Why Smart People Struggle with Strategy

Roger Martin writing in Harvard Business Review:

The problem with smart people is that they are used to seeking and finding the right answer; unfortunately, in strategy there is no single right answer to find. Strategy requires making choices about an uncertain future. It is not possible, no matter how much of the ocean you boil, to discover the one right answer. There isn’t one. In fact, even after the fact, there is no way to determine that one’s strategy choice was “right,” because there is no way to judge the relative quality of any path against all the paths not actually chosen. There are no double-blind experiments in strategy.

Patrick Rhone Doesn’t Give a Fudge

Patrick Rhone on being intentional with the … f-bombs … that we give:

Most things we encounter in life are not worth our fucks.

Most “news” is designed to trick us into giving our fucks to things that don’t deserve them or where they have no value.

Most “stuff” is designed to trick us into giving a fuck about things that have no true utility.

In fact, many things in our society are purpose build to trick us into giving a fuck where it matters least and serves us even less.

Please pardon his French.

Though he probably doesn’t trucking care.

Americans and the World Cup

Judging by a shift in how my international friends have been condescending to Americans, the World Cup is once again upon us.

Football. Footie. The Beautful Game. Futbalo. Ball de’ Fute. Fut en bol el gato. Das Boot mit dem Moped. Die bad ist gross und hell. En Blob-o micro Acropolistica Yogurt. El queso es viejo y mohoso…

Whatever language you say it in, there’s no more exciting time to be a sports fan then the beginning of the World Cup, which is probably called something like a kickoff, or a throw-in. Or a throw-off.

The exception of course, is if you call it soccer. In which case you might also call it boring.

We don’t want to be bad soccer fans. We see the rest of the world having a blast, and we really, really want to participate. We’re really good at being obsessive and yelling loudly about things. It’s a little like being sober in a room full of drunks.

As a people, we band together. TVs are wheeled into conference rooms, we come to terms with the idea that the ball can touch the line without being out of bounds (which in footie is referred to as “pitch adjacence”). But just as we learn the names of the players, we get over the flopping intended to draw some sort of colored card, and start to get a feel for the pace of the game and a sense of the strategy playing out on the field, it ends.

Or the US team loses to a country we’ve only read about in Rudyard Kipling stories.

And then what are we left with? The MLS isn’t quite ready for prime time. Literally. Since it’s not on television much. And while sports hipsters claim to follow various European leagues, it’s hard to find the motivation to cheer for anything at 9am on Sunday morning besides quite kids and good coffee.

Our best athletes grow up playing basketball and American football. Soccer in America is reserved for lily-white suburbanites that are too young to realize what they are doing. Eventually most of them become interested in other sports, and without any kind of apparent future in soccer to keep them interested, they easily move on. Their collection of soccer trophies eventually going in a box alongside other childhood activities like swim-lesson certificates and field-day ribbons.

But regardless of all of that, now that the World Cup is back, we’ll once again bring out our best effort, trying to become proper members of the international sporting community. Hoping that our friends from other countries notice how far we’ve come. Trying not to get caught looking to see if they approve.

We’ll get a little further along as fans than we did the last time. Just as we did the time before that. But it’ll be a good long while before soccer takes. Please bear with us in the meantime.

The Search for Better Meetings

Working in a medium sized agency is all fun and games until you find yourself sitting in meetings all day. The person who called the meeting can check something off of their list, but for that one item being checked off, there’s an entire room of todo lists that are sitting idle and probably growing.

Meet all day! Work all night!

  • Fantasy AC/DC song celebrating corporate life

Despite knowing that the internet is the playground of the idealized self, my ears still perk up when I see anything about how other businesses are working to create better meetings.

Percolate posted their 6 meeting rules:

  1. Do you really need a meeting? If not, don’t schedule one and just go talk to the person. It’s generally easier, faster and more efficient.
  2. Meetings should be 15 minutes by default. If you need longer, take longer, but most meetings don’t need much longer than that. People will find ways to fill whatever amount of time the meeting was scheduled for, so don’t schedule more time than you need. If you get scheduled in a longer meeting, why don’t you ask why it needs to be so long?
  3. No spectators. If you don’t have any reason to be in the meeting, don’t go. We don’t need spectators at meetings. The corollary of this is that if there are spectators in your meeting, ask them why they’re there and to leave if they don’t have any reason to be there.
  4. Have a purpose, state it upfront. If your meeting doesn’t have a goal than you should probably revisit tip #1. You should have a goal (except for weekly check-in meetings) and everyone should understand that goal. If you are attending a meeting and you don’t know the goal, ask. If the person who set the meeting doesn’t have an answer, suggest the meeting be moved until there is one. This will help A LOT.
  5. Make tasks, assign them to people. Meetings start to suck when everyone walks away and it isn’t clear who is doing what. If you set a goal at the beginning there should be some tasks at the end. Make sure everyone knows who is assigned to those tasks (put them in Asana if applicable). A task isn’t a task if it doesn’t have a person assigned to it.
  6. Don’t bring computers or phones. This is important enough to mention again. If we want to have as few meetings as possible and make them as short as possible it’s important that everyone is focused on the task at hand. That means not doing other stuff during the meeting. If you catch someone doing something else (including James or Noah) call them out and ask them not to. If their computer is open and they’re not presenting or creating tasks/taking notes, ask them to close it. If they need to be checking mail or working on something else, they probably shouldn’t be at the meeting.

Percolate linked to an article at 99u: Run Your Meeting Like a Boss: Lessons from Mayer, Musk, and Jobs.

Some highlights:

Marissa Meyer streamlines decision-making with data:

By making decisions with metrics, she can avoid lengthy debates stemming from opinions and organizational politics.

And she uses micro-meetings:

she allows people to book meetings as short as 10 minutes … There’s an adage in project management: work expands to the time you schedule for it. By pushing people to say what they need to say in 10 minutes, Mayer was able to meet more people in less time.

Elon Musk prefers arguing with facts vs. prior experiences:

To Musk, decisions should not be based on prior experiences. He encourages thinking based on “first principles” — boiling a situation down to its basic, fundamental truths and then reasoning up from there.