A Collection of Half-Baked, Random Ideas

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 Instead of letting those float unpublished, I include the gist of each idea below with the disclaimer that, well, they’re half-baked with no common theme.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)

7 comments on “A Collection of Half-Baked, Random Ideas
  • re: People Who Don’t Do Anything

    The scenarios you described sound a lot like a small fund-like partnership I recently worked for. I think, quite erroneously, that companies feel that as revenues increase, expenses -often in the form of new hires- should follow suit. I do work, don’t get me wrong, but many of my days are also spent in leisure, reading Classic texts, reenacting Seinfeld episodes in my imagination, learning to play Chess online, fumbling with my Rosetta Stone software, etc. We simply have far too many people on staff for any individual to devote his entire day to work. And I say this after I’ve taken the initiative to work on projects for my team that have been incorporated firm-wide. I can only imagine what the others are doing.

  • I think the intimate relationships point is spot on. Maybe why so many entrepreneurs befriend each other.

    In the education point I think you meant that each school emphasizes a different goal. I agree that test scores are a silly way to measure a person or an institution, but it’s hard to find an objective measure of morality or intellectual curiosity.

  • *Managing a guy who knows better than you* –

    For one that realization and its acknowledgement is a sign of maturity. That done,

    a) learn from him and know his source of that incremental knowledge;

    b) have him inspire other `in-the-trenches’ guys (including his employer) by frequent interactions and sharing of knowledge;

    c) Give him the freedom to set his own goals and to tinker with that of the enterprise if he finds it sub-optimal.

  • **People Overrate the Learning Done in Conversation**

    A friend of mine told me yesterday that this is the primary way he spots good ideas. If he’s interested in a topic, he brings that topic up briefly to everyone he talks to. After gaining 30-40 friend’s or professional’s insights into the topic, he can gauge how important the idea really is.

    I agree that this might not work sometimes, and that much more research is needed in most cases. But, I think his method has merit.

    **The Art of the Curse**
    I certainly know people who are more effective at cursing than others. The people that have the most effect on me when using curse words are those people that use them infrequently. But, when those people do use them, they use them very carefully and with a lot of emphasis. I know to take them seriously.

    **Finding the Time** and **Entrepreneurs In Relationships**
    As a young entrepreneur and blogger who is currently in a very serious relationship, I can say that you are spot on. I think statistically that there are very few people who can match up with me like my girlfriend does. I lost a lot of time when pursuing the relationship, but it has been more than worth it. I am better at managing my time, and I am more effective during the time I am working.

    I concur 😉

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