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Articles

Relatively speaking, the world is changing really, really, fast!

September 12, 2014

Take a moment to think about all of the change that has taken place since you were born. Not just the technological change (from computers the size of small cars to exponentially more powerful devices weighing mere ounces), but also the social, scientific, and cultural progress that has occurred in the last several decades.

Now consider the Acheulean hand axe. The always-excellent podcast, 99% Invisible, released an insightful show this week looking at this primitive stone tool. 

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Control the Message: What does your boss think that you do?

August 25, 2014

If you have a job, then I highly recommend that you produce a weekly status report. Not a full ‘status report’ per se, but a brief email with 3 – 6 bullets outlining your recent accomplishments and a preview of what you will be working on next week.

Here’s the logic: If you have a job — working for anyone but yourself — then you have a boss to whom you report. And if you have a boss, then on a regular basis, people will ask that boss, “What is working on?” In fact, your boss will occasionally ponder this question himself even without being asked. Do not leave your boss’ answer to chance.

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Announcing the Thinking, Fast and Slow Book Club

August 15, 2014

Beginning the week September 01, a number of smart, curious, and ambitious subscribers to the email list are digging in to read Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. You can join too!

Daniel Kahneman is a psychologist and behavioral economist who studies the psychology of decision making. He shared the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002.

Thinking, Fast and Slow first came to my attention last fall when Tom Peters tweeted,

I believe unequivocally that Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow is the most important book of the last 25 years for EVERY professional.

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Learning by Thinking: How Reflection Aids Performance

May 30, 2014

Knowledge is an important element of productivity. If follows that the acquisition of knowledge is equally important to your long-term success. But how do you learn? And how do you find time?

A new research paper called Learning By Thinking: How Reflection Aids Performance offers some keen insights. Basically, there are two types of learning: learn by doing (‘experience’), and learn by thinking (‘reflection’). Based on the UNC and Harvard professor’s research, it turns out that the most powerful way to learn is a combination of both.

The authors define ‘reflection’ as an intentional attempt to synthesize, abstract, and articulate the key lessons taught by experience. Reflecting on what has been learned makes experience more productive.

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Conflict At The Office? A Simple Start to Fixing It.

May 15, 2014

Conflict is a part of life.

It’s brought on by human nature. We each have different goals and dreams, and we each see the world just a little differently.

When you put us in a work environment, these natural forces become amplified — mostly by our ambitions — until they create inordinate amounts of tension, dysfunction, and stress.

This is, no doubt, why 70% of the American workforce is disengaged from their job.

For some reason, we are reluctant to address the conflict. Strange. It doesn’t have to be that way.

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Forget 'Lean In.' Maybe we should lean back! — Reclaiming time to be creative.

March 18, 2014

Creative people’s most important resource is their time—particularly big chunks of uninterrupted time—and their biggest enemies are those who try to nibble away at it with e-mails or meetings. Indeed, creative people may be at their most productive when, to the manager’s untutored eye, they appear to be doing nothing.

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Diversity in Counsel … Unity in Command

March 14, 2014

Alfred Sloan, when he ran General Motors in the 1920s and 1930s, would refuse to make a decision at a meeting if no one could argue a strong case against what was being proposed. He felt that if no one had any objections to what was being decided, it was because they had not thought long and hard enough about the question under consideration.

Alfred Sloan understood that the best ideas — along with the best decisions — are forged in the crucibles of healthy conflict. If there are no objections leading up to a decision, then either people just aren’t trying hard enough or your team isn’t working on hard enough problems. Clear thinking, innovation, and good decisions depend on diverse perspectives and opposing points of view. 

Healthy conflict can be a tense arena. It takes bold leaders to create a safe space where everyone can be heard. And it takes confident followers to speak their mind even when they hold a minority point of view.

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Play Hard. Play Fair. Nobody Hurt. Simple rules for great meetings and teams

March 7, 2014

Working together is hard. Running an effective meeting can be even harder. One of the challenges is that everyone wants to be heard. To make it even more challenging, not everyone speaks up.

Setting a few ground rules is one of the surest ways to get everyone engaged while producing amazing results. Let it be known that you expect full engagement and everyone to be pulling in the same direction. My favorite set of ground rules comes out of the “New Games” movement from the 70’s. Their motto was Play Hard. Play Fair. Nobody Hurt. I can’t think of a better set of guiding principles for great meetings and vibrant teams.

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Mentors are everywhere, you just need to know what to look for

February 28, 2014

Success can be finicky. For those who have made it big, the real reasons for their success are rarely the things they remember and write about. The building blocks of success are always much more subtle and nuanced.

This is where mentors come in.

In our quest for growth, progress, and success, we have this latent desire for someone who will take us under their wing and co-pilot our journey from the mailroom to the corner office. Or, more realistically, we imagine a relationship with a mentor who meets with us once or twice a month over a long period of time and imparts wisdom like a college professor working through a syllabus.

It doesn't work that way.

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Pictogram of two rowers

Build the Team First

February 19, 2014

In typical entrepreneurial circles — business schools, incubators, venture capital firms — nascent company leaders are relentlessly challenged with two questions:

  1. What is your idea or product?
  2. Who is your market?

While these questions are important, they fail to paint the whole picture. No product makes it to market as originally conceived. Further, no company survives for very long with one product. This means that, even during the earliest days of a company’s existence, there is something more fundamental to a startup’s success than the product idea.

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