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FARNAM STREET

FARNAM STREET

Guess What: You Don’t “Implement” Innovation. It’s Created Through Principles.

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Let’s talk about innovation and creativity, a topic that is on my mind in the lead up to my Re:Think Innovation workshop later this month.

When I talk to business executives, conversations inevitably get on to the topic of innovation. Before they can ask me about innovation, I ask them what they are developing and how they are going about it? They hear an innovation question and respond with a list of what they are doing to foster innovation. Read More

FARNAM STREET

The Appearance of Performance: How to Get Ahead by Playing the Game

(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Sometimes things are not as they appear. Let me tell you about two people I know who work for the same organization, Pat and James (not their real names). These two people will seem familiar to you. You might even be one of them. While their approaches and effectiveness differ, they are nice people; you’d trust your kids with both of them.

Pat fits in with the clubby corporate culture. In fact, this might be his best skill. He does as instructed, doesn’t argue, wears the same type of suit as everyone else and generally gets along with everyone. He does the same work as everyone else in the same way. He doesn’t stick out in any meaningful way. He invests a lot of time to make sure his boss is happy. Everyone loves Pat. Read More

FARNAM STREET

Filter The Noise: Finding The Signal in an Information Overload World

(Photo via SerenelyRapt.wordpress)

In a world of too much information you need something or someone to help point you toward what’s relevant, interesting, and valuable. Otherwise you’d get overwhelmed.

Search engines do this but so do businesses and people. Some are trying to scam you, some are trying to collect your information, some are trying to entertain you, some are trying to sell something to you, and some are just trying to get you to click on a link so they can show you an ad. Most of these people will stop at nothing for your attention even when they are feeding you the mental equivalent of junk food. BuzzFeed, I’m looking at you. Read More

FARNAM STREET

The Era of Fake Knowledge: Why It’s Never Been Easier To Fake What You Know

(Wikimedia Commons)

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” — Mark Twain

Recently, Karl Taro Greenfeld, a journalist and author, published an op-ed in the New York Times on faking cultural literacy.

“It’s never been so easy,” he wrote, “to pretend to know so much without actually knowing anything. We pick topical, relevant bits from Facebook, Twitter or emailed news alerts, and then regurgitate them.” Read More

FARNAM STREET

In Praise of Idleness: The Productivity Secret Nobody Talks About

relaxing

“What will be the good of the conquest of leisure and health, if no one remembers how to use them?” — Bertrand Russell

You’re busy from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to sleep. Your life has become so busy that you start missing things. In fact most of us need to schedule time to get any free time. We even take our work with us on vacation!

Kids today are the same. They are “over-programmed” moving from one activity to the next without so much as a break. One family I know well has at least two activities a night and three on the weekend. Sure they have four kids, but really?

I’m sure all of this effort is rationalizable. We work harder and longer hours than ever, in part  because we live in a face-time culture. We push ourselves to get promotions to acquire things, which make us feel like we need more things so we push ourselves harder. Or because we want our kids to get a leg up, we somehow think that the choreography required to get them to piano, French, ballet, gymnastics, and Mandarin class will pay off in the long term. Read More

FARNAM STREET

Something For Nothing: The Illusion of an Education on the Internet

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I imagined that spending time on the internet would be a fun way to learn new things. That was the promise right? Well it turns out to be nothing more than an illusion in practice.

It struck me one day while looking at my Twitter feed that most of it was junk. But like the bowl of potato chips at a party that I didn’t want and tried to avoid, I consumed it anyway. But why, I wasn’t sure.

I realized that I was moving in that direction too. At Farnam Street, the website I run with the goal of mastering the best of what other people have already figured out, I experimented with headlines recently to find out what was really going on. Read More

FARNAM STREET

Hey Bossman, Reading Books IS Work

What counts as work nowadays? (Wikimedia Commons)

One of my beefs with the modern office is that you need to be seen as working, even if it’s an illusion. And what classifies as “work” is often defined by the quality of your leadership.

If you work in a fast-food or retail job, you’re always on the go. These are hard jobs. There is never a down moment. If you’re caught sitting more than once on your shift you’re generally fired. In these settings, work is easily defined and jobs generally mechanical. There is always something to do and it’s easy for your boss to see when you are working and when you are not. Read More