That might not be the right question

“Where do you get your ideas?”

The thing is, everyone has ideas. All the time, every day. Having ideas is part of the human condition.

The right questions might be:

Are you exposing yourself to new inputs and new situations, and challenging yourself to find more interesting ideas?

Are you pushing the ideas you have further, making them more complete, turning them from hunches to notions to ideas to theories?

Are you publishing your theories, sharing your reasoning and having your ideas collide with the real world in service of making things better?

Reblogged from: here


Ranking the unrankable

Weight is a useful measure. 10 pounds is twice as much as 5 pounds.

Measuring things and then ranking them effectively enables us to make better choices and to scale up our operations.

Sometimes, though, in our rush to standardize and process a complicated world, we begin to measure things that can’t be easily measured, and then, since we’ve measured them, to aggressively rank them.

Smart isn’t easily measurable. Neither is beautifulgood or successful. And especially happy.

A high SAT score is a measure of whether or not you scored well on the SAT. That’s it. A bank balance is a measure of how much money you have in the bank. That’s all.

In the face of the difficulty the system has in measuring things that don’t measure, we create proxies. Things like popularity as a proxy for whether a work of human creativity has worth or not.

It’s a method built to process commodities instead of people, and it’s running amok.

A precision ranking is nothing but a number, an inaccurate and ultimately useless stand-in. These proxies are created and spread and relied upon by a system that craves certainty and order.

Realizing the fraud of the proxies might help us get back to what matters instead.

Reblogged from: here


Tilting at windmill

The windmills aren’t the problem, it’s the tilting.

In Cervantes’ day, ’tilting’ was a word for jousting. You tilted your lance at an enemy and attacked.

Don Quijote was noted for believing that the windmills in the distance were giants, and he spent his days on attack.

Change can look like a windmill.

When we say, “the transition to a new place is making me uncomfortable,” we’ve expressed something truthful. But when we attack a windmill, we’ve wasted our time and missed an opportunity to focus on what matters instead.

When my dad taught at the University of Buffalo, the heart of his MBA classes was teaching about the ‘change agent’. This is the external force that puts change into motion. The change agent, once identified, gives us an understanding of our options and the need to respond, not to react.

Every normal is a new normal, until it is replaced by another one.

Reblogged from: here


“Count me in”

That’s the opposite of, “count me out.”

Either you seek to unite and be part of it. Or to divide and watch it go away.

Whatever ‘it’ might be.

We can seek to trigger those we’ve decided are our enemies, undermine the standards and burn it all down. Or we can commit to the possibility that together, we can create something that works.

It’s not that hard to realize that even if we can’t always see the gunwales on the boat, we’re all in the same one.

Reblogged from: here


Avocado time

The perfect avocado… Sometimes they’re too hard, and often, they’re rotten.

But every once in a while, you’ll nurture an avocado until it’s at the peak state of flavor and texture.

You certainly aren’t going to waste it.

You’re not going to sacrifice it to some sort of smoothie, or even hide it in a sandwich. That’s for the other kind, the less precious ones.

And yet…

This Zoom call we’re on, the precious one, where all the right people are on the call, at the same time, ready to see and be seen–you’re really going to spend the first ten minutes having us go around the room and say our names? Really?

This gathering we all came to, back when we could, or when we can again–we’re really going to sit at tables for 10, shouting at each other, while we tolerate loud music and eat lousy food?

This interaction we’re having with the busy professional, the one that we’ve waited for, you’re going to spend it reciting things that we already wrote down on a form?

Face-to-face is like a perfect avocado. The cost of in-sync time, real-time interaction time, that’s time that we don’t get again.

Time is priceless. But the moments when we have a chance to connect, to be in sync, to bring out the best in each other–that’s time that’s worth cherishing.

Don’t waste it if you can. Treat it like avocado time.

Reblogged from: here


Screwdriver clarity

This screwdriver, what’s it for? The one with with black oxide non-slip tips, tri-lobe ergonomic handles, and a special “Speed Zone” at the base of the handle, which allows for faster turning in low back torque applications. You know, the one with a nut bolster for added strength and versatility. What’s it for?

Can I use it to open a paint can? Well, sure you can, but you could find easier and cheaper substitutes. And you might get paint on the screwdriver, which would make it much less effective for its real job.

Can I use it to turn this Phillips-head screw? Well, possibly, but you’ll probably strip the screw.

Can I use it to stir my coffee? Well, sure, but why?

This all seems obvious.

And yet, we can ask the same questions about your website, your advanced degree, your office building… Or this meeting, that job description or the choice to work a nine-hour day. What’s it for?

If it’s a tool, not a destination, what’s the tool for?

It doesn’t have to be expensive, all-purpose or exactly the same as the others are using. It simply needs to do the job you need it to do better than any other alternative method.

Reblogged from: here


A thing about ‘Normal’

Normal is the thing many don’t notice.

Until it changes. And then we can’t unsee how much we had failed to pay attention to.

Who’s on the short list for consideration, who is given the benefit of the doubt, who gets a head start…

We begin to notice the people that are artificially selected to seem like the right ones, who are then supposed to be better and anointed as normal.

I was thrilled that Unilever has decided to get rid of the word ‘normal’ on their personal care product labels. Because when it comes to people, normal is an artificial construct, the center of a statistical bell curve but not a standard that we ought to seek to achieve, even if we could.

Normal is a distribution, not a person.

Revlogged from: here


Errors in Personification

“The sun is trying to break through the clouds.”

“The virus doesn’t like it when people stay home and isolate.”

“The computer didn’t expect you to type that.”

Of course, the sun, the virus and the computer aren’t people. And genes aren’t actually selfish, and new data demonstrates that we don’t really have a lizard brain.

But these aren’t errors at all. It makes it easier to predict what a non-human is going to do if we imagine that it has motivations and preferences that are like ours.

Two problems can arise, though:

The first is when we assert human motivations that don’t actually do a good job of prediction. For example, imagining that events are motivated by some sort of unrelated specific superstition or narrative.

The second is more problematic: It happens when we personalize other people–imagining that they’re not just humans, but they’re us. “If I were you…” is not always a useful predictor, because you’re not me. And vice versa.

Everyone has their own history, their own biases and their own irrationalities. Personification is a useful shortcut if it helps us make smart predictions about others, but it’s a trap if we assume that we’re the only ones who are right.

Reblogged from: here