What I read this week – 32nd week 2020

This week has been busy reading for launch of the vegan brownies at Nom Nom Not Dairy. Through experience I’ve learnt a lot about the need for attention to detail and how there will always be something that goes wrong. Part of that understanding came from a chapter of a book called Read the Sequences which discusses the Planning Fallacy. Essentially, when people plan they mostly use the ideal timeline to construct the initial goal, and don’t take unforeseen delays into account. Why would they? After all, the delays are unforeseen. Instead if people plan based on how long the task took in the past, the plans end up much more accurate. Issue comes when people haven’t experienced the process before. Like me launching a product. But hey, learnt a lot, and still launching on nomnomnotdairy.com.

What I read

This week I read a short piece on the Tom Brady Principle. The idea is simple. Let the people who are great at their job continue to do their job, instead of promoting them until they aren’t the best. This requires open communication about expectations and goals, and a rethink of how to reward high performers if not with promotion. At Google, they use a pay system that means that some junior people make more than some senior people, because they have a bigger impact. This connects to the Peter Principle, an idea by Laurence J. Peter that says “people are promoted to the level of their incompetence”. That is, people who are good at one job are rewarded for being good with a job that requires a different skill set, a job they might not be as good at.

The second article I thought was particularly interesting was You Don’t Have to Be CEO to Be a Visionary Leader. The essence of the article is that you can lead any group of people, and can work with them to construct a vision for the team. The vision can be completely original, or it can be a derivation of the overall company vision. The article recommends engaging in vision building with others, look for opportunities to help build vision in different contexts, not just at work, and allow for bottom up vision creation.

Random Connections, by Four Artsake

I’m only going to write briefly on the third idea this week. I read a pair of articles, What You Can’t Say, and The Four Quadrants of Conformism. I won’t speak too much because I feel like I am still digesting the ideas behind them. What You Can’t Say makes several interesting points. First, that there are moral fashions that change which are much more dangerous than regular fashions, as when people get a moral fashion wrong, it is not merely unfashionable, but wrong, and people are killed because of these choices. Secondly, that you will probably have some opinions that you don’t think are acceptable to openly discuss. If you don’t then you agree completely with the mainstream. If this is the case, then you have either considered each issue independently and come to the same conclusion as the public narrative, or you haven’t considered any of the issues, and have just accepted what other people have said. The second is much more likely, and much more dangerous. The suggestions? When someone says something that “you can’t say”, consider why it might be true, no matter how heretical or unacceptable the idea is (new ideas are found where other people aren’t willing to go). Find a group of friends who you can discuss anything with, no matter the taste or lack thereof. Protect free speech, and finally, ABQ (always be questioning). Do go read the original article, it is much better written and more interesting than I have made it seem.

The Four Quadrants of Conformism is easier to explain. People vary on two scales orthogonal to each other: passive or active, conventional or independent. The passive conventional make up the majority of the population. They follow the rules, and worry about being punished if they broke them. The active conventional make sure the rules are enforced and put rules in place to dictate acceptable action. The passive independent mostly know what the rules are, but just want to do their own thing. The active independent pushes up against the rules, questioning why the rules exist. The danger mentioned in the article was that we need active independents to protect freedoms against regulation of active conventionalists. There is more in the article than here, read it if you are interested in freedom of speech or social media.

Before I finish this week, I thought I’d write a quick note on why I do these weekly recaps. First, it keeps me reading a lot. I’ve read 233 articles since May 22nd. That’s nearly 3 articles a day that I have recorded with notes on in a searchable format. Secondly, I remember more of what I read and I process it better. Thirdly, I get to show other people what I find interesting. Fourth, I get interesting recommendations for things to read/listen to (thanks to people who send me interesting articles and podcasts). Finally, it gives a little bit of exposure, reminding you that I exist, and what I’m up to.

Suggestions? Message me on LinkedIn or at contact@callumacdonald.com. Thanks for reading.

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