In his book, Originals, Adam Grant talks about how most original works are produced within the context of producing a large volume of material. This is because when you are producing a large volume of work, you have to reach further and further away from what is conventional to produce new work since you have already produced all the conventional stuff anyway.
I think sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking that if we want to be creative, we will create one, super creative thing. But the problem with that is that all of our first ideas, and usually even our tenth ideas, are still super ordinary. It’s only through pushing yourself to create more and more that you will be pushed to get truly creative, and that is when your best work will happen!
Communication centers around context. If I say to my wife, “how much did you spend?” as she is bringing in grocery bags from the car, the context and question are clear. But, if I ask my wife, “how much did you spend?” at the end of the day while sitting on the sofa, the question is odd and confusing.
I am finding that as communication technology gets easier, people get so excited to communicate their thought (after all, it’s just a quick text) that they completely forget to give the context around their communication. As a result, I get emails like, “Adam can we resolve today?” To which I respond, “Can we resolve what?” (that was a real email from last week).
When someone communicates without context I believe they are making the following mistakes:
- The sender is assuming the recipient has first-hand knowledge that they may or may not have.
- The sender is assuming the recipient has the issue being addressed top of mind just like they do (this is almost always not the case).
- The sender is too busy (frantic) and working too quickly (frantically) to think through their communication. So the sender pushes off the work of thinking to the recipient, making the recipient either dig around to figure out what is going on, or making the recipient respond with clarifying questions.
As a result, people send off communications with a question that might mean five different things based on the context of the question.
I confess that I have often been guilty of this often and have made all of the assumptions above. I have seen how this has frustrated my co-workers and wasted time. So, I have come up with the following little checklist to consider in sending communication:
- Am I sure the recipient will know exactly what I’m referring to?
- Am I sure the recipient has the necessary knowledge to help me or answer my question?
If the answer to both of those questions is yes, then I’m good to send the communication. But, if one of those answers is no, I need to provide more context.
Last year on vacation at Gulf Shores I stood on the balcony and noticed a cool pier down the beach. So, for one of our family activities, I suggested that we walk to it. My wife and I set out with our five kids in tow and headed to the pier. After about an hour of walking, we still weren’t at the pier, and I began to realize my mistake. Apparently when standing on a 13th-floor balcony looking down a clear beach the pier looks close, but in reality, that pier wasn’t close at all. But, when this epiphany struck it was too late, and we needed to push on to make it to the pier.
When we finally got there another realization dawned on me. There we were with five kids, on a walk that took much longer than expected, and it was now nearing lunch time! Not only were the kids tired from a long walk, but now they were hungry too. The pier did not have a lunch venue, but it did have a little concession stand, and that concession stand did have candy bars! You can guess what I did next. Yep, we ate candy bars for lunch, full-size ones! The kids loved it. After sugar overload, we walked back to the condo. I think the walk was about 5 miles in all, and their little legs were tired, but their hearts were happy.
We came back to the beach this year. Can you guess what tradition the kids were talking about on the way down? Sure enough, we headed out yesterday morning to the pier, battling a cold wind that blew sand to sting our legs. We made it there, got our candy bars and headed back. And, the kids loved it!
I tell this story to point out one thing. In building a family culture or company culture, it is important to have weird traditions with unexpected fun. These are the traditions that people will talk about and remember. These are the traditions that bind us together. These are the traditions we anticipate and tell other people about.
Here are a few photos from our adventure:
See, that pier is super close!
And here we go!
A little silliness is good too.
All smiles (early in the walk)
We found shells along the way
Sometimes the wind blew the sand so hard it hurt
We made it!
The candy reward for a long walk
Hatselfie under the pier
How certain do you need to be to take a risk? Do you need absolute certainty, say 95% chance that it will succeed? Do you need minimal certainty, say 25% chance that it will succeed? Or, do you need something in the middle?
This is a question that has fascinated me for years and helped me make some big decisions. I think the idea was originally something Andy Stanley said or some other teacher, I can’t recall. But, this premise that absolute certainty is impossible, so we must make decisions based on the risk we are willing to tolerate is interesting.
I find that I need about 50% to 70% certainty depending on what decision I’m making. For big decisions like, “should I take this job?” 70% lets me take the leap. For smaller decisions like, “should we hire someone now?” 50% lets me move forward.
I’m not very risk averse. Sometimes 30% will even do if the failure won’t be too large. Knowing this about myself has let me step out into the unknown many times. It has also allowed me to fail and to bounce back with optimism that the next time will work out better.
How sure do you need to be of something before you step off the cliff? Knowing the answer to that question is surprisingly freeing and helpful when making big decisions. There is no sure thing, it’s just a question of how much risk you are willing to tolerate. I suggest you decide ahead of time.
I’m a bit of a productivity nerd. I think about how to be productive a lot. I have also, from time to time, been a bit obsessive about productivity software. About eight years ago I was using a productivity software called Things. I really liked it. It was well designed and did everything I needed and more, but it had one problem, it would only sync from my laptop to my iPhone over wifi, not through the cloud. I waited for them to innovate and they didn’t do it quick enough for me, so I switched to OmniFocus. OmniFocus has been great, and I have used it for about six years (buying updates and whatnot). But, OmniFocus, like Things, hasn’t innovated fast enough and has been surpassed by Todoist.
Yesterday I tried Todoist for the first time and loved it so much I paid for the premium version the same day. Todoist does everything OmniFocus does (and more) but with a better user experience, making it particularly enjoyable to use.
This experience has me thinking about the importance of innovation. A great product or service is a great thing, but just because it is the best today doesn’t mean it will be the best tomorrow. In a market that is always moving and growing, there are always competitors looking to do it faster and better. OmniFocus, the software that I have loved for years, didn’t innovate and lost my business.
Are you innovating or are you losing?
When we were planning the first 48in48, I was convinced that our volunteers needed to have a great experience. After all, the volunteers are giving up an entire weekend to benefit nonprofits, so their experience should be top notch and a little fun. So I came up with the idea of giving them “moments of delight” during the event. That first event we created “moments of delight” by having a give away every three hours, serving surprise deserts (and BBQ) during late hours, and bringing in a famous former Atlanta Falcon to give a pep talk. The volunteer team loved it. Since then, each 48in48 has it’s own “moments of delight, ” and we remain committed to being sure the volunteers love their time with us.
Since starting 48in48, have been thinking more and more about creating moments of delight. How can I create moments of delight for my employees? How can I create moments of design for my kids and my wife?
A moment of delight can be simple, an unexpected moment of fun or a small gift. For my kids, it’s as simple as a tickle fight or bodyslam onto the sofa. For my wife, it might be buying her a new pack of gum, chapstick, or home decor item. For my employees, it might be an afternoon at Top Golf, or a goofy meme shared on slack. I think creating moments of delight can be simple and fun. I think everyone should smile at unexpected moments, and I hope to help provide some smiling opportunities to the people around me.