Hacking your Brain – What you don’t know can Hurt you

Hacking your Brain – What you don’t know can Hurt you

Hacking your Brain – what you don’t know can hurt you.

Just as nourishing foods promote our physical well-being, we need to nourish our brains to be of sound mind and well primed for learning and growth. It’s true that even the healthiest of brains still experience times of anxiety or fatigue, or feelings of disappointment and depression. What’s important is that we develop and sustain positive habits of fueling and exercising our brains and minimizing those negative conditions that diminish our cognitive and creative abilities.

It’s critical to acknowledge how modern-day distractions reduce our cognitive control. Most of us always have a device at hand and because of this have nearly eradicated boredom, which is widely recognized as an incubator for innovation. Why do you think most inventions are thought up in the shower?! When we are bored, we are alone with our thoughts. If we turn off the phone, close the iPad or laptop, and simply stop looking outside of ourselves, we increase our chances of becoming more curious. When we’re not overloading on information, we may roll an idea or two around in our minds – wondering, testing, exploring, and challenging it.

By removing our ability to daydream or to follow our core thought processes and allowing ourselves to be constantly pulled into checking screen notifications or scrolling through some app or other, we are actually reducing our capacity to innovate, learn, and create. It is critical to remind yourself that the very companies offering us such apps are caught in their own profit-driven paradigm and are designing their apps in ways that pursue their economic interest and work directly against brain health. Their single goal is to win more of your attention, which results in more time on their app and greater potential revenue. This effectively persuades you to reduce the time you spend alone with your thoughts in that most fertile ground called boredom.

6 Hacks to help your brain (for you, your teams and family members):

  1. Check and monitor your screen time using the appropriate app on your device
  2. Set a goal for downtime, create spaces for boredom to let your mind wander
  3. Eat meals together, device free. Stimulate conversations with “Why questions”
  4. Keep a notebook handy, and write down ALL your ideas (not just the ones you deem to be your best). Review these monthly so ideas can percolate and iterate
  5. Monitor your sleep and vital stats (I use the Whoop bracelet; my friends the Aura ring)
  6. Try to learn something new every day – pick up a new hobby or learn a language

One way to think about how new knowledge contributes to brain health is to use the analogy of going hiking. If you continue to retread the same path when hiking, with time that path will become more worn, clearer, and easier to follow. However, it’s also the case that over time, if you’re only ever taking this same path, alternate routes will become more difficult to take or disappear entirely. The same is true for your neural pathways in your brain. As path options are reduced, so are our capacities for resiliency, versatility, stress management, stimulating long term growth and fighting cognitive decline.

But by thinking in new ways and making a habit of learning new things, your path options increase, new synaptic connections form; enhancing, extending, and weaving together our neural pathways in ways that reinforce and facilitate further learning along with more malleability and flexibility. This is called Neuroplasticity, and its practice can be used to recover from neurological disorders and brain injury, as well as develop skills, learn new habits, develop new ways of thinking and even reduce the effects of aging.

Don’t let your age become an irrational excuse to let yourself decline.

I have ageing parents who want to stay “behind the wheel” and maintain their personal freedom. I want to help them enjoy life more richly and for much longer. Whether this is for you or your parents, know with certainty that learning is not limited by age, nor does age signal a time for brain decline to automatically commence.

Our capacity for learning can be continuously improved upon thanks to our ability to generate new neurons and keep making new neural connections. Without this we become unable, literally, to take in and process new information. Often people resign themselves to this state by saying something like “I’m just getting old and forgetful” or “My brain doesn’t work the way it used to” when in fact these are more often than not self-imposed limits that are fully reversible with retraining.

Dr. Majid Fotuhi (MD, PhD of Johns Hopkins), the noted neuroscientist and global leader in

the fight against Alzheimer’s, advised, “Diet, exercise, and sleep will do more to combat cognitive decline than any of the major drug companies. Insomnia, sleep apnea, stress, high blood pressure—all these conditions that bridge psychological state and physical condition can lead to changes in the brain that will result in cognitive impairment.”

The crucial point is that a healthy physical and mental lifestyle combined with ongoing learning feeds our brains in ways that generate neurons and expand the web that connects them. Incredibly this has not just minimized the effects of cognitive decline but in many cases has been proven to reverse it.

Not often will an article literally change your life, or change the life of someone you care for. I invite you to take these to heart, to put them into action and to live a life only you are able to make for yourself. If you need a simple hand, a guide on your hike or a coach in your team’s corner, please do not hesitate to reach out to the team at Bermuda Clarity Institute for help.



Why having too many choices undermines you

Why having too many choices undermines you

Why having too many choices undermines you

“I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. But many others were also in the same place. The difference was that I took action.” – Bill Gates

We humans are not very good at making decisions. It may be some consolation to learn that our ineptitude stems from several million years of genetic coding. During the Paleolithic era, around three million years ago, humankind did not have innumerable choices to make. Humans hunted to eat and to survive, and when they finally killed an elephant or a mammoth, that was all they ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner until it was completely gone. Environmental and socio-economic impacts were limited to only their own extinction. Reasoning did not really enter our lives until the last few thousand years, and the rationalization of choices and consequences came along in the last few hundred years as technology, politics and policing unveiled a truly interconnected world and the significance of choices became no longer personal, but communal, legal, regional and global.

Between 1975 and 2008 the average number of products in supermarkets alone rose from nine thousand to almost fifty thousand. Today, we are even more inundated with options, but our brains have not evolved to be much different from those of our early counterparts. Today’s science has confirmed the very thing many of us experience regularly—that it takes significant cognitive energy to make thoughtful decisions.

With so many choices before us, making decisions can become a source of significant mental stress, the effects of which can be dramatic. In his book The Paradox of Choice, published in 2004, author Barry Schwartz uses the term “choice overload” to explain that our minds simply cannot cope with the vast number of options. That inability to cope leads us often to feelings of suffocation, exhaustion, and anxiety—in addition to decreased satisfaction when we do make decisions.

How do we do a better job of rewiring our neural pathways so that we can trust our most basic choices to align with the outcomes we most desire?  Below are 6 Secrets for making Amazing Choices:

  1. Avoid homophily. Homophily names our tendency to associate with others who are like us. By widening your view and being well informed, you can actually aid decision-making by helping you better weigh options against one another and even anticipate options so as not to be overwhelmed by them. Hack: read news from different sources and perspectives to make your own informed viewpoint on important matters.
  2. Set clear priorities. Having a clear goal or outcome in mind helps determine what would constitute a minimum for satisfaction. Assess how relevant any choice really is to you. Hack: focus your energy into the BIG choices that have live altering outcomes (marriage, job, family, health) and worry less about the little choices.
  3. Steady your emotions. Try to let strong emotions subside before making major decisions. A calm heart contributes to a level head. Hack: before any big decision, sleep on it, take a walk, get fresh air and consult an advisor. Never email or post socially in anger before reflecting on it.
  4. Ask. We make decisions about how to act based on the available information and options. The key here is to avoid making assumptions in situations where simply asking for other info creates more and better possibilities. Hack: it is a sign of strength to ask for help and directions 🙂
  5. Assess the risk of inaction. The risk assessment of not doing something is as critical as any assessment of the benefits of doing it. Hack: Ask yourself what is the full opportunity cost of not acting before deciding to do nothing?
  6. Don’t second-guess yourself. Once your choice is made, make good on it. Move immediately to action. Hack: set SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based) to move forward and appoint an accountability partner to make sure you don’t procrastinate.

Now for the business strategy on choice! If you company is offering goods and services to the public – you are essentially presenting potential customers with a variety of options from which to choose. How do you help potential clients overcome a tendency toward decision paralysis? The answer to this question dictates the outcomes for most of the largest consumer brands in the world. In 2015, the Journal of Consumer Psychology presented an analysis of choice studies to help determine the extent to which reducing choice actually boosts sales. They determined four scenarios in which reducing the number of alternatives motivates consumers to make purchases:

  • Quick and easy. Reducing the number of choices helps when people want to make a quick and easy decision, for example, at a gas station or convenience market. Offering fewer and simpler choices helps people when they need to move on to other things.
  • Complex products. When the product is complex, like a healthcare plan or a riding lawn mower; fewer the choices result in higher conversion and sales.
  • Difficult to compare. Fewer options facilitate decision-making when it’s difficult to compare alternatives. Imagine the difference between researching alternatives on the internet (where product comparisons are ubiquitous) versus standing in the cereal aisle, attempting to read the backs of twenty boxes in order to compare their nutrition values.
  • No clear preferences. When your product is one for which consumers don’t already have a clear preference, or they lack knowledge of the product, less is once again more. Customer behavior, cohort segmentation and research can identify what single best value proposition to offer and market.

Insofar as our life choices – I close in reminding you of all the incredible things “that might have been” had you just taken action / or simply asked (think of asking the right girl to dance, or bought that crazy thing called bitcoin at $500; etc) Choice should always be thought of as an action—in the words of Sartre, “If I do not choose, I am still choosing.”

To learn more about our research on decision making and choice overload, make the choice now to our website at bermudaclarityinstitute.com.

Unlocking the Intrinsic Motivators in Your Workforce

Unlocking the Intrinsic Motivators in Your Workforce

Unlocking the Intrinsic Motivators in Your Workforce

There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.

—Nelson Mandela

By 2025, millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce.  In the past decade, a tremendous amount of research and effort has been put into answering this question: How do we prepare, recruit, retain, motivate, and engage millennial workers? One common emergent thread is that passion and meaning figure prominently in how millennials make decisions and commit and express their loyalty.

When it comes to the work needs of millennials as a group, they’re committed to feeling motivated and to seeking out learning opportunities as a means of feeling engaged. They want to love what they do, and that means activating and renewing passion for the projects on which they work.

Best-selling author Dan Pink explored forty years of research to uncover some vital truths about passionate engagement; the product of his efforts is the 2009 book Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. Pink tells us that much of what we know about motivation is mistaken, especially insofar as we tend to think about motivation in terms of carrots and sticks, or rewards and punishments. Sure, some are motivated by extrinsic rewards like cash bonuses or raises, and yes, those sorts of rewards can be particularly useful, especially when we’re assigned what Pink refers to as algorithmic tasks—the sort where the same activity is repeated over and over. But the true secret to high performance is not about the drive to seek reward and avoid punishment, nor is it about biological needs for connectedness.

It’s a third thing: our deep-seated desire to purposefully direct our own lives.

With that insight as a guide, Pink draws up a new approach to motivation built on satisfying three essential needs:

  1. the need for autonomy or self-determination;
  2. the urge to master something that matters; and
  3. a sense of purpose or our yearning to be in service of something larger than ourselves.

These three elements not only help develop motivation but also sustain our interest—even when it comes to activities that may have unsatisfying aspects.

Jim Collins, in his book “Good to Great”, offers an analogy for thinking about how successful businesses employ people who love what they do and feel motivated and engaged. Collins likened putting together a business team to getting the right people onto the bus and into the right seats. While the adage has stuck, its business application is often not clear. The right people are the ones who share your company’s core values; they fit and thrive in your culture. To have the right people in the right seats means that each employee is operating within their area of greatest skill and passion within the organization, that the role and responsibility expected of each fits their unique abilities.


Typical problems within an organization arise when the right person is in the wrong seat, or the wrong person is in the right seat. A fantastic tool for trying to understand whether or not we’ve got the right people in the right seats was developed during the research and writing of my book published last year, The Formula For Luck. It goes by the acronym GWAB. The G stands for getting it, the W stands for wanting it, the A stands for ability to do it, and the B stands for believing in it.

  • Do They Get It?

If they get it, they will have what seems like a natural ability, an intuitive grasp, a true understanding of their role, the culture, the systems and way in which the job comes together. We know when people just get it. Some of that is just their wiring. “Getting it” is the piece that’s nontrainable. If they don’t have it, they most certainly should not have a seat on the bus.

  • Do They Want It?

Does the role recognize their value and offer them forward progress? Do they actually like their job and want to do it based on fair compensation and the job description and the potential for future upwards mobility? Do they wake up every day and genuinely want to be part of the solution and proactively move the company forward? If they don’t, they are in the wrong seat. If they have all 3 other characteristics (G,A and B), you might want to look for a different seat (role) for them.

  • Are They Able to Do It?

Does the person have the mental, emotional, and physical capacity, as well as the time and the knowledge, to do the job? This category is negotiable since there are many trainable skills. Some people accomplish in 40 hours what others do in 55. Some perform better in a “work from home” environment than others. What this usually comes down to is the person’s willingness to be trained or to change some aspect of their personal lives in order to have the time to devote to the job.

  • Do They Believe in It?

Do they believe in and care about the values, the mission, the “why”? Does the company and its purpose derive a clear sense of meaning. This is different from “getting it” insofar as “believing in it” names a serious and unwavering commitment to the company’s values, mission and goals. Almost always, believers are keepers, and companies should find ways for them to train and grow. Believers often take equity and bonus over regular compensation. They often have the highest eNPS (Employee Net Promoter Scores) and help retain other team members.

Wanting and Believing align to and result in passion and incredible outperformance. Great leaders establish missions and build cultures that employees believe in and want to be a part of. Getting it is achievable through smart recruiting, interviewing and referencing. Ability is trainable, coachable and developable, but cannot result in meaningful change if it is invested in someone who neither Wants or Believes. If you need to learn more on how to apply GWAB in your workplace, or develop a culture which nurtures passion, please touch base with our team at Clarity as these are simple and powerful levers that result in truly meaningful change.


Although passion is a major part of what companies need from their employees, it’s also not something that can realistically be taught. Nor, as we’ve learned, is it something that can be ignited by external motivators like the promise of material rewards or the threat of various punishments. At best, passion can be kindled or sustained by the specific practices that facilitate it. In other words, keeping people happy comes back to the idea of triggering people’s intrinsic motivators. That is a matter of clarifying goals, providing opportunities for self-direction and meaningful choice, providing instructive and useful feedback and encouragement, and facilitating a flexible and collaborative workplace.

This article merely scratches the surface on uncovering passion in the workplace and building up leaders’ capacity to recognize it. To learn more about our research on organizational culture and dynamics, visit our website at bermudaclarityinstitute.com

Situational Awareness: Growing Your Flexibility Muscle

Situational Awareness: Growing Your Flexibility Muscle

Situational Awareness: Growing Your Flexibility Muscle

Aristotle had a lot to say about our moral development, but it turns out he also talked a good deal about something called situational luck. For Aristotle, all our habits—good or bad, learned or not— contribute to our moral development. The sum of those habits can help explain how one child develops in ways that encourage stealing or some other vice while another develops into a virtuous and charitable person. Our natural tendencies affect our moral development, but so do external influences like education, role models, and other opportunities that come from family or community. These influences are the product of what Aristotle called developmental luck: maybe we have wonderful family and community influences that mold our natural tendencies in ways that encourage virtue, or maybe we don’t.

What’s really interesting about Aristotle’s account of developmental luck is that he also accounts for the influence of crises—and here’s where situational luck comes into play: those moments that require us to choose, immediately, between more and less virtuous alternatives.

At the heart of situational luck is Situational Awareness. Bad things happen; dangerous situations abound. But becoming situationally aware allows you to quickly recognize threats and either avoid them entirely or make smart decisions in real time about how to proceed in order to maximize good outcomes. Granted, Situational Awareness should not be thought of only as a means of avoiding danger. It’s also at the heart of noticing positive and potentially life-shaping or even life-changing opportunities.

At the heart of Situational Awareness is flexibility. Training to be more flexible and responsive is different from training to repeat the same behaviors no matter what the circumstances. The former is about careful assessment and decision-making—even if it feels more like habit when it’s happening—while the latter is about unthinking habit or complacency, falling back on responses that have worked for us in the past regardless of whether or not they apply to the present.

The best we can do is see to it that our deepest inclinations are aligned with a capacity for flexibility so that we can be responsive to whatever situation we find ourselves in. When it comes to developing Situational Awareness, the real challenge is that it’s not easy to go against an inclination to take the path of least resistance. Sometimes when we do what’s most comfortable, we are putting ourselves at risk instead of avoiding risk. Think about all the people caught and injured in stampedes running for the closest and most obvious exit during a fire or threat.

The more information we can process, the more informed our decisions are or can become. Of course, there’s a limit to how much we can do. Imagine yourself sitting in a restaurant. As a situationally aware person, you probably want your back against the wall. You want to know where the exits are. And yes, if a funny-looking fellow comes in the front door carrying a large duffel bag, you might want to pay a bit more attention.

The important thing is to make a determination about how much information we need to take in and how we should prioritize that information to maximize our awareness. The secret is to balance the greatest amount of visual information with a minimum amount of exposure.

Training of any kind is about creating some hard wires within us that we can rely on to serve us well in the future. What Situational Awareness asks of us, what it needs to develop and grow, is that we train ourselves to make the best decisions we can with the information we have, as quickly as we are able.

Situational Awareness is key to personal protection; it’s also the key to business in an increasingly fast-paced market insofar as it makes smart speedy decision-making possible. To be as flexible as possible in our thoughts and actions, we have to be able to update and revise our awareness on the regular.

Air Force military strategist John Boyd developed a process known as the OODA loop. OODA stands for observe, orient, decide, act. The basic idea behind the OODA loop is that we can face situational threats, even overcome them, with well-practiced agility. Though it got its start as a military tactic, the loop has been translated into business environments to encourage our ability to make complex decisions with greater and greater rapidity. That process involves collecting data, turning it into insight, and acting on it—in a constant loop.

  • Observe: Gather your data. Get as much accurate information, or feedback, as is realistic or necessary so that you have the correct information from which to learn.
  • Orient. Analyze and assess the information or the relation between actions and results. Set aside your prejudices, shift your perception, and try to attend to the evidence that’s in front of you.
  • Decide. Clarify the options and predict the impact of each decision.
  • Act: Implement a decision with confidence, but stay open to new information and input.

Think of the OODA loop as a way of focusing your attention in an ever-changing environment. The OODA loop opens up possibilities for you to act. It actually gives you the opportunity to consider more options than you might otherwise. The more you practice using it, the better—and faster—you’ll get.

Situational Awareness begins with noticing and assessing your environment. The faster you can take in and evaluate data, the more likely you are to make decisions that increase your chances of a good outcome. Unlocking your capacity for Situational Awareness takes practice predicting outcomes: you filter out what’s unnecessary so that you can focus in on what demands your attention. Whether in terms of personal safety or in terms of finding solutions to business problems, Situational Awareness is about becoming more flexible, more agile, more capable of responding cleverly in the face of rapid change.

To learn more about our research around situational awareness, visit our website at https://bermudaclarityinstitute.com.


Embracing the Yes and… in Business and Life

Embracing the Yes and… in Business and Life

Embracing the “Yes and…” in Business and Life

Life is a hell of a lot more fun if you say yes rather than no.

—Richard Branson

Sometimes we choose our circumstances, and other times the circumstances choose us. How we see and deal with the challenges around us is a very important part of our overall happiness, as well as our ability to generate luck. Quite simply, lucky people are positive, optimistic, and expect good things to happen. They follow through on what they’ve started, guided by the belief that they’re going to succeed. Thankfully, optimism is a learnable quality. One of the best ways

to shift your mindset from pessimism to optimism is by following the example of people you consider to be truly, and admirably, optimistic. If you do and say what happy people with positive attitudes do and say, you can come to share their optimism—to feel the same way they do, experience what they experience, and get the same results they get.

Optimists have a way of dealing with change that sets them apart from others. First, optimists are very clear about their goals, and they’re confident that they will accomplish them either sooner or later. They keep their minds focused on what they want and keep looking for different ways to get it. Second, optimists know to look for what’s good or beneficial in any situation. Even when things go wrong or they face difficulties or problems, they’ll find, talk about, and amplify the good rather than the negative.

Positive people aren’t always lucky, but they handle adversity differently than others. The one thing they all do is actively turn their bad luck into good luck. The most important insight that positive people offer is that when things get tough, there are always two options. We can either fold our tents and go home, or we can keep on going. Positive people keep going. They’re resilient under pressure and very adaptable to whatever comes their way. Winston Churchill summed it up nicely: “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity, and the optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.” In other words, optimists seek out the valuable lesson in every setback or reversal, asking themselves, What can I learn from this to take with me on my journey?

There’s a well-known improv technique called “Yes, and …” Imagine two performers onstage.  Each one needs to be carefully attuned to the words and gestures of the other so that they can take a scene that’s developing in real time to a place of entertainment, learning, or both. One actor begins with a line or a gesture, and the other accepts the premise as true (no matter how absurdly funny) and adds to it, seeing what develops from there. “Yes” is about being receptive to and affirming the other person’s ideas. “And” is about expanding on the proposed story line, heightening it, taking it further, being open to seeing where it goes. Now contrast that technique with the traditional way in which a business or work environment typically functions. Consider how frequently ideas presented by team members are greeted with “no, because” or sometimes “yes, but” when presented to management.

Consider, too, that “yes, but” is simply another form of “no, because” insofar as it eliminates the value of new ideas and innovation before they even have the time to truly be considered. Applying the “Yes, and …” technique can make us better communicators and can be particularly helpful when it comes to group brainstorming or other moments that require us to share ideas freely.

Work cultures that embrace a “Yes, and …” approach are usually more inventive, solve problems more quickly, and have high levels of engagement. “Yes, and …” is ground zero for creativity and innovation. In a corporate environment, “Yes, and …” can take effort to put in practice; it requires tremendous trust in working with others, and the recognition that trust is always conditional. When we trust, we relinquish some control. Cultivating a “yes” culture requires company leadership to model receptivity and Positivity. In a “yes” culture, leaders of all levels are committed to building on people’s individual contributions and acknowledging their worth.

“Yes, and …” can be utilized in four key scenarios in business:

  1. Coaching and feedback. Instead of interrogating, telling, or criticizing, those who are effective coaches try to understand, learn, and explore in conversations. They ask probing questions and try to consider new approaches.
  2. Brainstorming and ideation. Instead of a culture in which people value their own ideas most or put their effort into being right or best, effective brainstorming relies on creating a safe environment in which people can say what comes into their heads without worrying about being brilliant or best.
  3. Problem-solving and conflict resolution. When working toward compromise or win-win solutions, instead of assuming that one person must be right and another wrong, embrace differences of opinion and perspective. Trying to look at the same situation from different points of view encourages understanding, compassion, and cooperation.
  4. Overcoming objections. Instead of “Yes, but …,” saying “Yes, and …” to objections is a means of validating what is best in them and sets you up to work together to meet or reduce the needs they address. Practicing “Yes, and …” is like practicing meditation and mindfulness insofar as both are incremental processes yielding incremental but potentially tremendously valuable gains.

Positivity begins with the recognition that it is possible to train one’s mind to approach every situation with an eye to its good or beneficial—even lucky—outcomes. Unlocking the tremendous value of Positivity requires a capacity to recognize and accept incremental change and is the product of constant and rigorous practice.

To learn more about our research around positivity, visit our website at https://bermudaclarityinstitute.com.




How to make Curiosity into your SuperPower

How to make Curiosity into your SuperPower

How to make Curiosity into your SuperPower

“Curiosity did not kill the cat. Ignorance did.” – Unknown

Each of us is born curious. Our early years are dominated by an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, with all of our senses focused on exploring and learning and experimenting in the world’s largest and most diverse lab: the world itself.

Before we can even walk or speak, we experience pain and discomfort and hunger—and pleasure and joy and satisfaction—and we learn from these experiences. Once we become mobile and vocal, watch out! “What is this, how does that work, and why?” In these respects, we are no different from any of the great minds of history. Then, ironically, the more we learn in school, often the less curious we become. “Don’t let schooling interfere with your education,” Mark Twain warned.

One of history’s greatest thinkers—Leonard da Vinci— never did. What da Vinci had was something that has improved people’s fortunes – and that still does: Curiosity.  Leonardo’s loyalty, devotion, and passion were all directed to the quest for truth and beauty: “I roamed the countryside looking for answers to things I did not understand”. It’s notable that, even in his tireless exploration of the world, Leonardo wasn’t satisfied just to look at something with a questioning eye; he needed to see it from different aspects. In almost all of his drawings in his notebooks (which were unlined so as not to encumber his curiosity to simply words, but rather to stimulate doodles, drawings and diagrams) he took 3 perspectives – to ensure he was seeing the subject from different angles.

In business, “the creative process” is a phrase we hear often. But what does it really mean, and how does it work? Michael Gelb lays out the process beautifully in his book Innovate Like Edison. The process includes five clear steps, each of which relies on a sequence of applied Curiosity: preparation, generation, incubation, evaluation, and implementation. I encourage you to use this process as your own roadmap to future success:

  • It is said that a problem well formulated is half solved, meaning that the more time you spend refining your questions, the more efficient you’ll be at finding the best answers. Edison’s approach also challenges us to consider what problems might result from the ways we choose to solve the problem. Einstein’s famous quote “if I had 60 minutes to save the world, I would spend 50 minutes on the problem and only 10 minutes on the solution” is a reminder to all of us quick fixers that we need to listen and ask more questions, rather than jump to solutioning.
  • This next step is the creative brainstorming phase, and it turns on two key factors. The first is a decision NOT to evaluate every proposed idea. In other words, while there are no wrong answers, there are right questions, and we should try to begin with the best questions possible. The second is being open to humorous, unexpected, and serendipitous solutions (for those of you that missed it, please read the Moment of Clarity article from April of this year on the Science of Serendipity)
  • Stepping away is a key part of learning. Whether you sleep on it, drink some wine, read poetry, take a bath, watch a movie, or simply get up from your desk and go for a brief walk: letting a thought process sit idle can be just as important as engaging it. When you reconvene, clarity in your decision will be enhanced, as will any potential risks, downfalls enabling you to abandon the potential plan before it goes wrong (think of sleeping on an email that was written in frustration, and then editing or deleting it before sending it).
  • Evaluation. Once you’ve got what you think are one or more workable solutions, it’s time to test them. That means asking questions that arise from playing three roles: angel’s advocate, devil’s advocate, and final arbiter. It is impossible to objectively play either of the first two roles if egos or bias enter the picture, so be on guard.
  • Implementation. Only after evaluation do we get to the payoff. Implementation is the first time we apply our Curiosity, leave questions behind, and commit to following three new steps: setting a goal, making a plan, and measuring/monitoring progress. How, in your business’s practices, do team members engage in each of the five steps? And what might you do to enhance one or more of those steps for your teams? Remember to also practice the Lean Startup approach – where you make small measured bets as experiments, minimizing the “time and treasure” committed to each, such that you can learn and iterate forwards and reduce the chances of larger failures from where it is hard to recover.

Many of you whom read MOC know that I love to interview bright minds as part of my research. When researching Curiosity, I spoke with my mentor of many years James Donnelly. The full interview is available in my book, the Formula For Luck, but in closing I want to share my greatest learning from our time together:

SL: If every yin has a yang, what is the opposite of curiosity – what is its kryptonite?

JD: Hubris. It comes from ego, which means “I know.” If you know, then you’re not taking advantage of all the other information available to make the right decision or do the right thing. I think we limit our potential by letting our egos drive things. A lot of people who have big egos do big things, but that makes them overconfident, arrogant, and more prone to their blind spots and to failure.

Unlocking the tremendous value of curiosity requires a dedication to the creative process like that exemplified in the work of artists and inventors like da Vinci and Edison. Curiosity requires that we consider things from various perspectives— whether that domain be politics, science, beliefs, or even passions—as doing so only adds to our capacity to appreciate and better understand what we might otherwise consider as truths. To learn more about our research around Curiosity, visit our website at https://bermudaclarityinstitute.com.