How Physical and Knowledge Work Are Not Independent

In this interesting post ‘The Ingredients for Making Something that Lasts’, I noted an important statement: “We forget that there’s physical work involved in knowledge work, too. That we learn with our whole bodies and not just with the head. And it works both ways.”

The prime mover is work, and work involved our entire being, not just our head or our body. It is important to remember because this needs to influence many aspects of our activities, be they mostly intellectual or physical.

The way we feel or behave physically will influence our creativity and intellectual production. The way we feel mentally will heavily influence our physical performance. As humans both dimensions are intertwined, something we need to grow to respect and build upon.

Physical work and knowledge work are intertwined and indisociable. Let’s remember this in everything we do.


How Marketing Rules Have Changed Significantly In a Few Years with AI

Since the beginning of the Fourth Revolution there is a growing concern of the gap building between technology have and have nots. This has been quite alleviated since the arrival of the smart phone. However, there is still a growing issue when it comes to understand how algorithms work and take advantage of them. In this eye-opening piece ‘What’s On My Mind: What About the Gap?‘, Christopher Penn provides a compelling example about the difference it can make in marketing to understand AI-driven algorithms, because it drives directly what potential customers see or not.

In the era before popular, commercial use of machine learning, success in business was largely a combination of effort and luck. Effort encompasses the skill needed to make a good product and sell it well, and luck encompasses being in the right place at the right time, whether you’re the local burger joint or a multinational corporation.”

Today, data science, machine learning, and AI have thrown a bit of a wrinkle into this. So much of our lives are intermediated by machines and machine learning. What products we see, what ads we see, what news we see, what friends we see in the digital realm – which is the primary realm now for so many of these tasks ever since the smartphone became our external brains – are all controlled by machines and algorithms.”

Christopher Penn then continues to provide the example of what he could achieve easily given his background in data science for a florist shop friend, substantially increasing ranking and visibility on the internet through clever understanding of data analytics.

For a while, the Internet presented a level playing field where a small business could appear larger than it was, where relevance and not budget could win the day. That 20-year golden era of Internet marketing – 1997-2017 – has been supplanted by the AI-powered marketing era, and this is an era in which whoever has the technical resources to win will do so.

To be clear, having great products, good prices, and phenomenal service will still be fundamental to succeeding at business. No amount of AI will change a crap product, prices that aren’t competitive, or abusive service and get people to buy, long-term, who would not have bought before. But becoming visible, being seen, will be harder for those without skillful use of AI.”

Certainly a very useful warning. AI and data analytics knowledge is now the key to being visible and we all need to understand that the game has changed only a couple a years. Marketing is now different, rules are different and thus the game changed.


How Telling a Story Makes Start-Up Pitches Successful

This article ‘I Boiled Down Hundreds of Successful VC Pitches to One Winning Formula‘ provides some advice as to how to build start-up pitches for them to be successful in funding.

My answer is always the same: tell a story. Humans have responded to storytelling for all our evolutionary history — we’ve been passing down oral history and painting tales on cave walls for literally thousands of years. When you want to nail your pitch deck, the best way is to lean on that common love of stories we all have — and the fact that stories are far more memorable than facts, figures, data, numbers, bits and bytes.”

According to the author, this includes a vision of where the company will be when successful, how to resolves the pain of the future customer, how your product will slain the villain pain, and how the world will be better ever after.

From my experience it is certainly an excellent advice because it will create an emotional connection with the audience, even more so if it can relate to the story somehow; and we are all longing for a story where everything ends well.

For successful pitches, try to tell a compelling story providing at the same time a comforting vision of a bright future.


How We Need to Have a Threshold Space for Transformation

Charlene Li in her post ‘Why You Need Liminal Space for Seamless Change‘ reminds us that we need to have a threshold, or some kind of intermediate space, when changing.

In her case, “[her] son just graduated from college, and we wanted to create liminal space for him to celebrate what he accomplished and to prepare himself for the future.” To do that they took a long drive across the US.

“Liminal” comes from the Latin word meaning “threshold,” and it’s an unavoidable part of change. Unfortunately, many organizations view change as something to go through as fast as possible. But […] a more effective and disruptive way to change is to slow down and actually create the liminal space of in between. This also creates space mentally and emotionally to expand on possibilities and opportunities.”

I love this idea of the need of having such a threshold and take it a bit slow when going through a transformation, taking the time to achieve it in a safe and sound manner.


How to Identify What Will Change and What Won’t in the Future

In this thoughtful post ‘Seeing The Bigger Future‘, we are called to reflect on what is actually change and what isn’t. Basic human needs don’t change irrespective of what technology we deploy, and there are some constants that will remain true, and even if AI develops beyond our wildest dreams.

While many things are changing around us, the secret is that some things never change. […] You don’t have to focus on the technological details to predict its progress. Anticipating what people will need is a great predictor of what will get built. Because while technology changes, human nature doesn’t. That means predicting “what” is often easier than predicting “how’. Why? Because technology doesn’t often look for a problem; rather, it is the response to one. A medium is just a tool. And the tool is just a way to accomplish something more efficiently.”

We should be careful not to be overwhelmed by changes in our tools. The basic needs we try to respond to are still the same. And focusing on those is what is really important.


How AI Can Support Creative Scientific Research

This provoking Scientific American article ‘AI Generates Hypotheses Human Scientists Have Not Thought Of‘ actually provides an excellent example of how AI can supplement human thought and together create a more productive and creative ecosystem.


Creating hypotheses has long been a purely human domain. Now, though, scientists are beginning to ask machine learning to produce original insights. They are designing neural networks (a type of machine-learning setup with a structure inspired by the human brain) that suggest new hypotheses based on patterns the networks find in data instead of relying on human assumptions. Many fields may soon turn to the muse of machine learning in an attempt to speed up the scientific process and reduce human biases.

The interesting part here is around reducing human biases, a topic which comes back several times in the article: avoiding preconceived ideas and theories and probably the burden of the institutional view on things. AI can provide an independent view and the combination can spark creative and innovative outputs.

I am convinced that we will find AI to be a great help rather than a competitor in all creative endeavors, like scientific research. And this is just the beginning!


How To Develop the Skills of Successful Strategic Advisors

This article by Valeria Maltoni ‘The 12 Qualities of Extremely Valuable, Highly Paid Strategists’ provides an interesting insight into the skills of strategic advisors.

The skills she mentions are the following:

  • Know which problem the insight can solve
  • Have a broad and expanding scope of knowledge
  • Understand the psychology of leaders
  • Respect high-value experts
  • Improve the person, not just the project
  • Be fluent with language
  • Be adept with varied tools and techniques
  • Understand the power of words
  • Know how to write and present
  • Preserve the expert’s voice
  • Work fast
  • Work well

I find this list quite interesting, and in particular the statement “improve the person, not just the project”. It is something I have always felt, taking a coaching certification to enable this work on the client as a person in addition to working on harder stuff.

Certain skills make a huge difference when advising on strategy. And they are not about being better at strategy! A lot deals with interpersonal skills and asking the right questions.


How Creativity Requires Writing Ability

Paul Graham’s post ‘Beyond Smart‘ addresses the issue of smartness and creativity. And in one passage I noted, it states that creativity requires writing ability.

Being very smart is not the same as having new ideas. “There are a lot of genuinely smart people who don’t achieve very much.” Paul Graham mentions that one of the conditions of creativity is certainly being smart, but it requires also other characteristics such as independent-mindedness, learning to develop one’s own projects and activities…

One of the most surprising ingredients in having new ideas is writing ability. There’s a class of new ideas that are best discovered by writing essays and books. And that “by” is deliberate: you don’t think of the ideas first, and then merely write them down. There is a kind of thinking that one does by writing, and if you’re clumsy at writing, or don’t enjoy doing it, that will get in your way if you try to do this kind of thinking

I personally tend to agree with this statement – I am generally more creative when I start writing down and ordering my thoughts. And this allows actual creative work by putting them into a consistent manner. This is also one of the reasons why I am writing this blog.

Develop your writing ability to become more creative. A non-obvious but important way to enhance creativity!


How Resilience is About Recharging

This popular HBR article ‘Resilience Is About How You Recharge, Not How You Endure‘ takes an interesting angle on the issue of personal resilience.

According to the authors speaking about the resilience of corporate employees, “the problem comes from a misunderstanding of what it means to be resilient, and the resulting impact of overworking.” While we tend to see resilience in a militaristic manner of a tough super-hero, research apparently shows that “there is a direct correlation between lack of recovery and increased incidence of health and safety problems. And lack of recovery — whether by disrupting sleep with thoughts of work or having continuous cognitive arousal by watching our phones — is costing our companies $62 billion a year (that’s billion, not million) in lost productivity.”

Thus, “the key to resilience is trying really hard, then stopping, recovering, and then trying again. This conclusion is based on biology.” And, “When the body is out of alignment from overworking, we waste a vast amount of mental and physical resources trying to return to balance before we can move forward.”

This is definitely an area where I need to improve: finding ways to really stop and most importantly, stop thinking about work-related issues.

Resilience – playing the long term game – requires recuperation and recharging between periods of intense work, on a daily, monthly and annual frequency. Quite an important lesson!


How Civility Becomes an Explicit Expectation in Society

This Gapingvoid rant ‘Want to be a better human?‘ brings back the issue of civility (as in “civilized conduct (especially: courtesy or politeness) or a polite act or expression” [Wikipedia]). It is not the first time I hear about the explicit comeback of this simple concept, which before was quite an implicit assumption of social life.

As organizations shuffle from minority to minority, demonstrating how much they care & how inclusive they are, what is completely overlooked is the unsexy conversation about being nice, respectful, and kind, treating others fairly, and a hundred other courtesies that our moms taught us, or should have.”

I can’t more agree with this statement. It is a pity that people need to be reminded of their duty about civility explicitly, still is a a foundation of life in society and preempts any debate a difference and discrimination.

Maybe it is worth reminding more broadly about civility, what it means, how it is practiced. That we need to do it, however, shows the failure of both family and school to bring a minimum of social skills to people.

Let’s thus be more explicitly require civility and explain what it means. This is a minimum for social interaction and if it needs to be explicit so be it!


How The Unregulated Industry of Life Coaches Raises Questions

This Guardian article ‘I’m a life coach, you’re a life coach: the rise of an unregulated industry‘ explains very well the inherent contradictions of the status of life coach. It is completely unregulated and dominated by a number of well-known figures of sometimes questionable reputation (as exposed in the article). It also obviously responds to a societal need, but isn’t it dangerous to let people getting influenced by unqualified professionals?

Trainings and certifications are diverse in quality and seriousness. The number of candidates to become life coach increases dramatically with each major crisis. In my experience, many do explore this career out of a personal need first, before looking at it as a way to change others for the better. In reality, many life coaches do have a less-than-ideal personal life and happiness, although they try to project a well-balanced impression.

There are drawbacks to a too severe professional certification scheme. It creates institutions that decide what is right from wrong. It can lead to situations where innovative or radical approaches will be rejected while they can be useful. Thus it is not necessarily the best solution in all cases.

At the same time when it comes to mental health, is it reasonable to add a layer of simili-professionalism to general advice on how to feel better? Having a coach implies some seriousness in the commitments taken, but one of the most important functions of a coach is to determine when people need more professional psychological help. It is unsure that all life coach trainings include that element so clearly.

I am definitely in favor of some self-regulation of the life coach industry. The ICF (International Coach Federation) is quite a good and demanding scheme that leaves some leeway in the coaching practices. Similar certifications should be requested from your coaches.


How Luck Plays An Essential Role in Success

This interesting BBC post ‘The dirty secret about success‘ puts back the subject of luck to the forefront. In computer experiments simulating social interactions and including random luck factors, luck was identified as a major parameter of social success.

Luck, Fortune, And Chance

Very often, the most successful people are moderately talented but very lucky“. “Italian researchers] used a computer simulation of success defined by financial wealth to show that the most successful people in the world aren’t necessarily the most talented. They are the luckiest.” As a result, the researchers have proposed ways to improve reward based on talent rather than actual luck.

I am a student of luck as I am certain it defines a large number of outcomes (see for example previous posts ‘What Luck is Really About‘ or ‘How We Constantly Underestimate the Role of Luck in Our Lives‘). It certainly plays an important role, and at the same time we can’t just wait to see what luck brings us.

Luck is important and should not be neglected. One of the limits of the approach though is that nowadays, success more often happens in teams rather than individually. How to account for collective luck, at several scales (individual / team / organization / society?). Certainly a topic for further research!