Cross-Pollination Vol. 9
I thought this would be a good place to start. Considering the fact that I've had all these browsers open for nearly a month, with the intention of sharing its content.
"When you have 90 percent of a large project completed, finishing up the final details will take another 90 percent."
This, one of Kevin Kelly's life hacks, can be found here. Be sure to check out the links within for more.
We could all use some. But we could all certainly create more.
"When we’re constantly fixated on the verbal agenda—what to say next, what to write next, what to tweet next—it’s tough to make room for truly different perspectives or radically new ideas. It’s hard to drop into deeper modes of listening and attention. And it’s in those deeper modes of attention that truly novel ideas are found."
"Cultivating silence isn’t just about getting respite from the distractions of office chatter or tweets. Real sustained silence, the kind that facilitates clear and creative thinking, quiets inner chatter as well as outer."
"This kind of silence is about resting the mental reflexes that habitually protect a reputation or promote a point of view. It’s about taking a temporary break from one of life’s most basic responsibilities: Having to think of what to say."
A pause. Something so simple, yet so necessary.
Make sure to check out their book, "Golden: The power of silence in a world of noise." I just finished it and it was a great way to start the new year.
"The world is getting louder. But silence is still accessible—it just takes commitment and creativity to cultivate it."
I never read fiction. I know I should (it's been stated that those who read fiction are more empathetic), I just don't. The goal for this year is to read at least one fiction book.
Regardless, we all know we should read. And many of us do. But many of us also overlook the link between reading and writing.
"You can't think well without writing well, and you can't write well without reading well."
"You have to be good at reading, and read good things."
"People who just want information may find other ways to get it. But people who want to have ideas can't afford to."
So if you have an idea, you need to write about it. But in order to write about it, you should read about it.
But of course, writing isn't easy.
Our minds spin with ideas, many of which escape our short term memory. Then when we do start writing, all we can come up with are one or two sentences. If that.
But we press on. We put ideas into words.
We jot down our thoughts, even if incoherent. We continue this process. And write some more. For it is then, and only then, where we finally have content and when we are finally able to refine.
Until we go back and read it of course.
"You have to pretend to be a neutral reader who knows nothing of what's in your head, only what you wrote."
What matters little is the sense that it fails to make. What matters most is that we write.
"If writing down your ideas always makes them more precise and more complete, then no one who hasn't written about a topic has fully formed ideas about it. And someone who never writes has no fully formed ideas about anything nontrivial."
A notebook, your notes app, post-it notes.
Putting ideas into words is certainly no guarantee that they'll be right. Far from it. But though it's not a sufficient condition, it is a necessary one.
"Our culture still treats mistakes as impediments when they are, in fact, the path to betterment."
Experience matters here. There is no experience without "try."
"When you have a history of overcoming adversities, you can become highly confident in navigating future follies when they arise. You are confident and cautious."
"You can develop that confidence by marching into the din of battle, being as informed as possible of potential outcomes, and committing to adapt to whatever comes your way. Most importantly, once you overcome challenges, you update your self-talk and beliefs, realizing you can adapt to failures, which changes your life for the better."
Courtesy of Austin Einhorn.
People are confusing the quality of the communication of an idea with the quality of the idea itself.
When the responsibility is on the other party as well.
Some nuggets on ideas and communication from Steve Mesler.
"...good communication doesn’t magically transform a bad idea into a good idea. It simply changes the perception of the idea in a way, leading us to buy into it, invest in it, or simply believe it’s a good idea. But at the end of the day, a bad idea, bad product, or bad service is still bad."
"It’s not their job to communicate better. It’s MY job to understand incredibly well."
Space and Time
Two closing links on space and time.
First, the Luddites. An emerging group of "rebellious" young adults, intentionally creating space between themselves (individually) and technology, so that they can create connection, collectively.
A tribute to 18th century, Ned Ludd, members of this collective have distanced themselves from social media and iPhones, to the point where they've reverted to flip phones for necessity, and focus on true connectedness and friendships.
"And she began waking up without an alarm clock at 7 a.m., no longer falling asleep to the glow of her phone at midnight."
"My parents are so addicted. My mom got on Twitter, and I’ve seen it tear her apart. But I guess I also like it, because I get to feel a little superior to them."
In the end, what they've regained is time.
Which as you'll see, is not absolute:
"Real time is actually something quite different. In some of the odder corners of the Universe, space and time can stretch and slow — and sometimes even break down completely."
"In places where gravity is very strong, time as we understand it can break down completely. At the edge of black holes, for example, the powerful gravitational pull slows time dramatically. And upon crossing the black hole's point of no return, known as its event-horizon, space and time flip."
It's a narrative.
"Time is a human affair — a result of neurons firing and memories formed and books written."
Be free of mind and free of time. Boredom leads to creativity.
Cross-Pollination Vol. 8
Creativity and LEGO
Why do we love LEGO?
Of all the toys that have come and gone, why has LEGO stood the test of time?
They answer, arguably, lies in creativity.
The more building blocks we have, and the greater diversity of shapes and colours of them we possess, the more interesting our creations will be.
Maria Povova, author and creator of The Marginalian, theorizes that creativity is combinatorial. Where nothing is original, and that everything is built upon that which precedes it. That creating is a byproduct of taking existing pieces of inspiration, knowledge, skill and insight, gathered over our lifespan, and recombining them into new creations.
Much like LEGO.
“We take information, from it synthesize insight, which in turn germinates ideas. And then we take these ideas, ours and those of others, we toss them into our mental reservoir…where they sit and sort of just float around until one day they float into just the right alignment to click into a new idea.”
We just have to remember that nothing is truly original.
“In order for us to truly create and contribute to the world, we have to be able to connect countless dots, to cross-pollinate ideas from a wealth of disciplines, to combine and recombine these pieces and build new castles.”
LEGO has not changed. Yet our creations become more and more astonishing every year.
The keys to creativity and the ability to “make seemingly random connections across disciplines,” for Popova, are curiosity and choice. With “curiosity” being the hunger for knowledge and understanding and “choice” being the discipline to focus and channel our attention.
We all love LEGO. And we all love information. But I think we can do a better job, if we want to, in both reinvigorating our child-like curiosities and channelling a monk-like discipline.
“How we choose to pay attention, and relate to information and each other shapes who we become, shapes our creative destiny and, in turn, shapes our experience of the world. And, in my mind, there’s nothing more important than that.”
Speaking of creativity...
Creativity at Play
Lil Jazz here from the 1998 DMC World Championships.
Like playing with LEGO, Jazz takes independent and diverse pieces of music and uses them as building blocks in a combinatorial manner to form new sounds. New creations. Creations that were the result of deep work and trial and error...
We all make errors. But not all errors are the same.
Recall that there are two types; errors of commission and errors of omission.
Commonly attributed to, and used in, the realm of accounting, the two errors can be understood as follows:
With the latter being the less harmful of the two.
In team sports, for example, a player can be where he/she is supposed to be, yet make a mistake. This is an error of commission. But if the player is out of position, leading to the opposing team scoring, this is an error of omission.
So where am I going with this?
It is not uncommon for those of us in clinical realms to be presented with someone who is actively trying to be healthy but doing the "wrong" things. Chasing fad diets, doing ineffective exercises, etc. Although well-intentioned, often these individuals are unable to rehab their injury or improve their body composition due to errors of commission.
In contrast, we have also encountered others who don't make the time for exercise, rarely sleep longer than 5 hours, and/or never show up to their appointments or training sessions. Errors of Omission.
But Errors of Commission aren't always the innocent of the two...
ChatGPT has been rapidly rising in popularity and it’s been suggested that this new AI (artificial intelligence) tool may eventually replace google’s search engine. However, what are the chances this leads to misinformation?
This is what Kompella and Cooper have to say,
“What complicates matters is that AI-generated content will commingle fact and fiction, and the end result will often seem believable enough. How will we know whether the AI-written output is accurate? Some parts of the content make sense and some parts may not. It is not always clear which is which. Well-meaning users can actually end up believing in falsehoods and unwittingly spread misinformation.”
While we’re certainly not immune to this in our current state of wired connectedness, my personal concern is that not only will we be unsure of accuracy of information but effort in knowledge seeking may be reduced further in future years to come.
Especially if the sea of information continues to wash over us in repeated tsunami-like fashion...
Rapid Innovation vs Creativity
"The difficulty seems to be, not so much that we publish unduly in view of the extent and variety of present day interests, but rather that publication has been extended far beyond our present ability to make real use of the record. The summation of human experience is being expanded at a prodigious rate, and the means we use for threading through the consequent maze to the momentarily important item is the same as was used in the days of square-rigged ships."
So it has never been more imperative than now, with the rapidly evolving landscape of technology and information retrieval, for society to take command and control of AI innovation and more importantly, creative thought.
"Much needs to occur, however, between the collection of data and observations, the extraction of parallel material from the existing record, and the final insertion of new material into the general body of the common record. For mature thought there is no mechanical substitute. But creative thought and essentially repetitive thought are very different things."
For it is not the search of information, or knowledge, that we must seek but wisdom...
Knowledge vs Wisdom
And perhaps, according to Morris et al,
" (The) difference between wisdom and knowledge (is) information about something? The latter being driven by certainty and control; correctly labelling objects inspected, destined to be classified away into their ‘correct’ places as if the world is static. The former being driven by uncertainty and humility; appreciating that the world is not filled with objects to be inspected and recorded, but is a dynamic, tangled mesh of things woven together, things perpetually on the move."
We must embrace what we do not know and more importantly, embrace WHEN we do not know. For it is within this space specifically, that we are most curious, most attentive, most malleable.
Cross-Pollination Vol. 7
Lateral Thinking and Incubation
The story of a monumental discovery by Dr. Rishi Rajpopat, who recently published his thesis defense at the University of cambridge this month.
If the solution is complicated, you are probably wrong.
Often, we are tempted to create or “invent” new solutions to challenging problems. Yet, in most cases, the answer simply lies under a cloak of simplicity and lateral thinking, waiting to be discovered.
To recall from a recent OLAD,
To discover is to reveal, or make light to, that which is already there.
And uncovering, by lateral thinking, literally, was what Dr. Rajpopat did as he solved a grammatical problem that was created in the 5th Century BC.
The key for Rajpopat’s a-ha moment though, laid in his process of thought. More specifically, the "Incubation” stage of Graham Wallace’s Four Stages of the Creative Process that I outlined in an earlier Cross-Pollination post.
The Incubation Phase is the period immediately after you put in the work. Where you remove yourself and let things “simmer.” This is the stage of unconscious processing and that which precedes the “a-ha” or “eureka” moment, the Illumination Phase - the moment when the answer bursts into one’s consciousness.
While working on the problem (Wallace’s Preparation Phase), naturally Rajpopat struggled at times. But it wasn’t until his supervisor told him, “If the solution is complicated, you are probably wrong,” that he decided to take some time away from the problem and place himself (perhaps unknowingly) in an Incubation Phase which led to his Illumination.
“Six months later, I had a eureka moment. I was almost ready to quit, I was getting nowhere. So I closed the books for a month and just enjoyed the summer, swimming, cycling, cooking, praying and meditating.
Then, begrudgingly I went back to work, and, within minutes, as I turned the pages, these patterns starting emerging, and it all started to make sense.
At that moment, I thought to myself, in utter astonishment: For over two millennia, the key to Pāṇini’s grammar was right before everyone's eyes but hidden from everyone's minds!"
The mind can be powerful, if we let it. Far too often we try too hard to be creative and end up complicating matters. But by putting in the work and thinking laterally or cross-pollinating, combined with giving the mind the ability to unconsciously process via rest, we give ourselves a greater chance of solving challenging and complex problems.
Peloton Formations in Hockey
As a reminder, Richard Martin penned a collection of pieces regarding organizational and team dynamics utilizing road cycling as a framework. An overview was included in Cross-Pollination Vol. 5.
"What cycling illustrates constantly is that leadership can come from anywhere. At the heart of the peloton formations concept is the notion of fluidity; fluidity of organizational structure, as well as fluidity of roles and responsibilities."
He describes the following team members within the peloton and the potential for leadership roles dependent upon the daily context:
"Strong, trust-based relationships are the genuine currency of networks…What characterizes the network in situations is a fluidity of knowledge, roles, responsibilities and authority. Leadership is in motion, governed by context."
In the sport of hockey, similar "formations" seem evident. Where, on any given night, individual players may work themselves into such positions or roles throughout the game. The pace and dynamic nature of the sport, combined with injuries and relatively compressed schedules create windows of opportunities where player roles both magnify and work together in dependant complex systems.
"Leadership has to come from within the team, from anywhere on the playing field. It is not the case of a coach simply instructing players on what to do. Instead it is about developing a partnership, recognising the skills and mastery, the autonomy, of each individual."
The very best teams harness individualism, not exile it.
Perfectionism and Loss Aversion
A good episode on coaching Gen Z athletes. The focus here was on swimming but the principles discussed within can certainly be applied to any sport, though other realms included. One thought, in particular, came to light:
That the fear - and/or pain - of losing being twice as powerful than the pleasure of gaining. Where loss aversion may prevent younger athletes from getting started.
Catch Them Doing Things Right
Todd McLellan was recently a guest on 32 thoughts. As above, he too discusse coaching the new waves of athletes. Specifically, he shared his thoughts on the importance of catching players doing things right.
"Coaches have always been repairman. They open the hood of the car even if it’s running good, and tinker around with it. Not so much anymore. (Now) they fine-tune things a little bit. They (look for) things that players maybe wouldn’t have tried before..."
And they guide and encourage them.
"I don’t believe there’s no "I" in team. I think there are 23 "I's" and they’ve got to fit your team. If you approach them that way, then you give them the self satisfaction and the recognition that they’re their own individual identity, and that they fit the group. Because players think about themselves first and that’s okay. We just need to recognize that and understand it and manage it. And deal with players (in ways) they may be more receptive to."
Great perspective in my opinion and a podcast episode I truly enjoyed.
The Mood Meter
Speaking of working with younger generations, we know that these athletes are more in tune with their feelings, thoughts and emotions. And we know that each of these impact their moods.
The Mood Meter below is a tool that helps identify, in greater depth, one's mood. The tool is divided into four coloured quadrants, each representing a different set of feelings. The feelings are grouped together on the mood meter and based on their pleasantness and energy level.
In many settings, I think this may be helpful in fostering connections and relationships with young athletes.
A quote to sign off with, courtesy of Michael Garfield:
When unpredictability increases, the inefficiency of the generalist starts to pay off.
Cross-Pollination - Vol. 6
The Ringelmann Effect and Social Loafing
Is less more?
Something to consider with regards to sport medicine and/or performance departments. The Ringelmann Effect suggests that individuals may be more likely to expend less effort on given task(s) the greater the size of the group. As an extension of this, the causative hypothesis may be related to Social Loafing - decreasing one's effort when they feel less responsible for the output.
The potential consequence aside from the obvious? Resentment from high performers.
It's Hard to Survive in the Jungle if You Were Trained in the Zoo
Replace "Jungle" with "Field" and "Zoo" with "Gym":
"It's hard to survive on the field if you were trained in the gym."
Field, ice, pitch, court...it's all the same. The principle is what matters.
We know this, yet we still work in silos.
Sonja Blignaut notes,
"Zoos are unnatural, ordered environments where animals are kept safely in enclosures (some closely mimicking the animal’s natural habitat), grouped according to specific categories. Zoos have their place; they play an essential role in the conservation of endangered species and in education. However, they are not resilient, and they are fundamentally different contexts when compared to natural ecosystems.
In the controlled zoo world, life is pretty predictable: enclosures or cages are cleaned regularly; animals are fed once or twice a day; even breeding is controlled. The enclosures keep animals apart (much like silos in modern organisations), so there is no need for animals to be alert and situationally aware as they’d be in the jungle, as there is no immediate threat to their survival. There is no predator-prey dynamic here, no competition for resources: so complacency and lethargy soon set in. Animals born in captivity who have been habituated to this context will not last long in the jungle."
"...organisations are still caught in outdated structures and linear, reductionist ways of thinking that don’t enable the effective flow of value or the collaboration that complex challenges require...The reality is that the fast-changing and dynamic context we now operate in requires engaged and empowered workers across all levels...The challenges we face require imagination, curiosity, and diverse perspectives. Instead of focusing on getting people back into their controlled enclosures, leaders should focus on creating enabling environments"
So, as we move from the (potential) negative effects of the Ringelmann Effect to creating productive and resilient environments (The Jungle), we need to encourage exposure and the" crossing of thresholds."
A threshold is not a simple boundary; it is a frontier that divides two different territories, rhythms, and atmospheres. Indeed, it is a lovely testimony to the fullness and integrity of an experience, or a stage of life that it intensifies toward the end into a real frontier that cannot be crossed without the heart being passionately engaged and woken up.
How often at work (micro) and in life (macro) are we faced with uncertainty and the need to step into a realm of discomfort in order to move forward and progress? It is in this space, often the unknown and almost always the uncomfortable, that lies a threshold that we must cross. And it is here that an acknowledgement must be made so that a transition can be achieved.
The Space of Not Knowing
For it is in this space of not knowing that creativity is liberated. And is here that lies opportunities to sit on the edge of, look and think outside of the box.
We must remain curious. For, as Abraham Flexner in The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge (1939) states,
"Curiosity, which may or may not eventuate in something useful, is probably the outstanding characteristic of modern thinking. It is not new. It goes back to Galileo, Bacon, and to Sir Isaac Newton, and it must be absolutely unhampered. Institutions of learning should be devoted to the cultivation of curiosity and the less they are deflected by considerations of immediacy of application, the more likely they are to contribute not only to human welfare but to the equally important satisfaction of intellectual interest which may indeed be said to have become the ruling passion of intellectual life in modern times."
We are reminded in this timeless paper that it is not the immediacy of application that matters, but the persistence of thought. For the effects of curiosity and thought may not arise until many miles downstream.
"Throughout the whole history of science, most of really the great discoveries which had ultimately proved to be beneficial to mankind had been made my men and women who were driven not by the desire to be useful but merely the desire to satisfy their curiosity."
Because, as I stated in OLAD:
To discover is to reveal, or make light to, that which is already there. Because discovery is simply the merging, or by product, of two or more concepts.
"Thus it becomes obvious that one must be wary in attributing scientific discovery wholly to anyone person. Almost every discovery has a long and precarious history. Someone finds a bit here, another a bit there. A third step succeeds later and thus onward till a genius pieces the bits together and makes the decisive contribution. Science, like the Mississippi, begins in a tiny rivulet in the distant forest. Gradually other streams swell its volume. And the roaring river that bursts the dikes is formed from countless sources."
It is not the existence of knowledge, but the convergence and cross-pollination of knowledge, that drives progress.
Cross-Pollination - Vol. 5
Making seemingly random connections across disciplines...