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The ContraMind Code
Welcome to The ContraMind Code.
The ContraMind Code provides you with a system of principles, signals, and ideas to aid you in your pursuit of excellence.
The Newsletter shares the source code through quick snapshots for a systems thinking approach to be the best in what you do.
The Code helps you reboot and reimagine your thinking by learning from the best and enables you to draw a blueprint on what it takes to get extraordinary things done. Please share your valuable thoughts and comments and start a conversation.
Take a journey to www.contraminds.com. Listen and watch some great minds talking to us about their journey of discovery of what went into making them craftsmen of their profession to drive peak performance.
Why A Company Where Everyone Is Busy 100% Of The Time Is Inefficient
David Perell, renowned writer, podcaster and who also runs a writing school called Write of Passage, directed us thro’ his newsletter to Forte Labs by Tiago Forte. We had written about Tiago Forte’s book, Second Brain, in Edition #055.
This article, ‘Illusion of Local Optima’, is a fantastic account of what happens in most companies, and it identifies the root causes succinctly.
Here are some key highlights to think about and reflect on:
Isolated improvements are known as “local optima.” A local optimum is whatever is best for the performance of one individual part, whereas the global optimum is what is best for the performance of the system as a whole.
Identifying critical bottlenecks and constraints within a company’s functions or departments, which have a residual chain effect across the company, is vital.
The rule to “stay busy” is effectively optimising for the performance of each individual department. This wouldn’t be a problem if the departments worked entirely independently of each other, but of course, they don’t.
They are operating under the universal rule of the modern workplace: “Stay busy.” Nothing strikes terror into the heart of a manager like an “underutilised resource.” And nothing strikes terror into the heart of an employee like the feeling that there may not be enough work to justify their employment.
Trying to improve all parts of an organisation is a worthy goal, but only improvement at the bottleneck will make a difference.
Read the article here.
Naval Ravikant - 11 Rules For Life
This is a brilliant collection of Naval Ravikant’s conversations and principles.
Here are 11 rules he talks about:
Be Ready to Start Over
When inspired, Act Immediately
Choose to be Yourself
Do What Feels Like Play but Looks Like Work
Choose Your Desires Carefully
Fall in Love with Reading
Master the Basics
Be an Owner
Use the New Leverage
Create Empty Space
Overcome The Need for External Validation
Just click the above link and listen in.
What happens when AI writes a TED Talk...
Hans van Dam is one of the founders of the Conversation Design Institute. In this TED Talk, he talks about the importance and the role of humans in the age of AI in driving human-centric conversations. Conversation Design Institute has a lovely manifesto, and you can read through that here.
Here are some key highlights of the talk:
What happens to our sense of self and reality when we start outsourcing language to artificial intelligence?
He poses a very pertinent question to think about - if AI starts to do the job of writing speeches, talks, developing content etc. - ‘Where does technology end, and where do I begin, or is there no such distinction anymore?’
Hans makes an interesting point ‘Language is the Menu, it is not the Meal.’
‘If you look at the world from the lens of language, you are going to discover life is not a puzzle to be solved but a mystery to be enjoyed.’
If not handled right, AI conversations amplify wrong ideas and beliefs.
Hans proposes that if language is going to influence people and technology allows us to influence people, why not take control? He further reiterates, ‘Why can’t we teach AI to help humans become better people?’
Hans urges people to put their values and beliefs into AI systems; only then can people take control of these systems.
Hans says, ‘If you are building AI in your systems, don’t just leave it to the engineers - bring in the poets or similar people and give them a fair seat at the table with the engineers.’ He makes a clarion call to stakeholders like governments and companies to give more ‘Power to Poets’!
Hans also highlights that more human beings are needed to engineer a prompt and use all the soft skills to convert many of their ideas and concepts into a coherent story using a human-centric conversation design framework.
Hans proposes that for humanity to flourish, people with soft skills must be trained in prompt engineering and conversation design so that we elevate humanity rather than destroy it.
Just click the above link and listen to Hans’ TED Talk.
Personal Productivity Vs Organisational Productivity
Many thoughts came to mind reading through the article on ‘Optimising the Local Optima’ and listening to ‘ 11 Rules of Life’ by Naval Ravikant - One was the difficulty, contradictions yet the importance of balancing personal productivity and organisational productivity.
Not all can become owners of their own businesses, and a majority continue to work for companies. When you work for companies, ‘The 11 Rules of Life’ Naval espouses becomes increasingly hard to practice. You become part of the crowd that is running the corporate race. To be defined as successful and as an achiever in this race, you have to do many things that Naval asks you to undo in life, like - Choose to be Yourself, Overcome the Need for External Validation, Do what feels like play but looks like work, Create empty spaces, Choose your desires carefully - amongst the many there.
In reality, if you become highly productive and your company lags, it creates a vacuum and dissatisfaction in your head as you have a sense of underachievement against your own benchmarks. Only some people around at work subscribe to your discipline, values and beliefs around work, productivity, being driven for excellence etc. This, most of the time, puts you in a spot like:
‘Do I speak my mind with what I don’t agree?’
‘In the name of teamwork, they compromise productivity and excellence. Should I call it out or leave it be?’
‘I made a mistake in my judgement of a decision, and the results are not encouraging. Will I be hauled up for it? But, it looks like the one who does not take any risks seems to be the flavour of the management. What should I do?’
‘I know others are wasting my time, yet I must be around and play along.’
‘I am being told to do things only what you are paid for. My colleagues keep asking me, ‘Why are you killing yourself’?’
‘Everybody knows the problem, but nobody wants to take the problem head-on.’
This is where exactly the organisation's productivity is in complete contradiction with your personal productivity philosophy. Deep inside, you know this is not the way to work. Still, you continue to chug along for a variety of reasons - the pay is hard to ignore - both salary and stocks, it gives a stamp of achievement to your family and the external world, and the perks of working are phenomenal - travel, working in different countries, time etc. which you as an individual will not get such exposure, working with people of high calibre and work quality etc. However, when external considerations start to overtake or attract you to the job you are doing, and your internal expectations are continually compromised, it creates an imbalance in your life - especially if you are driven and passionate about what you want to do.
By its nature, a company is a collection of averages. It needs a combination of high-driven performers, steady-state state performers and loyal also-rans. You need to accept this reality. This is precisely where the organisation's productivity takes a beating. Does it have the capacity in its people who are working there to make the change, transform continuously and relook at their benchmarks of achievement? This may be what an organisation's culture is made of. If the company has a large cohort of people with similar minds, values, beliefs and aspirations, then its culture is closer to optimising your own productivity and organisation productivity. It is a great place to be. Here are two questions to think about:
The individuals must ask themselves - ‘Does the job help me enhance my personal productivity, or does it deplete it?’. When you compromise this for extraneous factors like pay, designation, position etc., there is a price you are willing to pay for your personal productivity, and you need to come to terms with it and do your best. But staying focussed on your personal productivity regimen is critical but being patient and waiting for the right timing to unleash in the future.
Organisations must ask themselves - ‘Do we enable an environment of high personal productivity, and do we have a large cohort of people with this ambition and mindset?’ There is no benefit to having a few individuals exhibiting this behaviour when a majority are on the other side of the fence in an organisation. Look closely at attrition with this lens in mind.
However, people's capacity is the biggest bottleneck of organisations - lack of market opportunities, wrong management decisions, or poor financial management comes later. But many people find it hard to accept that they or their function or departments are the bottlenecks as they have a strong bias about themselves, their functions or departments, their contributions, and their capabilities. They tend to equate their past and present success mainly to their own efforts and find it hard to accept that the ecosystem within the company or people around them helped them achieve what they did. This is the primary reason some people, when switching jobs, cannot find similar success as they had in their previous jobs as they underestimate this hard truth. Improving your own personal productivity and effectiveness is the single most significant need in the knowledge and information era. When collective individual productivity rises, organisation productivity can see a jump hitherto unseen in history.
The secret sauce to satisfaction and success is a perfect balance and the intersection of personal and organisational productivity.
Some of the lessons we learnt from this week’s mission:
Attempt to improve the most critical bottleneck rather than improve all parts of an organisation.
Look for internal rather than external validation, as it can help you achieve complete fulfilment and redefine the meaning of success.
Don’t just use algorithms and rules in AI systems. Find ways to design and add human-centric conversational ideas or thoughts to AI chats, as these systems can make people better human beings.