things. Evil is a puppet master, and it loves nothing so much as the mindless puppets who enable it — be they in the general public or inside the corridors of power.

I love the term "Imagine Infrastructure" and wonder how we might build more of it into our organizations.  One definition:

an infrastructure which supports the use and development of the skill and faculty of imagination.

Maybe you should make your 1:1s more awkward:

Here are the two rules I use for every 1:1, many times a week:
1. Don’t talk about any topic that you could discuss in the open, among your team desks or in the cafe. If it’s safe enough to be overheard — it’s not the right content for a 1:1. Email it, send it in Slack, discuss among the desks, say it at a meeting, anything but a 1:1.
2. Commit to saying one rather awkward thing every 1:1, and get the other person to commit too. Agreeing in advance and getting permission makes it feel way more safe. Committing creates peer pressure to be real. It works.
Of course, I hate to have to say this, but I will: don’t be awkward in the wrong way. Nobody wants to hear your TMI story or off-color joke. It’s awkward, but it doesn’t count.


I Asked ChatGPT to Create Comics; Then I Drew Them.

The truffle industry is a big scam!?

We all need HyperEncabulators.

The Chronoapp game challenges you to guess when photos were taken.  Surprisingly addictive!


Anything a computer can do for you should be left to a computer.” — Satoru Iwata
"The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.  They make one story become the only story. – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
"Resenting a new technology will not halt its progress." – Marshall McLuhan
“One sign that determination matters more than talent: there are lots of talented people who never achieve anything, but not that many determined people who don't.” — Paul Graham
Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” ― Rainer Maria Rilke
We don’t have to let go of what we believe, but we do need to be curious about what someone else believes.” – Margaret Wheatley
"Under the guise of creating order, we drift toward the disorder of a thousand stupid rules, leaving no ability to respond to the world as it unfolds." – Aaron Dignan
I don't ever want to fail, but I want to risk failure every time out of the gate.”  — Quentin Tarantino
“The man who acquires easily things for which he feels only a very moderate desire concludes that the attainment of desire does not bring happiness." – Bertrand Russell

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