Discovery is not finding new lands, it’s something else

“The real act of discovery,” wrote Marcel Proust, “consists not in finding new lands but in seeing with new eyes.” The trick is to cultivate what George Carlin called “vuja dé”: a strange sense of unfamiliarity in the familiar, thereby revealing opportunities or solutions you hadn’t previously noticed.

But the question is: How? Manipulating the world we see through our mental lenses comes naturally to us. Seeing and manipulating the lenses themselves, on the other hand, feels much tougher: It’s like trying to explain the concept of water to fish. But Colum McCann’s eight-point-font trick points the way: Frequently, the way out of stuckness is to defamiliarize yourself with what you’re working on by shifting your perspective.

One simple technique is to put physical distance between yourself and the problem. Research suggests that people rate an idea as more creative when it’s described as having originated in some far-away country, perhaps because they picture it, in their mind’s eye, as “off in the distance,” so that only its most important features stand out. By contrast, when it’s pictured as being close at hand, they’re more likely to get bogged down in irrelevant details, or nitpicking objections. Maybe that’s why it always seems like you get your best ideas on airplanes, or hiking in Glacier National Park: Your challenges seem far off, so the basic contours of a solution to your problem, or the next step for your project, stand out.

If hopping on a plane isn’t an option right now, try simulating temporal distance instead: That’s the message of the timeworn advice to imagine the eulogy at your own funeral. Looking back at your life from this imagined future perspective, it’s suddenly far easier to see what really matters, which battles are worth fighting, and how you’ll be proud (or ashamed) to say you spent your time.

Alternatively, externalize your thoughts by writing them down in a journal. The point isn’t necessarily that you’ll have an instant breakthrough, but that by relating to your thinking in this “third-person” way, you’ll loosen the grip of the old assumptions, seeing your thoughts afresh, and creating potential for new insights.Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter exactly how you choose to deliver a jolt to your unseen assumptions and fixed perspectives. What really counts, when you’re faced with a challenge, is remembering that it’s even an option.

Read more at 99u

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We get the capitalism we deserve

wall street

Every era, every region and every civilization gets the capitalism it deserves. Currently, considered alternatives to capitalism are hard to identify. But within capitalism, very different variants and alternatives can be observed and even more of them can be imagined. It is their development that matters. The reform of capitalism is a permanent task. In this the critique of capitalism plays a central role.

in Jürgen Kocka, Capitalism: A Short History.

(h/t Diane Coyle, photo credit Martin Ceralde)

Less time does not promote deeper thought

mailboxes

[T]he more urgently technology incentivizes us to respond to a proposition, the more we rely on our own heuristics. Less time does not promote deeper thought.

Today, when you are compelled to comment right away, ask yourself, “How would I respond to this differently if I had to invest the time and effort to get an envelope and a stamp?”

via James Shelley – photo credit: Daria Nepriakhina

No need for testing. You CAN interview for emotional intelligence

Last week I was facilitating a People and Business Management workshop with managers from all over the U.S. and a question came up about whether personality instruments might be useful in the hiring process.

As luck would have it, I read an article in the Harvard Business Review that addresses this very issue. Here’s the author’s answer:

Don’t:

  • Use personality tests as a proxy for EI. Most of these tests attempt to measure what they say they do: personality. They do not measure specific competencies of emotional intelligence such as self-awareness, positive outlook, achievement orientation, empathy, or inspirational leadership.

  • Use a self-report test. There are two reasons these don’t work. First, if a person is not self-aware, how can he possibly assess his own emotional intelligence? And if he is self-aware, and knows what he’s missing, is he really going to tell the truth when trying to get a job?

  • Use a 360-degree feedback instrument, even if it is valid and even if it measures EI competencies, like the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory (ESCI) does. A tool like 360-degree feedback ought to be used for development, not evaluation. When these instruments are used to evaluate, people game them by carefully selecting the respondents, and even prepping them on how to score.

Holding a meeting of people from different cultures

In one of the People and Business Management workshops that I facilitate we ask participants to outline how they would approach their first meeting as the manager of a multicultural team. I’m always pleasantly surprised by the imagination and inclusiveness of the responses.

This article in the Harvard Business Review provides useful guidance. Here’s an excerpt:

Do

  • Study up on the variations that exist among cultures and how those differences play out in the workplace
  • Create protocols and establish norms so that your colleagues understand how meetings will run
  • Incentivize colleagues to step outside their cultural comfort zones by institutionalizing rewards around what you’re trying to motivate people to do

Don’t

  • Be hung up on how people from certain cultures are supposed to act—remember, people are capable of adapting and adjusting their cultural default
  • Force a perfect dynamic in meetings—solicit colleagues’ opinions in other venues and encourage people to provide feedback in different ways
  • Overlook the importance of team bonding—encourage colleagues to get to know each other outside of meetings so that cultural differences won’t seem as glaring

 

Visualizing empires decline

I am observing a surge in the management and organizations literature on the life and survival of corporations. I’m keeping a watchful eye on it and will report when relevant. In the meantime, here’s a visual refresher on the life and survival of empires.

The blind side of networks

Twitter will suggest that you listen to people who listen to each other. Amazon will suggest that you read something very much like what you just read. Even your search engine will try to make sure that you get results that are similar to the ones you clicked on last time. If you go with the flow, you’ll end up hearing the same narrow view recycled repeatedly – yet you’ll think you did your due diligence.

Don’t fool yourself.

Gather information from those who do not communicate with one another. In fact, you want to gather information from entire networks that do not communicate with one another. Truly rich and diverse information comes only when you hear, separately and independently, from “worlds” that do not overlap: from different parts of the earth, different economic sectors, different social demographics, different religions, languages, ideologies and cultures.

via Think You’re Well Connected? Stop Fooling Yourself.