Tag Archives: Thinking

Do You Have Ideas? Great, Write About Them

I came across a great post recently that you might say, is one of my guiding principles here — everyone should write:

You don’t talk about these ideas, even in your own head, because you’ve never put them into words. […] We’re all brimming with opinions on these topics that we may never discuss, even with ourselves. […] Writing crystallizes ideas in ways thinking on its own will never accomplish.

[…]

Sometimes writing is encouraging. You realize you understand a topic better than you thought. The process flushes out all kinds of other ideas you never knew you had hiding upstairs. Now you can apply those insights elsewhere.

Other times it’s painful. Forcing the logic of your thoughts into words can uncover the madness of your ideas. The holes. The flaws. The biases. Thinking “I want this job because it pays a lot of money” is bearable. Seeing the words on paper looks ridiculous. Things the mind tends to gloss over the pen tends to highlight.

These are exactly some of the reasons that I write. Sometimes, you think you have this grand idea and you’ve been carrying it around for months. You think, “if only they would have done it like this, things would be so much better.” However, when you take 10 minutes to sit down and try and write about this thought, you realize, there are a thousand different reasons why they didn’t do it the way you thought and are instead, doing it the way they are doing it.

Of course, there are also those times that when you do sit down to write, you realize that your idea is even better than you had originally thought. OK, maybe that doesn’t happen as often, but fleshing out ideas is an important step in the creative process.

Another important reason why I like to write is because I find that if I keep the ideas in my mind, they continue to swirl around. By extension, this doesn’t leave “room” for other ideas to float in. I know this is kind of limiting, but sometimes, I feel like I need to get the ideas out of my head and onto the page, so that new ideas can make their way in. It seems absurd that there is a “finite” amount of space inside one’s mind, but as it happens, we tend to think about the same stuff over and over. Additionally, I thought I had come across something from Einstein, Franklin, or one of the other famous creatives on the importance of writing everyday (for this very purpose), but I can’t seem to find it. Either way, that’s not what’s important. What’s important – writing something. So, get on with it – write something!

You don’t have to publish what you write, though I find that it helps me to be a bit more focused. If I know that there’s a chance that someone might read what I’m writing (eventually) I’m motivated to be at least a little polished. I know errors will still make it through, but on the whole, the meaning still gets through.

Alright, your turn…

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Why It’s Important to Have Diversity (in age!) in Your Work Teams

If you had to guess, would you say that younger people or older people are better at learning abstract causal principles?

When first thinking about this question, I would have thought that older people would be better at this given that they have more experience and that they might have been in analogous situations. However, the research seems to indicate that younger folks are better at things like this. Here’s a passage from the researchers that specifically address my thought that experience would be helpful:

The very fact that older learners know more may make it more difficult for them to learn something new. Once a learner has inferred a general principle (e.g., that people act because of their traits, or that individual objects, rather than combinations of objects or relations between them, have causal powers), that principle may constrain his or her interpretation of new data. Causal relationships that conflict with that principle may then be more difficult to learn.

Certainly this research is important, but the thing I want to highlight here is work teams. Specifically, this study points to the importance of having diverse w0rk teams. It’s important to remember that diversity doesn’t just mean people of different genders and different races, but people of different ages, too. If we mix in folks with different “levels of experience,” we might have a better chance of coming up with a solution to the issue than if we just used folks who were all of the same level experience.

Further to that, I was thinking about how this research comes into play when we think of top management teams or corporate boards. Recall the post I wrote recently that discussed the importance of diversity at the board-level. I don’t remember there being anything related to age in that article, but I also suspect that conducting research on age as it relates to boards or top management teams might be difficult. Usually, we find folks who’ve reached a certain level of experience before they’re considered for work on a corporate board or considered for a promotion to the top management team. Maybe we need to start thinking about considering some younger folks for positions in these roles.

ResearchBlogging.orgGopnik, A., Griffiths, T., & Lucas, C. (2015). When Younger Learners Can Be Better (or at Least More Open-Minded) Than Older Ones Current Directions in Psychological Science, 24 (2), 87-92 DOI: 10.1177/0963721414556653

Wealth Distribution in America: It’s Not What Americans Think or Want

There were some interesting enlightening findings published last year from two well-respected researchers (Norton and Ariely) on the topic of wealth distribution. I remember seeing it last year when it came out and it being rather startling. I came across it again a couple of weeks ago and had it bookmarked to see if I could glean any other insights from it. I stumbled across the bookmark this morning and thought I’d post it here, in case any of you had any thoughts you wanted to offer on the research findings.

Specifically, I’m referring to a chart that came from the article the two researchers published and was reproduced by Mother Jones (political magazine). Here’s the chart from Mother Jones (note: the chart from the published journal article is the same in content):

Average Income by Family, distributed by income group.

A bit startling, huh? I find it fascinating that Americans want the top 20% to have ~32% and that they actually have almost triple that much!

Some important things to think about from the authors [emphasis added]:

Given the consensus among disparate groups on the gap between an ideal distribution of wealth and the actual level of wealth inequality, why are more Americans, especially those with low income, not advocating for greater redistribution of wealth? First, our results demonstrate that Americans appear to drastically underestimate the current level of wealth inequality, suggesting they may simply be unaware of the gap. Second, just as people have erroneous beliefs about the actual level of wealth inequality, they may also hold overly optimistic beliefs about opportunities for social mobility in the United States, beliefs which in turn may drive support for unequal distributions of wealth. Third, despite the fact that conservatives and liberals in our sample agree that the current level of inequality is far from ideal, public disagreements about the causes of that inequality may drown out this consensus. Finally, and more broadly, Americans exhibit a general disconnect between their attitudes toward economic inequality and their self-interest and public policy preferences, suggesting that even given increased awareness of the gap between ideal and actual wealth distributions, Americans may remain unlikely to advocate for policies that would narrow this gap.

The ironic piece to this entire discussion is that conservatives and liberals agree that the level of inequality is ideal. However, as with just about everything in politics these days, these two ideologically different groups of people disagree about the best way to resolve it.

Are You Feeling Stuck on a Project?

The short answer: go get some exercise.

The longer (and slightly tangential) answer: Get out of the house. Leave the office. Get a change of scenery. Head down to the beach. Walk to the park. Some people like to say that our outside reality is a reflection of our inside reality. So, if your stuck on a project (can’t think of what to do next), then it’s possible that your workspace may also be ‘messy.’ By cleaning up your workspace, it may ‘clear up space’ in your head to allow you to think of what to do next in the project.

Back to the shorter answer: exercise. This is similar to the longer answer in that having your physical workspace (untidy) may be having an effect on your mental workspace. Let’s say someone is stuck on a project. They can’t quite connect the dots on something. They try and try and try by staring at the project materials to consider what the next avenue may be. Essentially, they’re stuck and can’t . By going and exercising, this person could shake-up their physical environment, which would have a cascading effect on their mental environment. There’s than I’m willing to get into this morning, but the next time you’re feeling stuck on a project, consider going for a walk, a run, a swim, or some other form of exercise.

Do You Know Your Biases?

“You will learn from others around you being skeptical more than you will learn by becoming skeptical.” –

This past October, a world-renowned psychologist () published his latest book, . I’ve read a lot of reviews of the book and seen many of the interviews of him about this book and one of my favorite quotes (above) comes from the video (below). Take a few minutes and watch:

Kahneman, along with have done so much for the fields of psychology and economics. Some say that this book is the culmination of their work. I have enjoyed reading Kahneman and Tversky’s work through the years and think that their contribution on the subject of is monumental.

The quote I started this post with (…learn more from others around you being skeptical…) is worth talking about for a little bit. When I first heard him say that, I must have replayed it at least a dozen times. I heard the words he was saying, but it took some time for the wisdom to sink in. So what is it that Kahneman was saying?

Have you ever heard of an ? It’s the idea that your ideas and beliefs are reinforced (or amplified) because those that you tell them to share said beliefs. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you’re familiar with and some of the , you know how hard it is to break from the group’s opinion on a topic. I don’t think that Kahneman was referring to this phenomenon in particular, but if you think about how hard it is to break from the group’s dominant viewpoint, it would make some sense that being “skeptical” yourself is not as easy as it sounds. However, if those around you are skeptical, it will be easier to learn from their skepticism about a given topic.

So, as you think about assembling your next business team or you’re just talking with your friends, remember how important and valuable the dissenting voice can be. Remember that having a  might not be the best idea. Remember how hard it is to be the singular dissenting voice. Remember to encourage healthy disagreement and an analysis from all sides. You’ll be much better off.