Why Curbing Your Fear of Being Alone Leads to Better Thinking

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Apparently hell is not other people but your own mind.

It seems that everybody always has to be engaged and entertained, from the divertissements of Netflix and swiping time away with your phone to a fevered expectation to keep doing stuff — be productive and social and busy! — as if all that defined a full life.

The idea that doing something trumps doing nothing is no new phenomenon that’s just been ushered in by the age of smartphones and Twitter and keeping up with various Kardashians. In 1670, French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote in his Pensées, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

Pascal was right. The aversion to tuning into yourself and hanging out in your own head has deep, human consequences for how we think, create, learn, lead, and are even ourselves.

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The 60% Rule: The Humbling Reason Why It’s Vital that You Encourage Autonomy at Work

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Breakthrough products are created out of thin air by a singular product visionary — your Steve Jobsian figure in a black turtleneck and a ponderous look. He yells at people and tells them what to do, until it’s perfect and done.

To Chris Savage, co-founder and CEO of Wistia, one of the biggest video hosting sites on the web for businesses, that’s a widespread misconception that can harm the way you run your business.

Chris has a rule of thumb on making product decisions that’s both incredibly humbling to all you Jobs disciples out there and imperative to grasp. The rule is this: the very best of us only get product decisions right 60% of the time. The rest of the time, we’re wrong.

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The Boring Trait Google Looks For in Its Leaders

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The prototypical leader is a hero: gives the rousing speech, inspires the troops, and shows up at the last minute to save the day. At least that’s how leaders are portrayed. but that’s not at all what Google discovered as their most important qualities.

At Google, they’re obsessive about looking at data to determine what makes employees successful and what they found in the numbers was surprising.

The most important character trait of a leader is one that you’re more likely to associate with a dull person than a dynamic leader: predictability. The more predictable you are, day after day, the better.

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A Winning Formula for Building Successful Teams

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You need great teams in order to build great products. The way senior software engineer Rich Paret creates such teams at the Twitter-acquired Crashlytics — which provides mobile crash reporting — is to “hire for the culture you have, and the culture you want to have.”

The company culture at Crashlytics isn’t a collection of perks or a bunch of abstract values. It’s how people get stuff done together. When we visited Rich at Twitter Boston this past May, he emphasized how it’s the quality of a team’s communication that determines its outcomes.

How does a project become late?” he asked. As our minds ran through various scenarios and the complexities of managing a team, he broke our pondering pause with his simple answer — “Day by day.” Just as you can build meaningful progress day by day, you can also increasingly get off track to the point of failure. Communication losses accumulate, a slow but steady snowball, as the days roll by, when you’re not careful.

Consider the distribution and flow of information within a company. Too often knowledge is guarded amongst the people at the top, or cooped up in people’s heads, or trapped in silos. What happens then? As Rich puts it, islands of information” emerge. When different people know different pieces of information, it becomes progressively harder to reach across the waters just to know where the puzzle pieces are, let alone put the puzzle together.

One approach to avoiding islands and fostering a bridging, communicative culture is to hire smart and work smart. When you align people and process, you ultimately create strong values, culture, and behaviors.  Here’s a look at Rich’s formula for building awesome teams and in doing so, awesome company culture:

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Nowadays, You’re Hiring People to Think

In many companies, your manager will know the team’s and company’s objectives, but you won’t.  He may keep crucial information from you so that he can consolidate decision-making power.

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Not so at Qualtrics, the extraordinary Provo, Utah-based company that did $50M in revenue, raised $70M from elite venture capital firms Sequoia and Accel, turned down a $500M acquisition offer, and grew its headcount to nearly 300 employees in 2012.  At Qualtrics, transparency is perhaps the company’s most important value for one simple and obvious reason—”Nowadays, you’re hiring individuals to think.”

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Innovation and Happiness at Work

Google has found that the most innovative workers — also the ‘happiest,’ by its definition — are those who have a strong sense of mission about their work and who also feel that they have much personal autonomy.

Big Data, Trying to Build Better Workers – NYTimes.com

Google has long been known as an elite organization bordering on elitist. It’s fascinating to see how their conception of prospective candidates has changed as they’ve looked at the data over time, departing from a SAT and GPA-driven view.

Listen To Your Employees

[S]top telling people what to do and … start asking them their opinion about the best way to get something done.

Josh Patrick, founder of Stage 2 Planning Partners, on the value of asking and actually listening to your employees.

When you ask first, you’ll learn instead of assume. And while it’s tough to trust employees, mistakes are important learning opportunities.

Set and communicate greater expectations for your team members, and their performance will reach greater heights.

Company with the “World’s Least Powerful CEO” Makes $2.5 Million Every Day

The popular depiction of the CEO is the titan of industry who rules with an iron fist. The CEO’s will is the employees’ command.

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Not so at Supercell, a remarkable Finnish company that’s making $2.5 million dollars every day and has been described as “the fastest growing company ever.” Supercell CEO Ilkka Paananen, calls himself “the world’s least powerful CEO”, and that’s not the surprising part. What’s incredible is that Paananen made himself a weak CEO by design:

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What Goldilocks Can Teach You About Management

Running a classroom and running a business have interesting parallels for what works best to cultivate intrinsic motivation, effective productivity, and successful performance. Whether we’re students or employees, we need supportive conditions to achieve know-how and expertise.

On the education front, Dr. MaryEllen Vogt has examined the effect of how teachers’ perception of their students’ aptitude influenced their classroom approach. She found that when students were perceived as high performers, teachers:

  • talked less and encouraged more interactions among students,
  • allowed for more creative and generative approaches to learning,
  • offered opportunities for independent work,
  • had warmer and more personal relationships with students, and
  • spent little time on behavior or classroom management issues.

When teachers saw their students as low performers, they:

  • prepared more structured lessons,
  • allowed fewer opportunities for student creativity,
  • covered less content,
  • rewarded students for “trying hard” rather than for “good thinking,”
  • spent a significant amount of time on behavior and management issues, and
  • had less congenial relationships with students due to their heavy emphasis on discipline.Source: Karen Tankersley, Literacy Strategies for Grades 4-12

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How the Power-Happiness Connection Matters at Work

People who feel powerful are happier, according to a recent study published in Psychological Science.

Researchers found that authenticity is what connects that relationship between power and “subjective well-being” (happiness, basically). When you have power, your behavior can align more closely with your desires and values so that you are free to be more authentic. And when you can go about your day being more true to yourself, you feel happier.

“[B]y leading people to be true to their desires and inclinations — to be authentic — power leads individuals to experience greater happiness,” the study authors note. What’s especially interesting is that dispositional power, or your sense of power, is a strong predictor of happiness, so your perception matters.

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