RATING: 6/10…READ: September 8, 2011
A book with insights from 62 leading creative thinkers amongst many industries, from Ken Robinson, Seth Godin, Pam Slim, Daniel Pink, to Kevin Kelly, and Others. The book as a whole I felt is a bit disjointed with overall so-so content. However, the book supports a great cause as all proceeds go to ending Malaria…The book is really just a bonus.
#### TAP YOUR STRENGTHS
Becoming aware of what one can do well that others cannot is an immense challenge. In most cases, it takes our whole lives to discover this. This awareness arrives only through deliberate practice and with the help of others, but the payoff is equally immense. When you are doing something well that others want, and you are the only one who can do it, you will be uncommonly rewarded.
The secret to making sure your work is as great as possible is to spend up-front time designing your work to involve the thinnest slice of you possible. Our work is most fun and productive when we are doing only the work that we are the most qualified in the organization to do, and others around us are doing the work that they are the most qualified to do.
Without a deep root of meaning to anchor you, you will never survive the raging storm of what it takes to make great work happen. To find your root, answer the questions: How do I want to affect the world? Why is this important?
What are the conditions that allow me to bring out my strengths, do my best work, and enjoy what I am doing while I do it?
What would my life look if I designed it to fit me perfectly?
Which images, songs, and words fire up my passion?
Instead of asking forward-facing questions like “What do I want to do with my life?” we dream backwards and ask, “What have I done in my life that I’ve loved?”
#### CREATE FREEDOM
Finish this sentence: In a perfect world, _____________________.
It can be personal or business. For example: “In a perfect world, I wake up in my house on the beach and just create new ideas all day long. The world finds those ideas useful and pays me to keep creating them.”
On the personal side, this exercise makes you realize what kind of life you’d really like to be living, which is a great reminder for those thousand tiny daily decisions that can keep you pointed that way.
If we want more satisfied customers, we should limit the choices we offer to them. And if we want more effective and happier employees, we should increase the choices we offer to them. Less choice and discretion for our customers, and more choice and discretion for our employees.
Lapses in attention turn out to be a crucial creative skill. When we’re faced with a difficult problem, the most obvious solution—that first idea we’re focused on—is probably wrong. At such moments, it often helps to consider far-fetched possibilities, to approach the task from an unconventional perspective. And this is why distraction is helpful: people unable to focus are more likely to consider information that might seem irrelevant but will later inspire the breakthrough. When we don’t know where to look, we need to look everywhere.
One key technique for opening your own mind up to new possibilities is to diversify your interests, and work on multiple projects in parallel.
One of the defining characteristics of the innovators that I profile in the book is the simple fact that most of them have a lot of hobbies. (Think of someone like Ben Franklin, who was constantly cycling through a huge range of diverse interests.) Hobbies have the generative effect of creating new potential connections to expand your main focus at work: either through direct links or through more metaphoric ways of approaching problems from new angles. So yes, there are times at work when you want to shut out the external world and really concentrate on a single problem. But every time you do that you make it harder to discover new openings in the adjacent possible.
Instead of spending forty hours each week being “heads down,” try taking 5 percent of your time (two hours each week) to be “heads up.”
Get away from your desk and go to a place of inspiration, such as an art museum, park, or historic landmark. Turn off your phone and turn on your imagination. Give a siesta to your analytical, logical Left Brain, and let your creative, abstract Right Brain come out to play. Schedule the time and treat it with the same importance as any other business meeting. Show up fully, and let your imagination soar.
Think in Beta: Nothing is Perfect – Keep iterating
Vulnerability is equal parts courage, mindfulness, and understanding—it’s being “all in.”
We’re now in a marketplace where every whisper about your business gets heard. This means that corporations need to recognize that their bottom lines are going to be completely connected to their hearts, not their brains. Caring about the customer, caring about the story of your brand, and (of course) having a strong product are becoming more important than having the lowest price.
If this were your last day on earth, what action could you take to make a contribution to someone or some thing? It might be small. Example: You called the hotel maid by name and wrote her a note (along with a tip) about how much you appreciated her effort. You paid the toll for the car behind you. You helped an administrative assistant collate a report so she could go home to her kids. At the end of the day, write in a blank journal (labeled “deposits”) and describe the contribution you made. You’re storing up a treasure that won’t be affected by the stock market.
If your company wants to influence purchase decisions, you must provoke strong and immediate emotional reactions. The goal isn’t to avoid controversy, but to avoid creating legions of people who simply don’t care.
Stop focusing on the Middlers. Stop letting the Haters slow you down. Start rewarding, and keeping, the Lovers.
Good.True.Helpful. If what you’re about to say or email to someone doesn’t meet two out of those three criteria, reword it or don’t say it at all.
Instead of saying “Late again, eh?” you can say “Mike, you’re a valuable member of this team, and when you’re late it holds up everyone’s progress. What can I do to help you?”
The most precious asset you have is your time. Your calendar is a truthful representation of what you think is important.
Step away from your computer: And no doubt, your calendar will tell you that you spend lots of time in front of a screen. It’s so critical to get away from electronic connectivity from time to time. You don’t need to go on a Zen Buddhist retreat, but you need space to think.
Daydreaming is an effective way of coping with complexity. Every child knows how to daydream, but we lose the capacity for it as adults. Take time out for daydreaming—it’s where you can find the seeds of excellence.
#### DISRUPT NORMAL
The enemy of persuasion is obscurity. If you have an important message to get out, it must stand out, not blend in.
–Create the gap between what is (the current realities) and what could be (the world with your idea adopted).
–Take a clear and strong position on a topic
Sometimes the naive person is the best person to solve a problem because he doesn’t have any baggage getting in the way of his ideas.
“Could it be” is a conversation starter, rather than an assertion. It is the way you put an idea out there without having to defend it. “Could it be” allows the issue to be a question for everyone. “Could it be” allows for a dialogue rather than a yes/no argument.
When a disruptive new technology arrives, the greatest business opportunities often lie not in creating the disruption but in mending it—in figuring out a way to use an older, established technology as a bridge to carry customers to the benefits of the emerging technology.
It’s come down to a very simple question, actually, one with only two answers. Are you racing to the top or racing to the bottom?
The confusion I see online is caused by people who want both. They want the apparent safety of following the herd (doing the safe thing), while they also gain the head start (and the joy) of carving their own niche.
#### TAKE SMALL STEPS
Courage is simply acting in a way that puts you at risk in a fearful or uncomfortable situation in which the outcome is uncertain. Sticking up for an underdog at a team meeting is an act of courage. Launching a new product is an act of courage. Confronting a supervisor on a point of disagreement is an act of courage.
Here’s the countdown to reaching your own escape velocity:
Acknowledge that you’re not happy with some situation in your life. Name that.
Decide what you want the next situation to be. Name that.
Add some detail to that: instead of “lose thirty pounds” or “make more money,” decide that you want to work out four times a week or that you want to earn another $1500 a month. Whatever you need it to be.
Decide what you know how to do.
Decide whom you know how to reach.
Determine if the things you can do are useful to the folks you can reach.
Determine whether there’s an opportunity there.
If the goal is more of a self-improvement goal, figure out who can partner with you for accountability.
Make sure you have finite goals but also a broader vision.
10. Think small, and think in chunks. If you need another $12K a year to make ends meet, that’s only $1K a month, which is only $250 a week. See?
In your psychic space, it’s also pretty simple (though often quite subtle): you merely have to find out why things are on your mind, and eliminate the cause.
–Why are you distracted? What causes your mind to be unclear and inappropriately filled with unproductive thinking that makes no progress on what you’re focused on but which creates stress and disturbance that undermines your energy and focus? The basic cause is some decision you haven’t yet made and/or the fact that you haven’t parked the resulting contents in a trusted system.
–“Mom” will be on your mind only if there’s something currently going on in your relationship with her (her birthday? her health issue?), about which you haven’t clarified what outcome, exactly, you’re committed to achieve or what you’re specifically going to do about it as a next step to making that happen. And even if you’ve already clarified those points precisely, if you haven’t put the reminders of that outcome and that action step in places you know you will review at the right time, you’ll still have “Mom” impinging on your consciousness.
The problem isn’t that the Millennials are wrong. The problem is that they’re right. The workplace is one of the most feedback-deprived places in modern life.
Google has also developed a tool called Week Grinder to analyze your calendar and give you statistics on how you’re spending your time. It shows how much time you spent in meetings, how much time you spent on certain projects. This is so important because your calendar never lies.
Great work is often built on the mundane.
–Great cathedrals start with bricks, great paintings begin with paint, and great novels start with words. No one ever castigated F. Scott Fitzgerald for failing to invent new words—his brilliance lay in how he used the exact same twenty-six letters we all use in English. No one ever complained that Picasso failed to invent new colors—his brilliance (or a major part of it, at least) was in the way he combined colors that already exist to form something new and original.
In the era of Google Analytics and Twitter, we spend too much time obsessing over real-time data. Just a decade ago, we had to wait for weekly and monthly reports to get information that is now always available at our fingertips. Whether you are checking your site’s traffic, customer sentiment, or your bank account, these small repetitive actions don’t help you make ideas happen. They just help you feel safe.
#### GET PHYSICAL
Your brain puts more emphasis on minimizing danger than it does on maximizing reward. Studies show that if you tell someone “You look great today,” he’ll forget about the compliment soon after. But if you tell him something negative—that he looks like a mess today—that insult will reverberate over and over and over.
The best way to mitigate the strength of negative inputs is to create opportunities for reward. Instead of telling a team member what she did wrong, ask her what she would do differently next time. This gives the person a chance to shine.
Consumers know when you’re not being authentic, and when this occurs, your brand will instantly be tainted. The big idea here is that you can’t just be about it; you need to live it.
For nearly a decade now, I’ve begun my workdays by focusing for 90 minutes, uninterrupted, on the task I decide the night before is the most important one I’ll face the following day. After 90 minutes, I take a break.
–-I choose the next day’s work the night before because I don’t want to squander energy thinking about what to do during the time I’ve set aside to actually do the work.
–I start at a very specific time because I discovered early on that when I didn’t hold myself to an exact time, it became a license to procrastinate.
–I work for 90 minutes because that’s what the research suggests is the optimal human limit for focusing intensely on any given task.
Here are three insights on how to best assemble your own posse:
Assemble a relatively small group of people who have some of the same expertise in common—with sufficient overlap to really understand each other and add value quickly. This overlap is crucial to speed.
Build relationships of trust, generosity, and mutual support. The posse members trust you—they have ridden out with you before. These are folks you have known for some time and who like and support you.
Hone your cooperative skills. Become skilled at mentoring, learn how to make the best of diversity, and work on your ability to communicate with people, especially if they are in another location.
What team members really need to do when they are face-to-face is develop their relationships by getting to know one another’s strengths and weaknesses, not in a touchy-feely way but in the context of the goals of the business. They need to establish clear alignment around the bigger-picture issues, like the team’s core purpose, values, strategic anchors, and top priorities. Strong relationships are critical to getting on the same page because they allow the team to debate issues passionately and productively, thereby increasing the likelihood that everyone will buy in.
–Think Human: Focus on your audience rather than making assumptions about them. What are their goals and dreams? How can you help your audience achieve these goals and dreams? What do you want your audience to do? How might they resist? Where are your leverage points that will cause them to act? Don’t rush in with a single solution, though! Test some alternatives, and be prepared to return to square one several times.
–Tell stories. Stories are sticky: they bring facts to life and infuse them with context and passion. Physiologically, our brains are hard-wired to process stories. Stories organize and orient complex information for us. Psychologically, we need patterns to help us understand the world. Telling stories also increases the chance that your audience will be able to visualize what you are talking about and thus remember it (humans remember 85 or 90 percent of what we see, but less than 15 percent of what we hear). Salient, meaningful messages, however brief, mobilize communities.
–Learn from trials. Think critically. Iterate. The right tests—and the subsequent tweaks—can amplify growth. Small details (wording, images, placement of links, etc.) can massively affect your campaign. Use social media tools as a cost-effective way to observe users and refine your approach.