Why You Should Wait Before Reacting to Bad Ideas

When Walter Isaacson published his biography of Steve Jobs, many people noticed that Jobs employed a management technique that sometimes relied on berating his employees, sometimes to the point of tears. While a little bit of tough love can have some short-term benefits, it can have detrimental long-term effects, leading to employee burnout and turnover. Github’s Zach Holman writes about the effects of positive feedback on the workplace:

I think our industry does feedback really poorly. I sure as hell do. My first impulse whenever I see a comp is to shit on it. Honestly. Even if it looks great. Especially if it looks great. We instinctively want to pick apart any deficiencies as soon as possible because that’s how product is created. We build things incrementally, chipping away the rough edges until we have a clean polished surface underneath it all.

His advice? Give it a second:

If I see a monumentally bad idea come across my inbox, I’ve been trying to first let it simmer for a few hours or days. It’s surprisingly made me a much happier human. You don’t get suckered into as many passionate debates because you’re able to come into the discussion with a much cooler head. Many times I end up seeing why the decision was made in the first place. There are always a myriad of tiny invisible decisions that go into building a product, and you can’t understand all of them three minutes into glancing at someone’s work.

Read his entire essay here.

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The Single-Most Powerful Attribute All Geniuses Share

Creativity pie chart by James Clear

Creativity pie chart by James Clear

What separates the likes of Steve Jobs, J.K. Rowling, or Pablo Picasso from the rest of us? Over at Entrepreneur, James Clear argues it comes down to pure grit:

How do creative geniuses come ups with great ideas? They work and edit and rewrite and retry and pull out their genius through sheer force of will and perseverance. They earn the chance to be lucky because they keep showing up…

No single act will uncover more creative powers than forcing yourself to create consistently….For you, it might mean singing a song over and over until it sounds right. Or programming a piece of software until all the bugs are out, taking portraits of your friends until the lighting is perfect, or caring for the customers you serve until you know them better than they know themselves.

It might seem like an unfortunate answer, nobody wants to hear that the best way to do anything is to “work for it,” but the advice also shines as a reminder that genius-level ideas are obtainable, they just take work. Of course, knowing when to quit and when to grit are important as well.

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Molly Crabapple: Make a Career That Fits You

crabapple black

In a time when old institutions are restructuring or collapsing, artist and writer Molly Crabapple urges individuals not to change who they are to be “professionally viable.” There is no longer a system you can enter and be set until retirement. Instead, she suggests creating a career unique to you.

…focus in on your weirdness, your passions, and your f***ed-up damage, and be yourself as truly as you can. Express that with as much craft, discipline, and rigor as you can; work as hard as you can to build a career out of that, and then you’ll create a career that you love and that’s true to yourself, as opposed to doing what you think other people want and burning yourself out when you’re older.

Don’t change who you are to fit the work out there — find that work that fits you.

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Public Speaking 101: Focus on Your Topic & the Words Will Come

Icon by Martin Smith from The Noun Project

Icon by Martin Smith from The Noun Project

A study from last year confirmed that many people find public speaking to be more anxiety-inducing than death.  As such, when practicing for client pitches, boardrooms and the stage, we often nervously prioritize style over substance by focusing on how to say things (your tone, pace, gestures, etc.) rather than what to say.

John Coleman suggests that we reverse our approach by focusing on what to say, not how to say it:

Focus on memorizing key stories and statistics, rather than practicing our delivery. If you spend your time on how to say something perfectly, you’ll stumble through those phrasings, and you’ll forget all the details that can make them come alive. Or worse, you’ll slavishly read from a PowerPoint or document rather than hitting the high points fluidly with your audience. If you know your topic, the words will come.

Trust your knowledge of the subject matter. Pick your key points and let the words find themselves.

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What Do You Measure Your Productivity By?

Measure designed by Ryan Beck from the Noun Project

Measure designed by Ryan Beck from the Noun Project

If you want to get more done in your day, venture capitalist Sam Altman says it’s all about figuring out your main priorities. After all, what you measure by is what you execute on:

Value gets captured by execution. . . I used to make a list of everything I got done at the end of the day. It was remarkable how I could feel like I had a really busy day and realize that night I got nothing done. . .

You build what you measure—if you measure your productivity by the number of meetings you have in a day, you will have a lot of meetings.  If you measure yourself by revenue growth or number of investments closed or something like that, you will probably have fewer meetings.

If you believe that going to space is the most important project for humanity, then work on it.  If you can’t figure out how to raise hundreds of millions of dollars, go work for SpaceX (joining a great company is a much better plan than starting a mediocre one).  If enterprise software is what you really love, then work on that.

And if, at the end of the day, you find that your list isn’t as long or doesn’t contain what you thought it would, Altman reminds us that it’s easy to change course tomorrow: all you have to do is re-direct your aim.

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How Do Well-Meaning People End up Making Poor Decisions?

Confusion designed by Kelcey Benne from the Noun Project

Confusion designed by Kelcey Benne from the Noun Project

Over at Harvard Business Review, Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman delve into a study they conducted with over 50,000 leaders to determine what guides some of us to making poor decisions. Their research concludes with nine key habits to avoid:

1. Laziness. This showed up as a failure to check facts, to take the initiative, to confirm assumptions, or to gather additional input. Basically, such people were perceived to be sloppy in their work and unwilling to put themselves out. They relied on past experience and expected results simply to be an extrapolation of the past.

2. Not anticipating unexpected events. It is discouraging to consistently consider the possibility of negative events in our lives, and so most people assume the worst will not happen. Unfortunately, bad things happen fairly often. People die, get divorced, and have accidents. Markets crash, house prices go down, and friends are unreliable.

3. Indecisiveness. At the other end of the scale, when faced with a complex decision that will be based on constantly changing data, it’s easy to continue to study the data, ask for one more report, or perform yet one more analysis before a decision gets made. When the reports and the analysis take much longer than expected, poor decision makers delay, and the opportunity is missed.

Zenger and Folkman go on to describe the other six, less powerful, habits that lead us to making poor choices. Do yourself a favor and read the full list of habits over on HBR, then take some time to see which of them you might need to overcome.

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The Science Behind Being Cool

 

Cool Designed by SuperAtic LABS for the Noun Project

Cool Designed by SuperAtic LABS for the Noun Project

Being cool means straying from the norm, but recent studies have shown that if you stray too far, your brand or design may be strongly disliked. Unconventionality alone is not enough (for example, Segways are far from conventional, but not necessarily cool). Marketing scholar Caleb Warren explains that cool designs need to challenge norms, but not be too extreme.  

Being cool requires a very delicate balance of doing something that shows that you go your own way and do your own thing, but you do it in a way that is socially desirable or at least acceptable.

The problem with being cool is that soon others will begin to imitate you. Slowly this will shift what was once cool to conventional, and you’re back at being uncool. As Warren says, “if you’re really doing something right, the chances are the coolness isn’t going to last because you’re going to shift what is the norm.” Our advice? Forget the fleetingness of cool and focus on creating things you enjoy, no matter where they fall on the spectrum.

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