What We Need the Most Today: Pessimism –> Optimism –> Activism

I was going through some of the old posts by Jessica Hagy and came across this one, which is so relevant to the world that we are living in today. So much so that i could not stop but sharing this. Not just content to share it on my twitter or Facebook feeds, but on my blog.

Today, we live in a world that is full of people who are not very optimistic about what our future holds for us. Depending upon which side of the equation, you fall in, the political systems around the world are becoming more and more fragile. Autocratic democracy is what I am seeing around the world. Then there is the issue of terrorism, of civil wars and of occupied territories and a lot more. There is enough news around us to make us feel depressed about our near future.

However, I think that there is a lot that is happening that is good as well. As humans, we are hard wired to look at the negatives more than the positives that surround us. Tim Harford, shares his top 5 reasons to be optimistic about the future. Then there are people who are taking it up on themselves to find what is great around us and share it with all of us – like The Logical Indian does.

I strongly believe that we are living in a time when, we as a human race have a lot going for us. We need to consciously fight the pessimism around us. This can done not just by being optimistic, but becoming activists.

I am sure that everyone of us has at least one topic that is close to our hearts. Some like music, some movies, some to read, some to write, some to serve, some to create art. Irrespective of what is close to our hearts, we need to pick that topic and instead of being just an observer, we decide to act on the topic.

Instead of hoping that someone will act and make this world a better place – we need to realise that its we who need to act to make our world a better place. I know that this is not easy, but everything that is worth doing is generally not easy.

Let’s also be clear about the purpose why I hope we will all start becoming activists – it is not to fight anyone or against anything, but to prove that we humans are anti-fragile. We usually get better in the face of adversity, this time and every time.

I can’t expect you to become an activist without first becoming one – that would not be fair on my part. I have started my own activism – to help myself and my friends and colleagues become better humans and improve our very understanding of how we lead our lives and make our decisions. I have started doing this by creating a short video everyday and upload the same on YouTube as part of my playlist: Thoughts for the Day – Everyday.

You can look at all the videos already posted below and follow along if this is of interest to you.


Lets commit to moving up from being a pessimist, finding faults with everything around us, to becoming an optimist believing that we are lucky to be living at this exact time frame with opportunities all around us and finally graduating to becoming an activist – acting on our beliefs and convictions.

So, what are your belief’s and convictions? What are you going to act upon?

20 Insanely Interesting People I Came to Know in 2016

One of the things I do over time is to discover new people and learn from new sources. I had shared my earlier list of 25 insanely interesting people in 2014. You can find that list here.

So, here is a list of some of the insanely interesting people that i came across in 2016. I do hope you will find some of these people and the great work that they are doing interesting enough to start following them. I must say that I was fortunate enough to discover these people online and learn so much from them.

I do hope that you will spare some time and try and follow some of these folks and the insanely interesting work that they are putting out into the world. They are changing the world as we know it.

Here is my list of insanely interesting people I came to know in 2016 (in alphabetical order)

Adam Grant – Super Power – Being Prolific at Original Thinking

I was introduced to Adam through a podcast episode that Srinivas Rao put out on his show – Unmistakable Creative (BTW, it was also one of the best episodes of the show). Then I went on to listen to his book – Originals on Audible. Loved the book. Then I went ahead and bought his other book – Give and Take and loved that as well. I have been highly influenced by both his books and hope I am able to put some of the learnings from the books into practise.

Adam is THE top rated professor at Wharton and a leading expert on finding motivation, meaning, and live more generous and creative lives. He has been recognised as one of the world’s 25 most influential management thinkers and Fortune’s40 under 40.

You can buy his book Originals here and Give and Take here. You can connect with him on twitter at @AdamMGrant.

Anders Ericsson – Super Power – Expert on How to Become an Expert

He is the author of the book – Peak and the proponent of the concept of deliberate practice. I got an opportunity to read his book and have a conversation with him for my podcast and was blown away by the simplicity & openness of this expert on expertise & human performance. He had a significant influence in my thinking and understanding about how does one go about becoming an expert in any given field. So much so that I bought 25 copies of his book to give away to my customers, with the request to gift the book to someone they thought had the potential or the aspiration to become world class at their chosen field. You can find more information about him and his contact at his university page here. You can buy the book here.  You can listen to my conversation with him here.

Anthony Iannarino – Super Power – Inspiring Greatness – not just in selling.

I found Anthony through my search for good sales blogs. His blog is literally called The Sales Blog. This is one of the best sales blog that i have come across which doesn’t just talk about how to be great at Sales but also be a great individual. I had the opportunity to talk to him for my podcast. You can listen to the episode here.

He also has a YouTube channel and has started posting a video on his channel every day. He also launched his first book – The Only Sales Guide You’ll ever Need recently, which went on to become a best seller.

You can visit his blog here and find him on twitter @iannarino.

BJ Fogg – Super Power – Making Behaviour Change Happen

I don’t remember how I discovered BJ. He is a behaviour scientist and is an expert in behaviour design. Like so  many people, I participated in his online behaviour change workshop – Tiny Habits and was blown away by the results that I got from the same. You can look at his model of behaviour change here.

If behaviour design is something that you would like to explore, BJ Fogg is the person to go to. I do hope that i am able to get to talk to him for my podcast sometime soon (truth being said, I haven’t reached out to him yet).

You can find his work here and can reach him on twitter at @bjfogg.

Cal Newport – Super Power – Doing Deep Work

I came across Cal when I listened to him on every one of the podcasts that I follow and talk about deep work and its importance. Then I read (listened to his) book – Deep Work and my respect and admiration for him went up significantly. When Anders suggested that i should host him on my show, I reached out to him and he immediately agreed to be on the show. I am super excited to talk to him and get to understand him a bit more deeply :-).

You can find his book here, follow his blog here.

Dan Gregory – Super Power – Making the Impossible Possible

I came to know of Dan and his work through reading his book – Selfish, Scared and Stupid! He is the Co-Founder, President and CEO of The Impossible Institute™, a strategic think-tank that helps organisations understand what motivates the staff, customers and communities so that they can make impossible things possible.

I had the chance to talk to him for my show and was blown away by his calm, thoughtful and brilliant answers to my questions. You can listen to the episode here.

If you are running a small/medium sized business and want to explore how to significantly grow your business, Dan is the man to turn to.

You can follow his blog here and connect with him on twitter at @DanGregoryTII.

Daniel Burrus – Super Power – Connecting Present to the Future

I first came across Daniel when I read his book –  Flash Foresight. In the book, he talks about Hard Trends and Soft Trends and how if organisations that understood the hard trends can then align their strategies with these trends and benefit immensely.

He also runs a research organisation called Burrus Research and blogs every week. I have followed his blog keenly and have found that he is insightful and extremely well articulated. He has this uncanny ability to predict the hard trends and apply it to the current day-to-day strategy. You can follow his blog here and connect with him on twitter at @DanielBurrus

Dilip Soman: Super Power – The Power of Nudge

Dilip Soman is a Professor of Marketing. His research is in the area of behavioural economics and its applications to consumer wellbeing, marketing and policy. He is also the director of the India Innovation Institute at the University of Toronto.

He is also working with the Nudge team being created by the Indian government to implement nudge strategies in the policy making in India.

I had the opportunity to host him for my show (to be published shortly) and was super excited and influenced by his thoughts.

You can connect with him on twitter @dilipsoman.

James Victore – Super Power – Insanely Creative & Igniting Greatness

I found James Victore through his YouTube channel. He was introduced to me via Seth Godin in one of his interviews. James is a creative and hosts (used to host) a show on YouTube called – Burning Questions. He would take questions that his followers sent to him and answer them.

He was funny, personal, insightful and would push people to not settle for mediocrity and go for greatness. He just launched a channel on Patreon to allow people who need his advice to go to and get deep, long and insightful commentary.

You can find James’s work here and register to attend his workshops here. His YouTube channel is here & his patreon page is here.

If you are a creative person, I would strongly recommend that you follow and interact with him on twitter @JamesVictore.

Jessica Hagy – Super Power – Morphing Emotions to Charts

Jessica runs an immensely popular blog – This is Indexed. She is an award winning creative and has a very easy way to pick complex topics and show them in a simple chart. She has been doing this on a daily basis for a long long time. He has also illustrated – The Art of War, the quintessential book on strategy and living. She is another person whom I have not had the chance to talk to yet but would love to connect and host on my show to talk about her super power.

You can find her blog here and can reach her on twitter at @jessicahagy.

Richard Thaler – Super Power – Nudge You to do what is Right for You

Richard Thaler is the co-author of the seminal book on behavioural economics – Nudge. This book changed how I saw influence and started questioning a lot of my decisions. He recently released his book – MisBehaving which went on to become a best seller as well. He is probably the one guy who understands nudging and how can one design products or policies to help people do what is the right thing to do through choice architecture.

I think BJ Fogg is the guy for personal behaviour change and Richard is the guy for bringing about mass behaviour change. If you have ever seen a pricing structure with three options and where two of the options seem absurd or one is highlighted as the best option, you are seeing his work being put in action.

He has worked with the British government to set up their nudge unit which is a shining example of how governments now understand that just providing options doesnt move the needle when it comes to doing good – they need to nudge the people to do what is right for them and for the government.

You can find his books (Nudge & Misbehaving) here. You can follow his blogs here & connect with him on twitter at @R_Thaler.

RJ Shraddha – Super Power – Insanely Insane

Shraddha is a RJ at a radio station (104 Fever FM) in Bangalore, the city where i live. Her show – Mad mornings is one of the most popular shows in the city and she has a cult following among her listeners. To say that she is funny, hilarious, super smart, a bit mad, extremely creative and alive would be an understatement. She is just amazing.

I had the opportunity to speak to her in her studio and loved the interaction, warmth and the energy she brought with her. You can listen to my episode starring her here and connect with her on her Facebook page here.

Robert B. Cialdini – Super Power – Building Influence Through Presuasion

I first came to know of Robert when his book was referred by not one but many people who were on my list of 2014 insanely interesting people. I read the book and got to know why he is so revered in the marketing circles.

The book was a practical guide on how to influence people and their decisions systematically and definitely. Then he came up with his next book Pre-suasion. I got my hands on the book as quickly as i could and read it cover to cover – twice.

I was familiar to the concept of psychological framing but this book took this to a different level. He shares strategies about what one could do to create an environment which stacks the deck in your favour to influence decisions. I strongly believe that if your work involves you influencing people around (upwards, sidewards & downwards), you MUST read both his books. I do hope that i am able to convince him to talk to me for my audience sometime soon.

You can follow his work here and connect with him on twitter at @RobertCialdini.

Rohit Bhargava – Super Power – Finding a needle in a Haystack – Futurist

I discovered Rohit through his book – Non-Obvious, where he shares his method to curate trends. He calls it the Haystack Method. He also updates his book Non-Obvious every year and shares information about trends that he sees playing out in the near future. What makes him more interesting is that he also reviews how his predictions in the past year have played out.

He also has a weekly news-letter Non-Obvious insights, where he hand picks 5-6 stories that point towards a trend and are worthy of our attention.

You can find his blog here and he can be reached on twitter at @rohitbhargava.

Roman Mars – Super Power – Craft and Share Powerful Stories

Roman is a podcaster and hosts the immensely popular 99% Invisible podcast. Seth Godin introduced me to Roman Mars via one of his rants. Since then, not only have I not missed a single episode that he has put out, but I went back in time to listen to every single podcast episode that he ever released.

Even my 12 year old son loves listening to this show – probably the only podcast that we both like listening to. He picks his stories with care and is amazingly great at weaving the story in a way that you would want to immerse yourself in the story.

You can listen to his podcast here and sign up for his newsletter here.

You can listen to some of Roman’s favourite episodes of his show here. You can connect with him on twitter at @romanmars

Sanjay Manaktala – Super Power – Making You RoFL.

I came across Sanjay’s YouTube channel when someone sent me a link to his parody song –  IT Guy 2.0. Since then I have watched every single video that he has put up on his channel, including the senti Sanjay. I find him to be extremely funny and uncannily current.

You can find his YouTube channel here and connect with him on Twitter @smanak .

Stephen Dubner – Super Power – Story telling Economist

Stephen is the co-author of the Freakonomics series of books and hosts the hugely popular podcast – Tell me Something I dont know. The amount of trivia I have learnt on his show is just something I never thought I will ever know. His show definitely made me smarter.

He has the uncanny ability to weave a story out of any economic topic and captivate the audience. I do hope that I am able to meet him sometime and host him on my show sooner than later.

You can find his books (When to Rob a Bank, Freakonomics, SuperFreakonomics and Think Like a Freak), podcasts (Freakonomics Radio & Tell Me Something I Dont Know) and connect with him on twitter at @freakonomics.

Team Film Bilder – Super Power – Building Animations That Speak to You

I stumbled onto one of their videos through an email I got from Open Culture (you should so sign-up for their daily newsletter). This team based in Germany releases short animated films which have inspired me for sometime now.

The award winning team is extremely creative and use animations to share universal stories that have the potential to speak to each one of us in a very different way, based on our own mental make-up at that exact moment.

You can follow their YouTube channel here. My favourite video among them all is here.

Team Maati Baani – Super Power – Creating Collaborative Music Magic

I generally dont like to listen to songs and music with very few exceptions. One of the exceptions is when team Maati Baani (Karthik Shah and Nirali Karthik) put out one of their songs. What fascinates me is that not only do they release music that is mind-blowing, but are able to do so by collaborating with other musicians from around the world (like Michael Jackson Tribute or Jao Piya here).

I know from experience that it is hard work to produce high quality music, even more to do so by collaborating with other musicians, and sometimes from across the world.

You can follow their YouTube channel here and connect with them on twitter at @maatibaani.

Tim Harford – Super Power – Making Economics Make Sense to commoners.

He is popularly known as the Undercover economist and is the author of the book Messy. I had the opportunity to talk to him for my podcast (to be published sometime soon). He hosts a popular radio show – More or Less. The best thing about him is that he is able to pick complex economic concepts and make it simple enough for non-economic folks can understand and make sense.

You can find him on his website here and on twitter he is @TimHarford.

How Can You Make Your Next Brainstorming Session Rock

Brainstorming Sessions that Rock

Prime for Creativity

People are generally not in mindset to be creative. We need to get them to a mindset where they can be creative, if our purpose is to get the most creative ideas that are possible.

  • Start your brainstorming session by playing a game that requires creativity.
  • Get people to draw something.
  • Get them to exercise (mild) – it could even be just laughter therapy.
  • Have Dilbert or a Jessica Hagy or a Hugh MacLeod cartoon prints around the room.
  • Start by doing a skit (which could be about the problem that you want to solve).
  • Start by using humour (watch a funny, yet creative video).

Idea Coach

Ideation and brainstorming is very serious business. You will get the most out of your brainstorming sessions if you have identify and involve a coach or a moderator. The responsibility of this coach or moderator is to bring some amount of rigour and discipline to the entire process and keep people on track.

Ideally, this person would need to build a clear plan about which kind of frameworks that they will use to filter ideas, what kind of creative thinking methods they will use for eliciting creative ideas ahead of time.

This person would be better served to also pay close attention to the actual behaviour of people during the session to ensure that no one person dominates the discussion and no one gets left behind.

Centre of Attention

Brainstorms are used to come up with ideas to solve a specific problem or find a creative solution for someone to perform better than they already do.

It really helps if we can keep a pic of this specific person (or someone from a group) and their surroundings around the place where you are doing the brainstorming.

This ensures that the people who are participating in the brainstorm are constantly reminded (sub-consciously) of the person for whom we are doing the brainstorming.

Define Your Problem Statement

One of the most important things that we need to do for us to be able to have a productive brainstorming session is to define the problem statement well. Ideally, the statement should be simple, clear (with no ambiguity) and a simple statement of intent.

An example could be:

“How might we address/solve/increase/improve, etc for user/buyer/seller/persona so that they can increase/decrease/stop/do more/etc.”

More than 80% of the work is done once you have the problem statement well defined. Click To Tweet

This sets the frame in which you will start looking for solutions. So, it is critical to get this right. If you dont get this right, all the subsequent steps are a waste of time and resources.

Method to the Madness

One of the reason why brainstorms fail, is that there are no clear guidelines on who will be responsible for the ideas generated and how will we select the ideas that will move forward to the next steps.

  • Have a process or a framework that you will use to select the ideas that will move to the next stage ahead of time.
  • Identify one or ideally two people who are responsible for follow-up on the ideas that the group generates.
  • One or two more people will volunteer at the end of the session and join the team to execute on the next step.
  • The team leader needs to give them enough authority upfront, to ensure that they are able to execute the next step.

Also, select the approach that you will use to elicit ideas. Will you be using the six hats method that De Bono advocated, will you use associative thinking or random concept bridging or any other creative thinking method for the actual ideation.

Stand-up Storms

One of the simple yet very effective way that I have seen work is to remove all chairs from the room where you want to brainstorm. Just the act of standing up and interacting that way helps get everyone involved.

Even better is if you can do your brainstorming sessions in an open area. Maybe go to a park if you have one nearby.

 

Think Individually & Discuss in a Group

Another hack that i have seen work really well is to follow the following process:

  • Everyone comes up with their ideas individually on a post-it note. One idea per post-it note.
  • We go on a round-robin basis and get everyone to share their ideas and explain them.
  • Then find out if you can combine some of the ideas and come up with fresh ideas as a group.
  • Then find out if you can remove some elements of an idea and come up with fresh ideas as a group.
  • Then reflect if any of these ideas spark any new ideas (individually) and follow the process.

If you do this twice or thrice, you end up with some amazingly creative ideas.

Rapid Prototyping

Once you have some interesting ideas that seem to have potential, you are best served by quickly getting into the rapid prototyping phase.

Once you start working on a prototype, you will encounter a lot of insights about some of the challenges that the idea did not address in the first place.

This will also throw up potential pitfalls in the idea that could completely make the idea not worth pursuing or on the contrary, the very act of building the prototype will bring forth additional ideas that when incorporated could significantly increase the effectiveness of the idea.