More is more
In his book The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki recounts the fascinating story of how U.S. naval officer James Craven found a lost submarine, the Scorpion. (We know it sounds crazy to even think that a submarine could be lost, but these things can happen…) Instead of calling on a select few of the world’s foremost submarine recovery experts, Craven enlisted the help of a broad group — oceanographers, marine salvage experts, mathematicians and submarine specialists.
And instead of asking them to work together, Craven had each person work in isolation and provide him with their best estimate as to the possible location of the lost sub. He also asked them to give him probabilities about how accurate they thought their predictions were. Guess what? Not one of them came up with the right location.
But Craven wasn’t expecting them to — he took each expert’s best guess about where the submarine was located and created a composite picture of all estimates, and then used Bayes’ theorem to plot the Scorpion’s final location. (Bayes’ theorem allows you to calculate how new information about an event alters your previous expectations of how likely that event was.)
Five months after the Scorpion disappeared, a navy ship found it. From an original search area of 20 miles that was thousands of feet deep, the missing submarine was finally located just 220 yards from where Craven’s group had said it would be. So while none of them individually knew where the sub was, collectively, they all did in fact know where it was.
We use this wonderful (and true) story to illustrate the point that although modern art and architecture often seem to make an argument for “less is more”, sometimes, more is indeed more.
At Interacso, we believe firmly that everything is there is to be done. And nothing gets done by itself, right? Ergo, we are the ones to do it!
And we’ve been kind of killing it lately, with some really cool projects for some really cool customers. Which is when lots of folks would maybe take their foot off the gas and coast along on the back of their last album for a while. But not us. We aren’t welcoming in 2020 with one of those “less is more” A-frame loser hugs. No. We’re going full-on with a great big bear hug, piling more on top of our already significant more.
They say the best talker is a good listener, and that’s why you won’t find any noise-canceling headphones in our offices. We’re all ears, all the time. When someone has something to say, we all want to hear it, especially if it challenges our status quo. (Without challenging the real Status Quo in any way, obviously. Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt (RIP), we salute you.)
Naturally, we love it when our customers tell us that we hit the nail on the head by implementing one of our sensible solutions for them. But that shared success would have eluded us both if we hadn’t sat down and talked for hours about what they were going through and how we might be able to help.
Think about learning a new language. When you break it down, you’ve got three components: the listening bit, the grammar bit and the talking bit. You can learn all the grammar in the world and you can get your pronunciation pitch perfect like a native, but you have to listen carefully to what the person you are talking to is really saying before you can respond properly to them using your acquired skills.
More bottom-up leadership
The key to running a sustainable business is to be smart enough to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. And then get out of their way and watch them bloom.
Top-down leadership is fine, up to a point. But the problem with leading from the top is that in large organizations, you need a really big megaphone to make sure your message cascades all the way down without getting distorted, and in smaller organizations, you need buckets of time to sit down with everyone and make sure they’ve got your message, which can also come off as a bit cult-like.
From a senior management perspective, facilitating the leadership potential of smart folks so that they find their inner leader takes all the heavy lifting off the “real” leaders, and contributes greatly to creating a more egalitarian culture in a company. This can be achieved by encouraging employees at all levels to participate in the pre-planning stage of strategy formulation. Simple measures can be very effective in making sure people know that their voice will be heard.
It’s all about creating the culture, setting the boundaries and letting your team do the rest.
Who came second in the Tour de France in 2019? On July 6, 176 riders started out from Brussels with one thing in common: they all wanted to win the race. But only Egan Bernal won the race on July 28 in Paris. Winners and losers have the same goals, but their systems, processes and methodologies are different, and that’s what makes the difference.
The problem with setting rigid goals is that they can induce a failure mentality if we fail to achieve them, which can then lead to a loss of motivation. Also, being exclusively obsessed with achieving goals sounds like the plot of a triumph-of-the-human-spirit movie called The World Is Mine, and it is actually quite limiting. Let’s say your goal is to write three quality blog posts every week for a year, and you do just that. What do you do after that? Abandon your loyal and engaged readers and start learning the ukulele?
If you focus on your systems and processes instead, you’ll come to appreciate that relentless system improvement is the only game in town. Goals are fine for defining a general desired outcome but it’s the systems that you deploy along the way that will get you there and beyond. James Clear explains this, well, really clearly.
So we’re all about more systems for 2020. If we have a system that works well, we’re going to strip it down and refine each element of it. If we got lucky with something last year, we’re going to put it under the microscope and document it for future reuse. If something that served us well in the past has started to let us down, we’re going to look under the hood and see if it needs a little bit of tuning and lubrication or it it’s time to scrap it and search for a replacement.
More small wins
Note that we didn’t say “quick wins”. A win is a win, for sure, but too often, people want to get some points on the board at the start of a new quarter or within a couple of months of having been promoted, and that time-is-of-the-essence mentality can cause them to overlook some fixes that might take longer to roll out but can deliver better medium-term results.
We’re big fans of the accumulation of incremental gains — outcomes that are tangible in and of themselves, but that also stack up neatly one on top of the other to create unified and substantial results over a longer time horizon.
Imagine you want to make a lifestyle change and decide that veganism is for you. A “quick win” approach to achieving this could be:
- Eat your final Five Guys burger meal with strawberry shake on Sunday.
- On Monday morning, live stream your commitment on Instagram: “No more meat, dairy or animal-derived ingredients for me. I am a vegan.”
Done. That only took a few minutes. How long do you think your new regime will last?
Approaching this change with a “small wins” mindset might look something like this:
- Research credible sources, ask questions in online forums.
- Consult with your doctor or dietitian.
- Switch out dairy milk for soy milk.
- No meat until dinner time for the first month.
- When eating out, explore new options.
- Add a new vegan dish to your food intake every week.
- Snack on nuts and seeds.
We’re pretty sure the incremental approach of stacking bite-sized, discrete realistic wins will deliver more sustainable results in the medium-term. There’s a great HBR article on this called The Power of Small Wins. It’s really worth a read. Here’s our favorite takeaway:
“Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. And the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long-run.”
We can’t stress this one enough. What’s the point if you can’t enjoy the ride? Bert Jacobs’ started a casual T-shirt business with his brother John in Boston in the 90s. Sales were slow for a few years, until they adopted the slogan “Life is Good”. Slowly but surely, people all over the U.S. opted in to share their positive outlook on life and the business grew steadily. Then the brothers started getting letters (real ones, on paper) from people who were having difficulties but used their T-shirts to announce to the world that they were grateful for what they had in life and were determined to enjoy it to the full. One of these letters was from a guy who was suffering from serious medical issues. He wrote the brothers that despite the adversity he was dealing with, he chose to be thankful for what he had. He told them that he no longer used the construction “have to” when he was speaking, as if the thing he was referring to was a burden or a chore or a pain in the ass. He used “get to” instead. He said “I get to go to the grocery store”. He said “I get to do the laundry”. He said “I get to go to work”.
It’s a simple but powerful language switch that changes the optics completely. We get to be part of Interacso. We get to work on cool projects with great partners. We get to grow together as a diverse team.
Blurring the line between work and play so that it all becomes part of a meaningful life is the surest way to become rich. And you’ll probably make some money too.