Good Monday morning! I hope everyone had a great weekend. Here's what we found for you last week:
If you're thinking of a resolution for your team, maybe you should write more:
[W]riting is more than a tool for thinking – it actually creates the conditions for higher-order thinking. It is through reading and writing that we master the ability to link and qualify concepts, and apply the "rules" of logical argument.
Not sure if we'll get a gift guide up ourselves, but if you're looking for some neat things to make your meetings more fun, you could do a lot worse than checking out these great recommendations of gifts for kids from Design Milk. I've already ordered these.
Here's another resolution: Cultivate more curiosity in your organization. Writer Adam Grant explains how:
Sparking curiosity is one of my core goals across roles: whether I’m teaching, researching, writing, speaking, consulting, I’m looking for ways to foster the thirst for knowledge. So far I’ve found four…
Mystery: give people a puzzle without an obvious solution, and it actually hurts not to know. The Heath brothers describe it as an itch that we desperately want to scratch. Why do men have nipples? Why can’t you tickle yourself? How did David Copperfield make the Statue of Liberty disappear? If the universe is expanding, but the universe is everything, what is it expanding into? (The pain of being unable to answer that question convinced me not to become a physicist.) But confront enough of these kinds of questions, and you start to become more curious about the unexplained wonders in the world.
Surprise: share information that turns assumptions upside-down. In teaching, I like to present at least one study every week that challenges conventional wisdom. Did you know that the people who are least absorbed in their work are single and childless? That if you want to read other people’s emotions more accurately, instead of looking at their faces, you should listen with your eyes closed? Or that male CEOs pay their employees more generously if their firstborn child is a daughter? In response, it’s hard not to ask questions: Why? How? What’s the evidence? When students are surprised repeatedly, they get in the habit of asking these kinds of questions, and they begin to realize how much about human behavior they don’t understand.
Counterfactual thinking: invite people to imagine what the present would be like if the past had played out differently. What if humans had arrived on earth when dinosaurs were still alive? If Lincoln hadn’t been assassinated? If Steve Jobs hadn’t returned to Apple? What seemed inevitable suddenly becomes a question of circumstance, and it opens our minds to all the interesting ways that the small events of today can set off butterfly effects tomorrow.
Perspective-taking: challenge people to spend a day or even a meeting thinking and acting like someone else. Or to just read a novel or a biography. Walking in someone else’s shoes forces you to delve into their beliefs and emotions. At some point they’ll contrast with yours, and you’ll get a little more curious about how we all become the way we are.
Yet another? Stop emailing while you're on vacation:
All emails are not created equal, and when you’re on vacation, you’re sending more messages than can be contained in the contents of your note. Every email sent by a vacationing employee is a tiny cultural erosion: a signal to other employees that time off isn’t really time off. In aggregate, these tiny erosions matter. They send signals like “I don’t trust you to do the job without me,” or “I’m not organized enough to wrap up my loose ends before I go on vacation.” Either way, they erode perceptions of your likability and competence.
While all employees can contribute to this problem, when you’re a manager, those signals are amplified even further. And unfortunately, many don’t realize the consequences until the ground gives way underneath them. Company cultures that don’t support unplugging have employees that are less engaged and less committed to the organization. Compared to employees in supportive cultures, they are less likely to say they feel valued by their company (69% to 50%) and cared about as a person (64% to 43%). They are, however, more likely to be looking for another job. Four in ten employees who work in companies that don’t support unplugging are looking or planning to look for a new job in the next year, nearly double the 21% of employees in supportive cultures.
With just four hours of practice playing against itself and no study of outside material, AlphaZero (an upgraded version of Alpha Go, the AI program that Google built for playing Go) beat the silicon pants off of the world’s strongest chess program yesterday. This is massively and scarily impressive.
Finally, some levity: a Thomas the Tank Engine stunt video.