I have a drafts folder full of half-baked blog post ideas. Instead of letting those float unpublished, I include the gist of each idea below with the disclaimer that, well, they’re half-baked with no common theme.
People Overrate the Learning Done in Conversation — Conversations with smart people can spark new interests and inspire, and certainly are lots of fun, but I think people overrate the amount of actual learning that’s done in a casual conversation, particularly as the number of participants in the conversation increases. This is because in group dynamics we are hypersensitive to perceived intelligence and therefore we shy away from taking intellectual risks, preferring instead to tread on known ground.
Managing Someone Who Knows More Than You — An interesting challenge — one every outside board director faces as well as managers in large organizations — is how you manage and lead people who know more about the subject matter at hand than you do. How do you ask smart questions which at once advance the thinking of your in-the-trenches subordinate and help you get a sense of whether the guy is thinking the right way? Asking helpful questions as an outsider is hard.
People Who Don’t Do Anything — It’s astonishing how many people in companies larger than 50 – 100 employees sit around every day and don’t do a thing. When I wander the halls of large offices, there are countless people twiddling paperclips, watching YouTube videos, or reorganizing their desk for the umpteenth time. Accountability in some big companies just isn’t there. Consultants to big companies tell me they can go months collecting a retainer and not spend a single hour on the project.
The Art of the Curse — Some people are really good at swearing. George Bush, for example: “They need to get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it’s over.” But if you’re not good — if you wouldn’t naturally use a swear word to express a certain emotion — then don’t use it. Because a forced swear is the most obvious thing in the world.
Finding the Time to Read, Blog, Work, Live — If you aren’t married, don’t have kids, and don’t watch TV, you have boatloads of time! When somebody appears to be more productive than the next guy, I always look first at these three criteria, not the superman’s “productivity hacks”.
Why Entrepreneurs Might Have a Hard Time with Intimate Relationships: The lack of end-to-end shared experiences. The entrepreneurial path usually means pursuing an eclectic mix of activities at once. This can make it hard to have 80%+ overlap of shared experiences with any one person. You might have a friend with whom you talk about “cars,” but that’s different than the friend with whom you talk about “business,” different than the friend with whom you talk about “sex”. There’s nothing wrong with topical friendships. The question is whether the “synthetic best friend” can be as fulfilling as the best friend who’s just one person.
It’s Hard to Evaluate the Effectiveness of Schools: There are so many factors with which to evaluate the effectiveness of a school and its teachers. How well students do on standardized tests, how happy students are, how intellectually curious the students become, how spiritually and ethically grounded they are, so on and so forth. The good news is that the market is allowing there to be various kinds of schools, all of which emphasis a different goal. The bad news is that we continue to judge all schools by the same metric, namely test scores.
(thanks to Andy for inspiring this format)