Practical Ways to Apply These Lessons to Your Team
I wanna go through a whole bunch of practical ways that you can apply these lessons on your team, any kind of team. A lot of this will sort of skew toward a business setting or a corporate setting. But, think about this in how you could apply these same ideas to any kind of team that you're working on, or you're leading, or you're contributing and, the goal of applying these things is to create a superordinate group and a safe environment that lets people be optimally distinct and creates cognitive friction. So this is a whole mouth full but, breaking down, this is essentially what we've been talking about all day. So you want the group to feel like they're in it together, but they can be different, and then you wanna stoke that friction and allow people the opportunity to change. So here's a bunch of examples. Coffee randomizer, so these are really practical tips. So we started doing this at Contently. There's a plug-in you can get for Slack, or you can just do it manually. Or basical...
ly, you have a group of people who don't necessarily all interact all that often. This little plug-in for Slack can actually assign you and someone else a random coffee date once a week. So it'll look at your calendars and it's say you know, you two are free on Thursday at one, you're assigned to coffee. And so, you sign up for this, you opt into it. But what it does is it, it puts the responsibility on the robot to actually mix things up, and then you're, you're sort of obeying the orders of the robot and it, it's not that awkward, you both end up at coffee. At our company, we started doing this and, people from across the building, from across departments now get to know each other's stories. So what do you do when you sit down for coffee? You can talk about work, but you kind of reenact the comedies and the dramas of your life, right? You exchange stories, it's helped you to build empathy, helps you to understand those people, makes it a lot easier to do all of these things we've been talking about when you run into them in company. On the subject of changing your environment, one thing that I've, I've seen from a lot of different companies that we've done ourselves is the desk swap. Which, when you start doing this, everyone will complain. But basically, you say for a week, or for two weeks, once a quarter, or every six months, we're gonna draw your name out of a sorting hat and your desk has to go somewhere else. And people always complain, they say, "I don't wanna move my stuff." But then, by the end of the week, everyone always says, "Can we go longer?" And a few things happen. One, you get to kind of shake things up, it's sort of like camping, right? It's sort of exciting for a little bit. But, also you get to get to know people who are not just like you, who are not working on your same things. My favorite outcome that came from one of our desk swaps, our designer was frustrated with the navigation on the website and was trying to come up with, you know, a better way to solve this particular problem with navigating this one thing, and we did the desk swap and she got sat next to like, this really junior member of the customer support team. And he sat next to her, and halfway through the week, he was kind of being nosy and looking at her screen and he asked her what she was working on, and she said, "Ugh, it's this navigation. "Like, here's the problem with it. "I don't know what to do." And he's like, "Oh, well what if you did this?" And basically, he just threw out an idea that changed the thing, and solved the problem for her, and like, was a, actually a really big deal. Sort of, talking about this vaguely, but it's an application of what we've been talking about, right? That outsider with a different perspective that you need. So you naturally get this when you switch your environment. Another version of that is this idea of honored guests. So when you have meetings, you have group conversations of some sort, make a habit of bringing, always having someone who doesn't belong in that group there as a guest. And set it up as, our extinguished guest. They can contribute, they can ask questions, they can be there, they can share what they're working on. We had one department that this is what they would do every time they'd have a meeting, they'd have someone, junior or senior from the other department come and do that and it helped everyone gain an appreciation for each other's work. You can do this on an even bigger level, life swap. Move people across offices or have them switch jobs. Or, I was just talking with, with Jim from Creative Live yesterday about this idea of wouldn't it be great if you could Airbnb your apartment, but actually just switch someone's apartment with you. So you wanna get to know a new city, I went to, you know, I went to Mexico City earlier this year and I loved it, what if I wanna go to South Palo? And I could find someone there that they could live in my apartment while I live in their apartment. Someone who's watching this should invent this thing. But putting yourself literally in someone's situation, right? In their desk, in their shoes, in their house is a very good way to develop the empathy and the open-mindedness that we need. We can do this at work as well. The BOSS Lunch Club. This is something that uh, that I started implementing at my company back in the day, which is that anyone who's in a position of authority or of power, you give them a little budget so that once a month, they can take three people from not their department to lunch. And not their department because you don't wanna have a power dynamic. You want them to gain appreciation for what other people are doing and become accessible as a person and not just a, a sort of boss or an authority figure to these other people. And what you start to see happening is someone who needs advice in something, they then can go to someone else who's not their boss, they have less risk. They can be more open. You can have more of that battle of ideas. All sorts of things that you can do kind of on the play front. You know, movie night, game night, field trip day, et cetera. You can take your team out and do that and have a team play. The learning pool. This is one of my favorite things from a practical standpoint. Have people, allow people to express things that they want to learn. So, you can have them submit, or just mark on a list, or whatever you do. And basically, if enough people wanna learn something, then foot the bill to bring someone in to teach them that. So, you know, a lot of people... I'm trying to think of the last one that, that stands out from my company. Oh yeah, people wanting to learn how to do html. Basic html. Whose job is not html, their job is, you know, whatever, customer support or something. Enough people wanna do that, we'll bring in, you know, an instructor for a day to do that and sort of pool the learning. The other way that you can do this is actually having people teach each other across the organization different skills that they don't have. And I think there's a kind of a meta lesson here to this kind of idea, which is that we often say, you need to stay in your lane, intellectually, or skillwise, and you should just learn, you know, the organization will only pay for you to learn to develop your specific skill set 'cause that's valuable to the organization, all the stuff we've been talking about with heuristics and crossing the mountain range, it pays off to learn things that are outside of your field. My favorite, another Einstein analogy is, I don't know if you know this but dude played the violin. He didn't just study physics, right? He had a lot of outside interests and those helped contribute to the work that he was doing. We can all become more cognitively diverse inside of our own heads. And it's important to kind of encourage that. Another one, just going down the laundry list of tactics here, Thomas Jefferson, for as much as he sucked at import export policy, he had this really cool thing that he used to do. One of my favorite things to do. It's called Jeffersonian Dinners where he would invite a bunch of people to his house to have dinner and then, instead of just sort of random conversations at dinner, he would host a round table discussion. Where he would throw out a question and people would go around and answer the question, and then he would throw out another question. So he kind of, he moderated this discussion but the questions would be sometimes about politics or issues of the day, but sometimes, the kinds of questions that I was asking you guys about your lives and your stories, using this as a way to get people who are different or who are opponents to develop empathy with each other. Yeah, anyway. That's that one. (laughs) Book club. On the subject of stories helping us to become more intellectually humble. Everyone watching this should start a book club or join a book club so that you can debate stories and ideas together. Take your team to improv class. This is one of my favorite rituals that we did at my company called the Excited/Worried Ritual. What we would do is every time we would have a group do lunch. So when we were small, and it was Friday lunches with everyone. After a while, it was departments lunches on Fridays. After a while, it was just any time that any group of people went to lunch, we would have this ritual where we would go around the group and we'd talk about one thing you're excited for and one thing you're worried about. And the leader has to start. So the leader has to set the tone by being vulnerable about what they're worried about. And sometimes when we would do this, the CEO of the company, my business partner, he would start with something that was actually quite worrying, like, I worry that we're gonna run out of money by December. And, you know, a lot of leaders are kind of unwilling to do that sort of thing 'cause you don't wanna panic your people, but the more that you show your team that you trust them with information and that you trust them with your vulnerability, the more they will trust you by telling you what they might be afraid... See, so this is one of the best ways that we combatted organizational silence, by having... And this is a ritual, this is something that, again, it was the touch zone that everyone could point to, something that kind of tied us together, we all know we're gonna do this, people are happy about it, but it had this secondary benefit of helping us to, to sort of stoke that zone of tension and be okay with it. Another one that I really love, I think this is something that is incredibly positive is food is one of those things that human beings can all, kind of, it instantly makes us remember that we're all part of the same superordinate group. We all eat, we all have food that we love. So sharing food from your background, from you culture is... And the story of what it means to you and the emotions that you feel when you remember that is something that we've seen in, in, you know, in my groups, but, Food Network, I think, is actually one of the most important channels for society out there. I know that's like the weird thing to say. But, because food is one of those things that can sort of cross boundaries and cross barriers. Though I like the, the ritual of having, whenever you have like a monthly, or a weekly meal with a group of people who are all different, let people individually rotate who is choosing the food menu. Whether you're cooking or you're just buying it, choosing the food menu but then you have to share the story of why. So for me, you know, I grew up in Idaho, I might do something potato-related. That's not that exotic, but you get to build that empathy for me, or understand me and learn my story in a way that you wouldn't learn it if, you know, we're just ordering the same thing for lunch. Same thing with having people share during those lunch things about what they are passionate about. Not just about their food. This one here, every holiday, I'm a big fan of holidays. For a couple of reasons, I already alluded to holidays can become this ritual that you all share, but every day in the calendar year is a holiday of some sort, like, we just had National Pizza Day and I'm really sad that I missed it by like a day. Holidays have this kind of magical power to them where they are low stakes ways of getting people to come together around something. Purpose installations is basically if you care about something, you want to reinforce this as a purpose, put it on the wall. That's all that is. Same thing with documenting your shared history. If we're talking about the power of stories to bring people together, to make them care, you need to document it. You need to actually put it down so that people can access this as new people join a team. And what often happens, you have a team of people that have been working together for a long time, they know the history, they've been there for it. Someone new joins in, they feel like they're an outsider. They feel like they're not part of the in group. So actually documenting your history so that they can see that and they can learn that and feel like they are part of something. They're continuing part of the story rather than them not being in the know. God, I have a lot of these, I'm really sorry. (laughs) Academy Awards. This is another kind of ritual that can bind people together, you invent awards to give to people that are another touch zone basically. So at our company, we have the things that we talk about, we love telling great stories, we want people to be awesome to each other, these sort of no duh kind of values so every quarter we have an award ceremony where we give away trophies, and prizes, and fun stuff for people who have nominated their peers as great examples of doing this. It's a little ritual that, once again, kind of reinforces all of this. But the moral of the story is create rituals that are your own. Whether your team is two people or a thousand people, you can create something that doesn't step on the other people's personal values or rituals, but are something that can tie you together. So that's sort of the main guideline is rituals should allow everyone to feel like they belong while allowing them to be who they wanna be too. I think the word that's missing from our conversation nationally, internationally around diversity, and inclusion, team building is belonging. If you feel like you belong, just like to that family, then you can take risks, right? And that's important. I think belonging is the goal that should be not just collecting the Noah's Ark of people, and not just saying that they're included, but actually feeling like you belong and that you can bring everything you've got. And I think on that note, too, it's okay to be shy or introverted and not want to go to Happy Hour. That actually, a dimension of cognitive diversity is introversion and extroversion, and that's important and we should not make the mistake of trying to build our cultures and our teams around that aspect of our own personality. If you're really introverted, you need to allow people to be extroverted and be okay with that and not get sort of scared when someone is. If you're very extroverted, which a lot of people who start teams or end up being team captains are, then you need to not make the mistake of not allowing the introverts because they are often the thing that your team needs the very most. So make sure that you design activities that those people can get down with, too. So above all, great cultures allow people the freedom to be who they wanna be and to work how they wanna work. In exchange for the accountability of doing a good job and doing right by the team. Netflix is famous for this culture deck that they shared online, you can Google it, Netflix culture deck, but it's basically, the underlying philosophy of their culture is freedom in exchange for accountability. We're talking about these teams that ideally, have all of these differences then, we need to allow people to work the way they wanna work, to be free to be who they are. And the only thing that we ask in return is for them to be accountable to results.