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Jan 20th, 2022 Share: Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn

Thinking About “Thinking Outside of the Box”

There hardly isn’t a week where not someone ushers the old adage of “let’s think outside of the box” in a meeting. I always found it a curious saying — for starters, I doubt our thoughts and ideas are confined by proverbial boxes. Further, it seems preposterous to assume people, if not encouraged to do otherwise, limit their thinking.

Instead of contemplating boxes, we might be better served to remind ourselves to actually think.

I find, most of the time, the problem is simply that we use mental shortcuts, analogs, and conjectures to come to our conclusion. Which is perfectly fine when you are operating in a stable, predictable environment. But today’s world is often neither stable nor predictable. Which means that shortcutting our thinking won’t, well, cut it anymore.

Next time you hear someone say “let’s think outside of the box”, or you might find yourself about to mutter these words — pause, and think a moment about thinking: Replace conjecture with factual knowledge, which typically means analyzing a situation from a first principles-basis, rigorously applying Occam’s razor, and using any (or many) of the tools inside of our mental models’ toolbox.

Happy thinking my fellow Heretics!

Jan 13th, 2022

Leading Into and in the Unknown

I am writing this dispatch in the middle of the great COVID-19 Omicron Charlie Foxtrot. The WHO just shared the sobering news that they expect half of Europe to be infected within weeks, and the rest of the world doesn’t look much better off either. Meanwhile, the US is enjoying a whopping 7% inflation rate, the planet is getting hotter and hotter, the Marshall fire destroyed more than 1,000 homes a mere 5 miles south of where we reside, and we live through something Mays Business School professor Anthony Koltz dubbed “the great...

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Jan 3rd, 2022

Slow is Smooth and Smooth is Fast

There is an often quoted line from the doctrine of modern-day military special forces: Slow is smooth and smooth is fast. It refers to how special forces units move — instead of hastily running from cover to cover, the troops move in an intricate dance. Slowly, light footed, each person scanning a portion of the whole field, they make their way from cover to cover. It looks, indeed, smooth. And by doing so, these troops end up covering ground fast — whilst maximizing their security.

The same principle is at play in most sports. In rowing, you can jerk at the...

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Dec 14th, 2021

First Lesson of Marketing: Saddles versus Horseback Riding

In 2014 Stewart Butterfield, founder of Slack, wrote an internal memo to his fellow teammates, reminding them that Slack is new, different, and thus requires a unique approach in it’s go-to-market strategy. It was subsequently published by Stewart as a blog post on Medium — and heralded as an important primer in how one ought to think about building, launching and marketing a product. He titled the memo “We Don’t Sell Saddles Here”.

The core thesis of his memo is a good reminder of how we all ought to think about our products or services: We all...

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Dec 8th, 2021

Sometimes You Just Need To Be Okay With Yourself and the World

You know the feeling: You should have done this thing, but you didn’t. Maybe you didn’t have the time or resources — or you simply couldn’t bring yourself to do it. As in “I should have written a number of Heretic dispatches the last couple of weeks” – but I didn’t. Of course, I can give you numerous reasons why it didn’t happen. It was Thanksgiving Week here in the US. I was traveling for client engagements. I was away from home and thus didn’t have access to my equipment. Not only that, but I was busy with work. All...

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Nov 19th, 2021

Possibly the Most Important Skill of the Future – Neugier

During our sessions with audiences globally, we often get asked a simple set of questions: What are the most important skills for the future? What are the things we ought to teach children today to prepare them for the future? What are the things we need to learn/unlearn to be successful in tomorrow’s world.

Of course, there are many ways to answer these questions — with the most common answer being: It depends. 😏

That being said, I do believe there is one skill we all ought to cultivate, lean into, and exercise regularly. The good news is that every...

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Nov 15th, 2021

The Weird World of COVID-19

This week marks the first time I found myself speaking in front of a sizable crowd again — 1,500 people at the EY Strategic Growth Forum in Palm Springs, California. It was an interesting insight into our very human desire to connect in person again. It also provided a fascinating peek into the “post-pandemic” world: The event had excellent COVID-19 protocols in place, which made most participants comfortable enough to be together in fairly close contact. Handshakes were the norm, hugs not uncommon.

It was a fascinating peek into our future — a future where we will live with...

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Nov 9th, 2021

Ten Things I Learned: No 11 — Encore

We have officially completed our series on “Ten Things I Learned” throughout my career (so far). If you haven’t seen it — check out the archive. And as every (good) thing which comes to an end, there should always be an encore. Therefore, I present you lesson number eleven from the ten things I learned: There Are No Maps.

There are no maps

Now, of course, there are maps. As a matter of fact, there are countless maps — and everybody presents you one (myself, I guess, included). Every business book is a map, as is every...

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Nov 4th, 2021

Ten Things I Learned: No 10 — Start Now

Wow! We (you!) have made it: We are at the end of our “Ten Things I Learned” series. From building things which are better, being faster, louder, focused, and being networked, your ability to be smarter, resilient, and ignorant — all geared to have you think big & build what matters. Now there is only one thing left for you to do:


It sounds cliché — and yet I found over and over again that the simple reason for people to not be successful at the thing they...

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Nov 2nd, 2021

Ten Things I Learned: No 9 — Think Big and Build What Matters

As we are coming closer to the end of our journey into the ten things I learned, number nine is a double-whammy — and a good reminder.

Think Big

Tracy Chou was a software engineer at Pinterest when she set up a shared document (technically a GitHub repository) asking tech companies to disclose the number of women they had in technical roles. Within a week — and for the first time ever — the document showed the gender data for fifty companies (today there are well over 250 companies represented). Her activism forced companies like Facebook...

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