As a learning organization, we see this time of year as a wonderful opportunity to review and revitalize before the days ahead. This newsletter, our annual gift to you, is full of the good things we’ve been excited to try as we learn and grow. The theme of 2018's Top Ten Tips is renewal.
Renewal is restoring or replenishing what we have and making it new again. It is our hope that these tips will help us all take an old habit at work or at home and look at it with fresh eyes.
Without further ado, these are the ways we invite you to join us for renewal!
At this year’s Inbound Marketing Conference, celebrity chef Mario Batali talked* about the importance of pushing boundaries. When his children were growing up, he would pay them $5 to foul out of basketball games. He did this so his kids would learn to find the edge, not fear it. If they never experienced a foul, he reasoned, they would spend their lives safely waiting for the ball to come - and miss out on opportunities to grab it. Explore the question - what edges have I been afraid to get close to? What rules could I try breaking this year?
*The story begins at 32.33 (note: some obscenities).
Next year, food and drink trends are also about renewal. In 2018, the locally farmed, sustainable food movement raises the bar again with Root-to-Stem style preparation. We’ll see kitchens and bars using every bit of material previously wasted. Look for carrot top pesto and leftover popcorn ice cream, or Farm-to-Shaker cocktails using fruit and herb kitchen scraps. On the other end of the spectrum, labs will continue to explore taste through engineered foods, according to market intelligence experts Mintel. If you love fresh fish and sophisticated flavors forget sushi - try Hawaii’s poke bowls. If you’re done with ginger, it’s time to try turmeric - a spice used both for seasoning and medicinal intervention. Consumption of the yellow root has steadily increased over the past few decades, and that trend is likely to continue, partly based on promising evidence to back up the health claims. Time to head to the market for a new adventure!
Scientists agree that multitasking is bad for your brain. Trying to perform several tasks at once causes significant IQ and brain glucose (energy) drops, decreases efficiency, and generates “attention residue” (where your mind stays on an unfinished task, diminishing focus on the current task). Not only that, but brain scans show multitaskers have less density in areas of the brain that control empathy and emotions. Stop the cycle and try monotasking or “single-tasking.” Try focusing - without interruption - on only one project until it is done. Open your email once or twice a day, rather than responding to pings all day long. Drink coffee without reading the news on your smartphone. Walk your dog without monitoring your BPM goal. If you need some help, sign up for Infomagical, an ongoing project by radio WNYC. They’ll send you daily challenges to help you focus and achieve a selected goal.
Many people, especially younger generations, don’t have the space or a purpose for “stuff”. This year, try minimalist giving. This blog offers 46 ideas to reduce under-the-tree clutter including; concert tickets, sports tickets, a park pass, or volunteering together. Experience-based gifts are on the rise - The New York Times offers an experiences gift guide local to New York, but it might inspire your own gift adventure. Or donate to a charitable gift in the recipient’s name. Choose a well-vetted non-profit aligned with their values. Or connect with a local foundation or social service organization. If you can’t imagine holidays without a present, choose a heart-warming for-profit like Toms’ that gives generously to the community. Most of us are familiar with shoe retailer TOMS’ “get a pair, give a pair” model. This list highlights other organizations who practice socially conscious retail to help you find something for everyone.
Whether we realize it or not, we all have biases. If shown pictures of a person holding a cup of coffee or a glass of ice water, we’ll attribute very different characteristics to each - warm and caring for the person with coffee and cold or distant for the person with ice water. As our organizations move beyond understanding diversity and inclusion, it is time to up our game and understand the role implicit biases make in our thoughts, decisions, approaches and relationships. Understanding will give us a renewed worldview - and maybe change everyone’s outcomes for the better. If you aren't familiar with implicit bias, this short video is a helpful beginner's guide. One practical way to get a personal baseline is to be a part of continued research at Harvard. Test your bias here - The results can be a great learning tool to move forward with a renewed view of how you approach the world and the people in it.
Next, change the voices at your table
Elaine Welteroth made headlines at the helm of Teen Vogue when she brought smart, provocative journalism to a magazine previously known for prom and makeup tips. Her genius, according to Slate, is that “...the magazine clearly goes out of its way to hire women, writers of color, and sexual minorities—groups that, sadly, remain underrepresented at most outlets. This inclusion of diverse voices pushes the magazine in bold editorial directions.” She created greater editorial equity and therefore made the publication relevant to a much wider audience. Try looking at your own “tables.” Can you invite a greater diversity of age, race, gender, and spiritual and political thought to your conversations?
In a recent TED talk, Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Investment focuses on a happy co-existence with the technology of the present and future. He suggests embracing technology to engender “an idea meritocracy”. An idea meritocracy is a culture where ideas don’t move forward because a leader or the group unilaterally decides they should. It is a culture where all levels of employees are brutally honest and transparent about ideas and those with the most merit move forward. Then, his team take successful and failed ideas and develop them into principals. Those principles become embedded into algorithms. When it’s time to make a new decision, Bridgewater uses those algorithms to test new ideas. The algorithms help them make decisions with more complete information, and that, explains Dalio, is why his firm has been profitable 23 of the past 26 years. How can you invite transparency in your business? How can you use technology to quantify what you learn?
If you’re still using your smart speaker as… just a speaker, you’re not alone. Amazon projects that in 2017 they’ll double 2016’s 11 million Echos sold, but many users don’t touch the more than 7,000 apps available for the device. For those that fully adopt the ‘smart home’ technology, the apps can be a life-hack game-changer. For now, start small. Did you know you can use your smart speaker to order a ride with Lyft or Uber, start a 7-minute fitness routine, look up rules when you’ve lost board game manuals, or even order a pizza? Try a few new apps this year, whether you’re a dedicated Echo gal or a Google Home guy.
Former Google pioneer Chade-Meng Tan outlined listening strategies in his groundbreaking book, Search Inside Yourself. It is a few years old, but worth revisiting in a time where society has become less skilled at listening:
1.Mindful listening is when you give the speaker your total focus. See if for even a moment you can make what another is saying the only thing on which you are focused. It’s a practice, not a test. Start with a few moments of mindful listening, then see if you can get to being fully focused for your colleague’s entire thought. Move away from distractions and listen with your body.
2. Generous listening is when you ask one or two questions about the topic to move the speaker’s thoughts forward. “Could you tell me more about that?”, “What are your other thoughts about x?,” and “How can you envision this working?” are three good questions to start with. Try open-ended questions to get them started.
3. Looping is a method that references the speaker’s thoughts to be sure you heard what they intended you to hear. It sounds like; “This is what I heard you say,” or “This is what I heard you feel.” From our "Active Listening" days, this is also known as paraphrasing. The distinction we make between the two is that when you are looping you are also being mindful.
Try each method in turn and see which comes naturally. Practice listening as you would practice any other skill.
You may have experienced improv through comedy clubs or popular shows on TV. The first rule of improv is to say “yes, and…” to everything. If you have been in a meeting we facilitated you have no doubt heard us describe two different points of view as a “Yes, and” perspective. So, if one person says, “I’m going to sell ice cream from a cart by the zoo,” another will say, “yes, and I will train an elephant to scoop it.” “Yes, and…” is a way to open oneself to ideas, no matter how ridiculous. The result can be funny, or interesting, or transformative.
Integrating “Yes, and… “ thinking encourages better collaboration, inspiration, and innovation. To give it a try, experts recommend you follow these guidelines: One, be specific - leave little room for assumptions. Two, accept new ideas and build on them, even if they are outlandish. You can edit later. And three, remember that in the meeting you have to say “yes, and….” but at work, sometimes you will still hear no. Learn to lose the ego and move on to the next idea.
Andy Crouch primes his students to embrace failure - because failure means you are taking risks and trying something new. And, he says, without risk (and failures), you can’t explore or grow. Normalize failure by letting go of “I should be…” and play in the space where failure can happen. The reward is hidden in each failure because each gets you closer to greater success.
We hope these tips offer you inspiration to finish 2017 in tranquility and begin 2018 with an optimistic view of what the next year holds.
Karen, Merrell, Christy, & Shelly
If you loved Search Inside Yourself, check out Tan’s most recent book on finding joy.
Start better listening by getting yourself in the right place. Prime yourself for presence with this meditation.
Only 2-3% of the population can multitask without negative impact. These rare brain anomalies are dubbed “supertaskers” Think you might be a supertasker? Take the quiz!
Watch Teen Vogue Editor Elaine Welteroth’s engaging talk about her journey and philosophy - “in order to change the story you have to change the storyteller”.