Searching Inside Myself (learning from Google employees’ not-so-secret secret)

A review of ‘Search Inside Yourself’, by Chade-Meng Tan (book)

The book’s full title is ‘Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace)‘. Which is sometimes shortened to just ‘SIY‘.

Chade-Meng Tan (Meng) works for Google, where his official job title is “Jolly Good Fellow (which nobody can deny)” (Meng was involved in developing Google’s online search function, but more recently has been developing and running the SIY training course for Google employees).

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Making extraordinary ordinary

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Antrey

I often reflect on my own development, and whether how I anticipated a challenge was later confirmed to be a fair reflection of the actual effort (and sometimes ‘stress’) involved.

Sometimes things turn out easier, sometimes more difficult – either new considerations come to light (not previously anticipated) or the effort required was misjudged. In any case, while it is something one does frequently, it is often difficult to ‘anticipate’ being competent at a specific task (ie, until one has achieved competence). In a way this can be compared to the implications of shopping at a supermarket when one is not hungry.

Being able to anticipate competence (or second best, having a high degree of confidence that you’ll get there without undue stress) can be hugely beneficial. Therefore, I wanted to think a little more how we can turn things that seem extraordinary into being ordinary.

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Autodidacticism and the future of the world

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/arakonyunus

Why do so many people pay so much money for further education, and executive education? Indeed, why do we need a formal education ‘system’ – why don’t we just teach ourselves what we need to know, with the same books used in education establishments?

Higher education courses are often based on published texts and “blackboard” teaching (or other medium: whiteboard, projector, beamer, etc.). Yet most of this ‘knowledge’ is available to purchase directly (without much of the indirect overhead of education establishments), or even, in some cases, free online, including recorded videos of whole semesters of classes.

Why do we insist on engaging (and paying) others so much to help us learn? Are there other benefits that make it worthwhile?

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Where do ideas come from?

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Tommydickson

I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot recently. In a way, it is the ‘holy grail’ of innovation, one that many innovation books are trying to answer, or help you with – if you can understand where ideas come from, and refine that, so you get better ideas more often, then one can win notoriety/fame and fortune.

As with many things however, it’s just not that easy. Coming up with ‘good ideas’ is an art. Sometimes we think they ‘pop’ into our heads, and we don’t quite know how one minute we had no idea, and the next we are empowered by a thought that we want to develop and share with others.

From reading around on this, and thinking about it, one clear message appears to come out – ideas are often (but not exclusively) not things that come quickly, from a single person in a single moment (as many people believe, in a sudden ‘Eureka’ moment, or having an apple fall on your head), but rather ‘grow’ over a period of time from a network (it’s only the ‘realization/awareness’ of the idea, the ‘connecting of the dots’, that appears sudden).

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“Brainstorming doesn’t work”?

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/DrAfter123

I recently wrote a post titled “Thoughts on ideas, brainstorming, facilitation, and crowdsourcing“.  In that I wrote “I love brainstorming”. And I still do (for the reasons given in that last post).

Interestingly however, since writing that post, I’ve come across a number of opponents to brainstorming, most recently with the recommendation to search for “brainstorming doesn’t work” in Google – in true Google style, there are “About 7,030,000 results (0.21 seconds)”. In contrast, Googling “benefits of brainstorming” yields only about 4,200,000 results …

So what’s wrong?

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Are enough people benefiting from your performances?

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/podgorsek

There are already many great performances that are recorded and available on the web that will improve the lives of many (enjoyment, education, informative, etc.). Live performances that are great, but are not recorded or shared, will however most likely not be remembered – the presenter will not achieve the reputation or legacy that they are potentially capable of, and the potential maximum audience that that could have benefited from hearing/seeing the performance (and enjoying it, or learning from it) won’t have done so.

It frustrates me that ‘great’ training performances aren’t leveraged for the benefit of others; it frustrates me that only live participants benefit from great conferences or leadership updates (is there really such a premium on live attendance that means those unfortunate not to be able to attend should pay the penalty of missing out?).

Given readily available tools to enable the recording and sharing of audio and video recordings, I feel we have reached an important stage of development, where we can all benefit from sharing our performances more often and more widely.

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Why everyone needs to consider becoming an early adopter (or at least in the “early majority”)

Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0f/Diffusionofideas.PNG

As I mentioned also in a previous post (‘Thoughts on the accelerating evolution of business models’), the world seems to be changing fast (and accelerating in the pace of change). I believe this could require a change in how Everett M. Rogers’ “Diffusion of innovations” should be perceived (he was the creator of the concepts set out in the chart above).

In particular, due to the pace of change, I consider that it is today even more important to be on the left side of the curve, than on the right, and as such, instead of a ‘normal distribution‘, the distribution should be skewed to the left (an example, hypothetical chart for this follows below).

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Thoughts on ideas, brainstorming, facilitation, and crowdsourcing

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/DrAfter123

Having an “idea” is a uniquely human thing.  It can be fun, beautiful, empowering, motivating, exciting, artistic, valuable. *

Through personal reflection, brainstorming, facilitation and crowdsourcing ideas can be leveraged and improved upon, to the point that the outcome is far better than the initial idea.

Ideas come from creative thinking, considering the previously unconsidered, often referred to as ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking or ‘strategic’ thinking (albeit strategy in many businesses seems, disappointingly, often not to be that creative).

I enjoy the creative process of originating and developing ideas, and so wanted to pull together some thoughts on this.

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An outsider’s perspective on Spiral Dynamics

A friend who I run with has often talked about how his thinking, and his actions have been influenced by a theory/concept called “Spiral Dynamics”. He talks about how he uses this to observe and categorize himself and people who he might, in order to better understand himself and them, and how he might interact with them, in both personal and professional situations.

In some ways one might initially be encouraged to see Spiral Dynamics as a religious/spiritual movement or a management theory. It is, in my view, neither. It might also come across as arrogant, or even radical. I could understand how these views arise (more on this below), but it doesn’t bother me if that would be how others see it – I see that it can have a positive effect in those who decide to learn about it and apply it responsibly.

Through its altruistic perspectives Spiral Dynamics seems to achieve a clear, methodical basis on which to understand human and social development. The benefits of this can be ‘enlightenment’ (satisfaction from greater knowledge/understanding of oneself and others) as well as, potentially, more effective interactions with other people.

My TEDxperience (TEDxMunich, Monday 7 June 2010)


Today I attended the TEDxMunich event, held in the BMW Museum in Munich, Germany. The TEDx events are independently organized TED events, which are held under guidelines set by TED (see my earlier post, ‘TED Talks. We listen.‘, for further details about what TED is, and my thoughts and opinions thereon).

In this post I aim to share some feedback on the TEDx event. My primary interest in attending the event was to better understand the TED ‘movement’ and how it works in the background, beyond just being a series of videos of talks recorded on TED.com or YouTube.

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