Have you considered a question?

A few weeks ago, I was asked to present for a group of CX professionals on leveraging data in their work, like telling people that the floor is made out of floor. It felt so contentious that I would describe what they needed to do as yet another white man.

The issue with telling other people what to do is that there is one certainty: you do not get any wiser out of it. Since it is just you telling people what you already know while hoping that it is somewhat relevant for them.

You do not precisely know what is relevant for the people you are presenting to, even when they have told you what they would like to know. You do not know their exact background, what they already have done, what they could do and why they are here. So why assume that your slides with statements are relevant.

You don’t always have to be the smartest person in the world.
It is better and easier to be the best at explaining things.
That local maximum will get a better outcome most of the time than absolute brilliance if there is no ability to recreate or incept that idea in others.

Garry Tan

Enter: questions

Questions are way more fun than making statements about how the world is. Since you are never talking about THE world, you are talking about how you see the world and what worked for you. It is survivor bias in the purest form.

However, when asking questions, you trigger your audience to apply their domain knowledge differently. If you can help people to rethink their reality and open their minds, you are doing a better job than telling people what to do while they do not know why they should do it.

Ask the big questions:

  • How would it look like if X
  • What is the 1 thing
  • If you are wrong and the others are right, what does it mean
  • How do you know what to do, if nobody tells you
  • If you did not know anything about this, what would it mean

It is not about forcing people to your answer with your questions. It is about being naturally curious and opening doors, even doors that are closed for you, since what is more beautiful than while you are helping others to discover and learn that you are on precisely the same journey with them.

Next time you have to explain something to experts. Consider not presenting with statements. Explore it together with them with questions. You do not have to have all the answers since you will discover better ones together.

Don’t waste your energy on judging

Good message, lousy packaging, friendly person, horrible person, good food, nice place, never go there again, I am so stupid, he is silly, I look stupid, this should be easy.

We are judging all the time, though why, and does it help you?

I don’t judge anybody, I start studying them, why did they do that. Not in a judging way, but to learn from them

David Goggins

How does judging others help you? It doesn’t. It might wind you up. It might give you a way to vent, though, in the end, you are still in the same place, with less energy. You can learn anything from anybody: is somebody doing horrible things? Learn to be not that kind of person. Somebody is doing something stupid but still making a lot of money? Learn what they do right to make that money, and avoid being stupid.

Spend your energy on learning and improving yourself. There is nothing gained by pointing your finger at people and judging.

You cannot look at other’s people performance to judge your performance. You have to look at yourself

Max Verstappen

Comparison is the root of all unhappiness. For example, the comparison with other people or a “future you” that you have not yet become. If you feel the need to judge yourself, look at “past you”, did you put in the work to better than who you was yesterday, last week of last year.

It is about putting in the work to improve. Consistency is the one thing that allows you to make progress since success is one thing at a time.

Find that one thing for tomorrow, work on it, and accept that putting in the effort is good enough. Do not judge whether or not you are good enough to anybody’s standards, including your own. As long you keep working, you keep on improving and as long as you keep on improving, you will get better.

Delegation sparks joy

If you do not delegate some of your work, you are not only limiting your impact, but you are also withholding opportunities and fun from others. Delegation is not about you not doing the things on your list. It is about making it a team effort to go beyond the list and achieve great things and an exercise in humility.

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.

CS Lewis

Delegation is more than handing off work or putting employees to work. Delegation done right results in a net positive increase in productivity, happiness, impact, and a feeling of being into it together. Delegation is not about freeing up your time. It is about making other people grow.

Do people hate extra work?

You might be fearful that the one on the receiving end will despise you since you are handing off work. But will they? Have you checked with them how they think about picking some items up from your list? Maybe it is not even an item yet, but it is just a thought you had, you have not explored yet, and now they have the joy of exploring.

As long as the delegation is not dumping, most people will enjoy it when you think of them for exciting opportunities. It is an opportunity to do something they usually do not do. It is likely something new (please do not delegate the menial tasks to the same people repeatedly) and do exciting things.

Does it spark joy?

Though “Does it spark joy?”, as modern philosophers would ask? The delegatee could be happy, but are you? Please write it down how you feel. Write down everything you delegate and how you feel about it. First of all, you might discover your list is too short and might want to delegate more. Keep in mind that delegating is less about you and your work. It is about the others and how you help them grow.

What happens if you are unhappy about delegating, but the one you delegated to is ecstatic? Can you take one for the team? Since if that person’s happiness is +2 and yours is -1, net happiness just increased in your team. Though be careful, since net happiness might be positive, it doesn’t mean that you should go into the red and be unhappy.

Trust is better than filtering

Do not filter work in detail before delegating. Have that conversation with people if they believe they can do it. It is not what you think. If they feel they can do it, let them at it. If they can’t, be there to support and let them learn. Happy little surprises happen if they can. Let them happen. Do not micro-manage or monitor. People know it when you are staring over their shoulder, even when virtual. Do agree; however, you stay in touch and can support them. Since delegation is not dumping, you still want to stay connected.

Delegate sidewards and upwards

Delegation is not a hierarchical activity. It does not just work passing from the top to the bottom. If you are good at delegating, you delegate sidewards and upwards. And all the same, suggestions apply:

  • List what you delegate and how it makes you feels
  • Agree on what good might look like together
  • Trust the judgement of others
  • Agree on how to stay informed (if needed) while you empowers others

Delegation is not easy. You give up control of something you know you can do (and do very well). However, you provide other people with the opportunity to grow, to do something they like and in some cases: to pick up the things you do not have time for.

Get comfortable with the uneasiness of delegation and enjoy increasing your impact by sharing work with others and giving others a new opportunity to make more impact and increase their visibility.

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Categorized as leadership

Rate this from 1-10

The easiest thing to do is rate something from 1-10 since you know what a one for you is and ten for you. You can give the same answers as somebody else with this scale, but are the answers the same, or did you select the exact numbers but you meant something else.

In the Netherlands, where I live, a seven or an eight is good. You do not get a nine or a 10. We consider that too much, not because we dislike it, but because we score very conservatively. This mindset is disastrous for anybody trying to do anything around Net Promotor scores.

The workaround is that the people asking for an NPS tell you that if you are happy or satisfied that you should select “the very satisfied” option, which is at the end of the scale. And even while you might not be delighted, you might do it because the instruction tells you you should choose the extreme option over de moderate ones. This instruction helps people get some promoter scores (9s and 10s). However, they might not capture the real intends from people.

Net promoter score (NPS) is a widely used market research metric that typically takes the form of a single survey question asking respondents to rate the likelihood that they would recommend a company, product, or service to a friend or colleague. [..]The NPS assumes a subdivision of respondents into “promoters” who provide ratings of 9 or 10, “passives” who provide ratings of 7 or 8, and “detractors” who provide ratings of 6 or lower. 

NPS Wikipedia page

Image by u/vladgrinch showing the different grading systems in just Europe

Decision Hygiene

To not fall into this trap, you could introduce good decision hygiene. Decision hygiene consists of ensuring accuracy, breaking the tasks /judgements down, making them independent, and refraining from adding any information that could create bias.

Accuracy

First of all, make sure that not any of the scores is an individual expression (personal interpretation of a judgement) but an accurate one.

Break it down and make it independent

Please do not make it one single question/score. Make it several independent tasks. Break down complex judgement (are you likely to tell a friend about it, how difficult is it to work with us, are you happy with the service delivered) into smaller fact-based assessments and ensure that each one is evaluated independently for others.

No extra information when not needed

Do not add information that people do not need to complete a questionnaire or survey, not even when accurate.

If you want to get feedback from customers on what they think, make sure that they can express themselves in a way that does justice to their viewpoints.

Don’t ask questions

You should not ask questions if it matters what the answer is. We are taught early on that asking questions is a great way to learn new things and to progress and it is true. However, if you make your questions too open, you might end up somewhere you do not want to go. Do not open for questions just to be polite and have other’s people voices heard, open up for questions when there is a real need to get answers.

Imagine you did an outstanding presentation to a group of people on how you think you should approach a specific project. And to be kind and inclusive, you decide to ask the question:

So, what should we do next?

You put your fate and that of the project in the goodwill of the people. Since they can now define what will happen next since you asked them, you might have a preference, but that preference is now almost off the table since you asked them what to do next. If the answer is not what you expected, you need to juggle a lot to get it to your original preference.

If you want to narrow it down, you, of course, close some options and ask

Out of options A, B and C, what do you think is the one to pick?

And there you are again, putting your fate into the hands of others. Not as horrible as the previous question, now at least you know the options, but you probably do not love options A, B and C equally. If your group goes for option A and you wanted option C, well, start your stakeholder management already to get where you originally wanted to be.

If you care a lot about the answer, do not give people the option to change it. If instead of your question, you will tell them:

These are the five next steps and this is your role I see.

What happens is that you might have a conversation on the direction, and you might also get some suggestions in case they would change something. However, it is still all in your hands, and you can decide what happens next. Hint: intelligent people always listen, even when they think they are right.

Summary

Don’t ask questions if you have a strong feeling about the answer. Ask questions when you either do not care what the answer should be or/and when you need others to provide input and impact what happens next based on their response.

Published
Categorized as creativity

Trust your ideas (but still kill them)

Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.

David Allen

This quote is the core of the “Getting Things Done” (GTD) work-life management system. And the suggestion is to put the ideas you have on lists. Such lists give you a clear mind, and you can follow up on your thoughts whenever you are ready.

However, there is a caveat to putting everything in lists and leaving it there. Such lists are often giving you the hope that your idea was good. Since you captured it, it exists, and because it exists, it probably is good. If these ideas were so extremely significant, you would be working on them right now. You might say: “But I cannot work on everything right now”. No, therefore, you choose to work on better ideas.

Kill your darlings

Maybe when you are not working on your better ideas, you are making not the right decisions. To know whether you are working on the right ideas, the Review in GTD plays such an important role. Making lists is one thing. To get the list clean, clear, and current is of equal importance.

Having those items in the list produces shame that you are not working on them. And of course, you will promise that you will work on those ideas next time.

Conviction in our ideas is dangerous not only because it leaves us vulnerable to false positives, but also because it stops us from generating the requisite variety to reach our creative potential.

Adam Grant

If you cling to ideas and keep them on your list forever, you are not helping yourself. Be ruthless when reviewing your lists.

The Canary in Coal Mine

Your recurring ideas are a canary in the coal mine. Either you are prioritizing the wrong ideas to work on, or you are too invested in ideas that are not important. Either way, you need to revisit this, determine the root cause, and see what this canary tells you (sometimes, you need to say to the canary, “shut up” because it is not the idea to work on at all).

Good ideas resurface. Important ideas do not resurface. They are always there. Ideas are cheap. Throwing one away does not cost you anything.

The ones that survive and bring value are either the good ones or the ones that are too important to ignore. Trust your review process to find the ones you should be working on and make it happen.

Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.

Jerzy Gregorek
Published
Categorized as creativity

Sometimes an idea should just not suck

Knowing what an idea should not be, is, in many cases, easier and more practical than figuring out what the perfect idea would be. Especially since what is the end of perfection, what type of perfection is good enough?

Moving forward with ideas is all about knowing what is good enough. And to establish your level of acceptance of good enough, it is sometimes the easiest to define what you want to stay away from.

It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent.

Charlie Munger

It might be obvious, but not being stupid is a viable strategy. Like chess, grandmasters often win by not losing, and an easy way to get rich is not to go bankrupt (when others do). Figure out what makes your idea not stupid, and you are halfway there.

Are the actions you need to do to bring your idea to life reversible? Move forward full speed. If it doesn’t work, you can go back and choose a different path or different view. If the actions are irreversible, consider making your idea smaller into reversible chunks so you can experiment care-free.

Most notably with every idea: get real. The issue is not having a list of ideas. It is about having good ideas. Go out and test your ideas in reality. If it doesn’t work: find a new concept to work on. The best way to come to high-quality ideas is by having a lot of them and getting them in touch with reality.

Choose quantity over quality.

Not stupid over being intelligent.

Finally: take action. The more you practice, the more you learn, the closer you reach your goal.

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Categorized as creativity

How to be lucky?

Let’s talk about how to be lucky via a set of 5 quotes

There are only two things that determine how your life turns out: luck and the quality of your decisions. You have control over only one of those two things.

Annie Duke

Please do not wait till you get lucky. As Annie Duke shares in her excellent book How to Decide, the one thing you can control and improve is the quality of your decisions. You increase the chances that good things will happen to you by doing so.

What do other people say about how you can increase your chances of being lucky?

Good luck arises from putting yourself in the best position to take advantage of events. As often as not, bad luck is evidence that you are on the wrong track.

Ronald Cohen

As with many things, luck will find you when you are sweating. Put yourself in that best position. However, if you ran over and over again into a wall, perhaps consider there is no door in this wall, and you need to take a different direction. There is no requirement for good luck to appear after bad luck, so change your route if you find bad luck on your way.

In nearly any competitive endeavor, you have to be damned good before luck can be of any use to you at all.

Gary Kasparov

When does luck make a difference? Long after you have completed hard work. Long after you build your capabilities and experience. After that, luck can play a role and impact any outcome. Before that, your skill gap overshadows everything that luck could make up for you.

Work, time, and luck come with achieving a goal. Just know that if you pursue your goal with a steady drumbeat, the length between start and success will continually shrink.

Bob Bowman

It is no guarantee that luck will visit you if you work long enough and hard enough. Since then, it would not be luck but fate. As long you put in the work, and the time deliberately, luck might follow you and help you reach your goals.

What if you are somebody who says that luck does not exist? Perhaps Jean Cocteau can convince you why you should consider it is existing:

We must believe in luck. For how else can we explain the success of those we don’t like?

Jean Cocteau

Do not worry about being original. Produce and change the world

There was a moment I could not bring myself to write anything for years. The main reason was that I saw an immense amount of repetition of content, and I saw too many people claiming success that was not theirs.

That was nobody’s fault or problem. I was using the wrong lens to look at the world.

This is not about me not writing. It is about all of us who censor ourselves (in work, in private, in things we love to do) because we do not like the world (or company, hobby club, or department) we see and do not want to be like “those other people”.

Using the wrong lens

It is because of how we look at the world, not how it really is. Do not blame people for being successful with something you do not like. Learn how they did it and use it to change the world.

My problem was that I wanted to see original content. I did not realize that originality is not the Internet’s critical problem. It is the distribution of ideas. Ideas are not distributed to everyone at the same time.

How you can overcome this

Everything has already been done. every story has been told every scene has been shot. it’s our job to do it one better.

Stanley Kubrick

Originality is not dead. There is plenty to be original at. Though there is a chance what you do has been done before. So what. It doesn’t hold anybody else back and to be successful with it. Why would you? You know you can bring in something new, something different, more complete, a different angle, or anything. At least, you can have an idea that represents you and your viewpoints.

It is about producing not viewing

Don’t let your view of the world limit yourself. You can always push higher standards on yourself and be the person you want to see. If you are not producing any content, the world remains the same, and you are just sitting there with your high standards.

If you do not like the world you see: participate in it and change it. Pointing fingers at the sideline that it is wrong doesn’t help.

The way to come to power is not always to merely challenge the Establishment, but first, make a place in it and then challenge and double-cross the Establishment.

Francis Ford Coppola

Produce, go out there. It would help if you did it for yourself. You deserve it. You will see: many other people need what you are producing and have been waiting for it all along. If you are not producing, you are not thriving, and you definitely are not changing anything.

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Categorized as creativity

Be nice

Nobody ever disliked a nice person. Being nice is the most simple skill to build and use in your daily life. Being nice is its own reward most of the time.

One of the most underrated skills in business right now is being nice. Nice sells.

Mark Cuban
  • If you need help, to whom would you instead go? The nice person.
  • If you want advice, to whom would you instead go? The nice person.
  • If you want to catch up, to who would you instead go? The nice person.

People like nice people. Do not confuse being nice with being slimy, with somebody who constantly does lip service, who tells you what you want to hear. None of these things is about being nice. It might look nice and feel nice, though people will see through it and know it is disingenuous. People do not like deceitful people.

Don’t hold back

If you are nice, it doesn’t mean that you need to hold back. You can be nice and honest, nice and direct, nice and open, nice and disagreeable. It is how you behave. It is how much you care about the other. Since if you are just honest but not nice, you are just being mean.

Be nice. It doesn’t cost you anything extra. Niceness might be the best investment in your career. If you can interact with people, give them a good feeling, and resolve conflicts in a manner both parties value, you become an even more precious person.

Over time, your valuation pays out. Unfriendly people only go so far. Niceness has endless longevity. And as with most investments, time in the market beats timing in the market.

Be nice in 2022.