Why the right mix of Stability and Challenge is essential to brilliant work.
What does it take for a team to produce consistently brilliant creative work? Just talent? A fun and vibrant culture? Sheer will? Actually, in "create on demand" organizations the answer is often something else. Something surprising.
Have you ever been at a cocktail party, had someone ask you what you do for a living, and wished you could come up with something impressive-sounding to wow them? Adam Stelztner probably never experiences that. He's an engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory who has worked on flight missions including Galileo, Cassini, and Mars Pathfinder, and the Mars Exploration Rover project. He has a lot to say about innovation and leadership.
GTD is a system for organizing and acting on the work that matters most. There are a lot of nuances to the system, and as a result many people get lost in the weeds and intricate details and get off track and stop utilizing it altogether. That's unfortunate, because there are many principles that can be borrowed from GTD and acted upon, even if you don't use the entire system.
I just spent years researching and writing a book about voice. Voice? Seriously? Why would I do that? Honestly, if I offered you ten potential books to read, and a book about voice was among them, I'd guess that the voice book would probably be among the least...
The ugly truth is that great work isn’t enough. No one tells you this early in your career; It’s something you learn over time. Cream doesn’t automatically rise to the top, and we don’t live in a meritocracy. If you want your idea to be heard, you have to go the extra mile to ensure that it’s framed to resonate with the right audience.
After expending so much time, energy, and focus on something you care about, it can be devastating when it just doesn't click. What you do next is very important.
It’s noisy. Not physically noisy, but culturally noisy.
Everyone is clamoring for attention, and clanging their gongs trying to win a few seconds of your precious time. Clickbait, shock tactics, and distractions are so commonplace that they are now used even by previously “credible” institutions. It’s tempting to follow suit and fall into these tactics with your own work. Don't do it.
Winning is often a game of percentages. Practice and hone your skills through unnecessary creation, follow your instincts for opportunity, and don’t be afraid to take shots and miss.
Many people allow their life to become cluttered with passive yes's, not active ones. They are living with a decision they made months or years ago, and are not making the effort to re-visit whether it's still the right decision. Sometimes you have to say "no" in order to re-focus your efforts.
Last week, I had the chance to chat with Erica Dhawan, who is co-author of the new book Get Big Things Done. The book is about the age of connectedness, and how we can now accomplish things previously unattainable if we leverage "connectional intelligence".
Don't believe the lie that success is inevitable. On the inside, where all of the risk is being taken, it often feels like things could fall apart at any moment, and that's precisely how it should be.
In the effort to "ship fast" we often fail to lay a sturdy foundation for our work, and the results can be disastrous. Shipping early shouldn't be equivalent to thoughtlessness. You need to ensure that you are respecting the work by giving it your best mental effort.
If you want to remain productive, and you want to have ideas when you need them most, then the kinds of stimuli you allow into your mind are important. Because creativity is essentially the combining of existing pieces of inspiration in your environment into something new, the quality and relevance of inputs will often directly affect your creative output, thus either propelling you forward or impeding your progress.
Many of us lack the kind of latitude over our schedule that we’d like to have, but all of us have some discretion about how we spend our time. The best way to prevent distractions and make steady progress on your most important work is to dedicate predictable time to it.