The $5 Challenge – A Stanford Strategy Story…

Back in 2009, Stanford prof Tina Seelig split students in the school of engineering into teams and gave them an envelope containing $5.

Teams had only two hours to generate as much money as possible. Each team would get three minutes to present their project to the entire class.

Here is Tina’s own article explaining the experience: The $5 Challenge

What would be your Strategy?

Check out the video below to hear how the challenge went… and how to use this thinking in your own life and business…

The teams that made the most money didn’t use the five dollars at all.

They realised that focusing on the money actually framed the problem way too tightly. They understood that five dollars is essentially nothing and decided to reinterpret the problem more broadly: What can we do to make money if we start with absolutely nothing?

In our own lives and businesses it is very easy to limit ourselves to “how do I do more of what I am already good at?” or “How do I use my current capacities to maximise return?”.

How do you do strategy for your life and business?

It feels good to share a video again… it has been 6 weeks of procrastination. Thanks to all of you who reached out with encouragements and ideas!

Be careful of Lazy thinking

We have a wonderful capacity to mess up our lives through lazy or fantasy thinking. We make blanket black and white statements… rather than seeking the shades of grey.

“I hate my job” -> what parts exactly?

Life is richer than black and white. You don’t hate every single part, activity, person in your job… be really specific – what do you like, what do you not like.

Solve the solve-able problems. If you don’t like something find a way to do less of it. Find someone who enjoys it. If you do like something, find a way to do more of it. Spend more time with the people who give you energy.

I love the approach of “Design Thinking”. Stay with your curiosity and take time to get the question correct. How do I improve my job, make a greater impact, feel like I am doing meaningful work, while being paid well, and enjoying my social life and with a family that is supportive of each other… you need messy questions to start to clarify what constraints, what changes, what problems you will stick with.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water

Days vs Years

Our emotional experience of life can depend on the time horizon we choose to look at our lives.

If you look at the progress of your life each day, there are many wild swings.

If you look at the progress of your life over longer time horizons, the wild swings blur into the background and a more steady sense of progress emerges.

Which lens are you using to look at your projects? and your life?

“No one is coming to save us”

Conor with Nando Parrado, survivor of the Andes crash

In 1972, a plane carrying rugby team from Uruguay crashed in the high Andes. 25 passengers survived the crash… and then found themselves trapped high on a glacier. Initially they waited for search parties to arrive. On day 10, they heard on the radio “the search has been called off”. This day they realised that if they were to survive, they had to rescue themselves.

A lesson from the Andes

“No one is coming to save us”

Carlitos Paez

You can see my notes from Nando Parrado’s speech that I heard twice back in 2009: Reflections on Nando Parrado, the real hero of the film “Alive”

More on the Survivors of the Crash in the Andes

Nando Parrado’s book “Miracle in the Andes” was how I first came across the story of the crash and the 72 days trapped in the high Andes.

The movie “Alive” (1993) shares the story of the crash and how the group handled the challenges up in the high mountains.

The Tyranny of Convenience

Convenience makes things easy… but what is easy is not always whats most important, valuable or effective.

We choose between the options we see, not all the options… we’ve got to be increasingly careful that we don’t choose the path that is just easiest to see.

Convenience food… is not health food.

Tech companies work to make things “convenient” – but easy to begin is not the same as fulfilling or important for me.

Here’s the linkedin job post for Vistage Chair that I mention.

Here’s the original “The tyranny of convenience” article over at the NY Times.

Looking under the lamppost

photo credit: sketchplanations

A person out walking at night comes across a man searching down on the floor under a lamppost.

The man on the floor says he lost his keys.

“Did you drop them here?”

“No, I dropped them over there, but the light’s better here.”

Sometimes we can find ourselves working, or searching, or staying in the places where we find it easier rather than the places that are optimal for what is truly important or fulfilling to us.

Hard Choices

Hard choices are unavoidable: it is best to make them consciously.

Don’t let convenience be the deciding factor in what to focus on and what to neglect in your life.

Convenience makes things easy, but easiness is rarely what’s most valuable.

The real measure of your life management technique: does it help you ignore the right things.

Make Convenience work for You

Do not underestimate the power of convenience: Increase the convenience of what’s important to you. If writing more is important, leave a notebook and pen on your table. If watching less TV is important, put the remote control far away from the sofa. If drinking more water is important, have a bottle on your desk.

IESE Instagram Live: How Writing Helps your Career

This is the recording of a session I did yesterday with IESE Business School on the topic of writing as a tool to help your career. In this context, writing is not so much about writing for magazines or in a blog… but writing to set goals, to stay focussed, to identify what is important, to gain clarity, to track progress, to plan…

Do you need Motivation? …or do you need Clarity?

Many people say they lack motivation, when what they really lack is clarity. They are not de-motivated, they just don’t have any clear sense of where and how to place their energy and their time.

If you don’t have a plan, you can’t procrastinate. If you didn’t have a plan, procrastination is your plan.

If your goals aren’t written down, it is hard to refocus on them when you get distracted.

PS My friend Christophe took this so seriously that he tattooed an intention on his arm. Tattoos are a big step… maybe start with a piece of paper.

More on Writing as a Tool for Clarity

If you liked this, you will also like Free your Mind: Writing a Journal. and Writing to Reflect. Mindful Leadership. or Reflect on the Past, Clarify the Future.

What evidence would change your mind?

I was listening to Shane Parrish interview Adam Grant on his knowledge project podcast last week.

Adam was speaking of the loss of rationality in many public domains. Politics, gender, science, global warming, race relations… are all domains where it has become dangerous to ask questions or engage with open curiosity.

As Adam was speaking about this he gave us a question “what evidence would change your mind?”

If I can’t answer this question, it is possible that I have become too emotionally attached to my position.

I asked myself: what beliefs do I hold to such a degree that no evidence would change my mind?

It is not a bad thing to hold strong beliefs… I believe it it a vital ability to develop faith in the universe. I decided to believe that the universe is a good place. I decided to believe that people are trustworthy. These are decisions of a stance I take towards the world.

The problem comes when I pretend to be rational when my belief really doesn’t come from reason. You could prove to me that people aren’t trustworthy and I still would prefer to act towards the world as if people are trustworthy. I don’t really care about the evidence. As long as I recognize this as a “stance towards the world” rather than an evidence-based rational decision, I will be ok. However if I want to convince others, it’s important to realize on what basis I hold the belief.

Adam Grant on Advice

Adam shared a story of someone asking him for advice… and as soon as Adam started sharing his opinion he realized that the other person didn’t want to hear it. Since those early days of his career, Adam has become much more careful in offering his opinion.

When someone comes to Adam for advice:

First: Ask them for their Pros & Cons? Their Risks & Rewards? Get their perspective on what is important and what challenges they see. Get this first.

Next: Ask “Why did you come see me?”

Did they really come for Validation? Or Approval? Or are they really open to have you test their thinking?

Be careful about offering help when the other is not open to another perspective.

Did you come to visit this blog to challenge your thinking? Or to confirm your existing beliefs? 😉

Uncommon sense

Charlie Munger on uncommon sense…

Competence – you can only be trusted as competent if you clearly understand the limits of your competence. The great danger of experts is they forget the limits of their expertise – “it is better to trust a man of 130 IQ who thinks he is 125 IQ, than to trust a man of 180 IQ who thinks he is 200 IQ” Warren Buffett

Inverting – if you want to make life better, think of what you would do to make life worse. Charlie was an aviation meteorologist during WWII. His task was to give weather briefings to pilots. His role was unclear until he thought of the inverted perspective “if I wanted to kill pilots as a meteorologist, what could I do? Flying with iced wings, flying in conditions they will be unable to land.” This really clarified for him the important aspects of his role in keeping pilots alive. In our own lives, asking “how would I really make my life worse?” can be a valuable perspective on what really matters.

Collector – be a collector. How many collectors do you know who are unhappy? Identify things or experiences that you enjoy collecting and become a curator of your collections.

Integrate ideas between domains – most people focus on details within the idea (especially academics), few people look at the interaction between big ideas. That’s where there’s not much incentive in academics, but it’s very interesting for investing money.

Occam’s razor- go for simple… with a proviso that was initially shared by Einstein “Everything should be made as simple as possible but not more so” Einstein. Anywhere there is a “lollapalooza result” (Charlie’s term for a hugely positive and rapid outcome)… look for a confluence of causes. Academic experts find one cause. To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. There are rarely just single causes for high impact outcomes.

The problems of Social science– all chemists can answer “where do the rules of chemistry not apply?” In the high temperature plasma state. how many social scientists can answer “if you want to sell more should you raise or lower the price?” Where does this rule not apply? 1 in 50 will say “luxury goods!” Many social scientists forget to think of the exceptional cases.

Update… a summary of this post in a #shorts video

More on Charlie Munger’s thinking process

Charlie Munger’s Inverse Thinking Process

Short term Happy vs Long term Fulfilled

Leaders Must Develop 2 Skills in the People around Them

If you are a leader, you need to work on developing 2 skills in the people around you:

  • Influence and
  • Decision Making.

The Importance of Influence Skills

Without the people around you learning how to influence others, they will always need your involvement to get anything done.

Read more on Influence

The Importance of Good Decision Making

Without the people around you taking good decisions, you will always need to step in to stop disaster from happening.  In the IESE MBA program we have a course called “Analysis of Business Problems”.  We teach a 6 step process for business decision making:

  1. What is the Problem?
  2. What are the Criteria?
  3. What are the Options?
  4. Compare Options to Criteria
  5. Select Option
  6. Create a Plan

Read more on Decision Making

Breaking The Downward Spiral

In golf, one poor shot can trigger a state of mind that leads to a run of poor shots. I hit my drive into the bunker. In frustration, I try a more difficult shot than I should, and put it in another bunker. I then try and hit it extra hard to reach the green in 3… and leave it in the bunker.

Chess international master Josh Waitzkin says that the moment when a chess player really loses the game is when they think they are ahead, and after a move they realise that maybe their position is not so strong.  The next move will be too aggressive because they are anchored on the emotional sense of being ahead.

A professional learns to forget the past and play the shot or the move that they have in front of them.   An amateur compounds the error.

One poor shot does not ruin a golf round… unless you let it.  

The same occurs in life.

Do you let one mistake lead to three more?  

On a diet… one biscuit leads to 3 more? …that’s how to screw it up.

Do you tend to let one mistake lead to 3 more?

 

Exit mobile version
%%footer%%