Take Wrong Turns
You are always making up the future as you go.
Quote of the Moment
Take wrong turns. Talk to strangers. Open unmarked doors. And if you see a group of people in a field, go find out what they are doing. Do things without always knowing how they’ll turn out. You’re curious and smart and bored, and all you see is the choice between working hard and slacking off. There are so many adventures that you miss because you’re waiting to think of a plan. To find them, look for tiny interesting choices. And remember that you are always making up the future as you go.
| Randall Munroe, xkcd: volume 0
Pronita Mehrotra, Anu Arora, and Sandeep Krishnamurthy offer up 3 Common Fallacies About Creativity.
The first? The Productivity Illusion:
Trying to resolve things too quickly, especially for complex problems, is detrimental to innovation because you fall prey to premature closure. Resistance to premature closure — a key aspect of creativity — is our ability to keep an open mind when we already have a potential solution. Some of the best solutions don’t come in the initial meeting or two, but after a longer incubation period. While mantras like “move fast and break things” can help push people towards action, they can backfire when the underlying problem is complex. In such situations, resisting the temptation to find a solution quickly (and often less creatively), and instead urging the team (much to their frustration) to keep searching for more ideas can lead to more innovative and far-reaching solutions.
To avoid premature closure, teams should arrive at an “almost final” decision and then intentionally delay action in favor of additional incubation time. During this time, everyone should commit to thinking about the problem and sharing their ideas. If the team can’t find a better approach during the incubation period, they should proceed with their original solution.
In short: Avoid premature closure.
Second? The Intelligence Illusion, where critics of ideas are considered more intelligent than those than synthesize creatively.
When Steve Jobs took over Pixar, it had been struggling to produce a blockbuster despite being home to some of the smartest people. After noticing that excessive criticisms were shooting down creative ideas, he instituted a policy of “plussing,” where one could only offer a criticism if it included a potential solution. That simple strategy pushed people from being criticizers to creators, changed team dynamics completely and led to a string of successes starting with the development of the movie Toy Story.
Leaders can improve group creativity by paying close attention to how ideas are discussed in diverse group settings. They should encourage team members to build on each other’s ideas instead of pushing individual ideas. This doesn’t mean that ideas should be accepted blindly when they contain flaws; instead, they should approach ideas with an open mind to acknowledge useful aspects and improve weaknesses using plussing or the similar “yes, but, and” approach
In short: Blunt the power of criticism.
Third? The Brainstorming Illusion:
Ideation can be limited in group settings because of production blocking (when people don’t get a chance to interject their idea), evaluation apprehension (a fear of being judged negatively), lack of psychological safety (entrenched power structures) and social loafing (hiding in the group and not contributing a fair share).
To promote more creative ideas, leaders should utilize simple tools to capture individual ideas before they are opened to the whole group. Group discussions should be conducted asynchronously, where team members look at each other’s ideas and use them to refine and create new ideas. If done remotely, leaders should find other ways to bring the team together to bond and build trust with each other.
In short: Harness the greater creativity of individuals prior to any group ‘brainstorming’, and make group ‘brainstorming’ asynchronous.
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In 2021 was another successful year for journalism’s unionization movement, Angela Fu documents various union advances in the media world. Here are some samples:
The NewsGuild broke its annual organizing record with 1,542 journalists across 26 workplaces joining the union
This year saw several large newsrooms with upwards of 100 employees each unionize, including Insider, Politico, Forbes and The Atlantic. Units at all four newsrooms joined the NewsGuild. The Writers Guild of America, East, which represents broadcast and digital journalists, organized the 322-person MSNBC Union.
And of course the endless pushback by publishers, like the New York Times:
Workers at a handful of newsrooms are still waiting to see whether their union drives will succeed. Of these, the largest is the Times Tech Guild, which is organizing with the NewsGuild to represent more than 650 tech workers at The New York Times. The company has refused to recognize the union, forcing the issue to an NLRBelection.
The Times Tech Guild has filed multiple unfair labor practice charges against the company. Just last month, they held a rally outside the New York Times building with other Times employees in protest of the company’s “anti-union” tactics. Both sides are awaiting an NLRB ruling to move forward with an election, which Schleuss estimates will take place early next year.
Fu zeroed in on Medium, which has fought unionization efforts:
In perhaps the most high-profile failed union drive in recent years, 150 workers at Medium had to halt their organizing efforts with the Communication Workers of America this spring after they lost an online election to determine support for a union. After the vote, Vice reported that Medium CEO Ev Williams emailed staff announcing changes to the company’s editorial strategy and inviting journalists “who would like to take a different path” to quit.
Well of course he did.
In a bizarro world take on dealing with email overload, Matt Plummer provides some useful stats but then makes exactly the wrong suggestions about dealing with it:
The average professional spends 28% of the work day reading and answering email, according to a McKinsey analysis. For the average full-time worker in America, that amounts to a staggering 2.6 hours spent and 120 messages received per day.
Over-checking email wastes 21 minutes per day. On average, professionals check their email 15 times per day, or every 37 minutes.
So, between checking email six times more than needed, letting notifications interrupt us, and taking time to get back on track, we lose 21 minutes per day.
But instead of suggesting changes to a company’s cultural expectations — treating email as an asynchronous communication channel with a one-day turnaround and simply checking email less frequently and giving everyone more time to do real work — Plummer suggests checking email hourly:
Turn off notifications and schedule time (about 5 to 8 minutes) every hour to check email. For some roles in some professions, this is not viable. And it may feel very uncomfortable to those who are accustomed to being on top of everything that comes in and responding within minutes. But most who try it find that their rapid response times have been unnecessary.
Jayne Chako of WHAM reports that New York will be tightening rules on workplace surveillance:
On May 7, employers will be required to provide written notice to employees if they are being electronically monitored in any way. Employers will also have to post the notice and give employees an annual notice.
A strange piece by Emily Gallagher that seems to be laying the groundwork for converting unused conference room space into offices-with-doors, but instead advocates for booths:
We have a logistical need for more individualized private space which exacerbates the already aggravating problem of conference room misuse. But we already know that building more conference rooms isn’t going to solve this problem. […] As the dust settles in the pandemic and post-pandemic world of video conference calls and hybrid work schedules, office booths might be a perfect solution to optimizing space while making more wiggle room in the office budget.
Because companies are too cheap to go back to individual offices.
In The power of power consciousness, Josh Levs summarizes the work of social psychologists John R.P. French Jr. and Bertram Raven who arrayed organizational or social power into six categories.
Coercive power: Person A can face negative consequences if they don’t comply with Person B.
Reward power: A can receive a reward if they do comply with B.
Legitimate power: An official hierarchy or rule provides B with the “legitimate right” to influence A.
Referent power: A likes, admires, or respects B, and wants to behave like B, giving B the power to influence A.
Expert power: A perceives B to have greater knowledge or competence in an area, and is therefore more likely to comply.
Informational power: B has some control over how much information A receives; knowing less makes A more likely to comply with what B wants.
Thanks Stowe and awesome way to finish 2021