The best protection is always to be working on hard problems. Writing novels is hard. Reading novels isn’t. Hard means worry: if you’re not worrying that something you’re making will come out badly, or that you won’t be able to understand something you’re studying, then it isn’t hard enough. There has to be suspense. — http://www.paulgraham.com/hs.html

I had never thought of worry in these terms. In my mind, worry was something to be reduced, put aside, and avoided.

But this really resonates with me. I worry a lot these days. At Emplify we’re tackling a really hard problem. How do you better understand how humans are doing emotionally at work in a way that impacts their output and productivity? That’s a non-trivial question. It is one that researchers struggle with, most companies don’t really care about, yet one that the world must answer if we’re going to continue the stunning pace of growth and innovation that we’re on.

What really gets in the way of actually solving these problems? In my experience it is when there isn’t a shared sense of worry. Or when the worry is wasted on issues not core to the problem being tackled. We see this in the societal worry differences over global warming. In almost every major issue humans are endeavoring to change, you see some focused relentlessly on the core issue and others saying there isn’t really an issue and that the impact of the first party’s focus will cause other issues to become worse.

In companies this manifests in perpetual frustration and communication misses.

  • If we focus only on the problem we’re solving and ignore our revenue goals, we won’t have runway to solve the problem.
  • If we distract ourselves by figuring out external messaging, we’ll neglect to develop a shared understanding of the problem.
  • If we built it (and solve it), they will come.
  • If we sell it, it must solve a problem.

I’m not sure how to solve this, but I do know that staying closer to the core problem the business is trying to tackle is when there is the most alignment. When you have unified mindshare around what the problem is, who it is being solved for, and what he solution is, a whole lot more goes right than wrong. And the harder the core problem, the more talent will orbit around it.

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