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Weekly I/O: Most crucial indicator of successful teams, Free trade generates monoculture, Mentor's or coach's guidance
#71: Psychological Safety, Free Trade and Monoculture, Mentor or Coach, Stephen King on Write and Rewrite, Da Vinci Learns for Fun not for Usefulness
Greetings from Redwood City!
Here's your weekly dose of I/O. I hope you enjoy it!
Here's a list of what I'm exploring and pondering on this week.
1. The most crucial indicator of successful teams: Psychological safety.
Book: Smarter Faster Better
Psychological safety is a shared belief among team members that their environment is safe to take interpersonal risks. Teams with high levels of psychological safety have the following attributes:
Members feel confident in admitting mistakes, asking questions, or offering new ideas without fear of embarrassment or punishment.
One can freely question another's choices, but the person being questioned knows the intention is not to ostracize them.
Everyone respects differing opinions.
Research done both in academics and companies like Google has identified psychological safety as the primary determinant of team success. Knowing "If I make a mistake on our team, it is not held against me" proves to be a stronger predictor of team effectiveness than just "grouping the best people makes for the best teams".
Thanks to Vincent Mo for reiterating this concept, prompting me to revisit this book after I first read it 7 years ago.
2. Globalization generates monocultures that are all diverse in the same way. Free trade of cultures can lead to conformity and mediocrity on both personal and societal levels.
Globalization allows cultures to connect, leading to increased creativity and diversity. However, the long-term consequences of this 'interchange' often entail the dilution of cultures as the more dominant cultures absorb smaller ones.
Ironically, as the world becomes more interconnected, what we perceive as "diversity" may just be a form of monoculture. Every city has restaurants from various cultures, from Vietnamese and Burmese to Korean and Turkish. While it appears diverse on the surface, homogenization is taking place, making us all "diverse in the same way."
We've cashed in on many small cultures and produced a monoculture of diversity, which leads to a looming concern that, along some critical dimensions (diversity is multifaceted), our next century will be less creative than the last. Free trade generates too much monoculture. We need to increase the transaction cost to balance interchange and isolation.
While immersing oneself in various cultures can enhance creativity on a personal level, on a larger scale, there's the risk of cultural dilution due to such interchanges. Furthermore, even for individuals, consistently receiving secondhand information pushes us towards conformity and mediocrity rather than innovative ideas. Ultimately, it boils down to how one utilizes new information: to interpolate, extrapolate, or invent.
3. Mentors offer directive instruction and answers, whereas coaches provide non-directive feedback through questions. Whether seeking or giving guidance, we should know what kind of help is better.
Mentoring and coaching, though sometimes used interchangeably, serve different roles in guiding other people. While mentors offer direct solutions with answers based on their experiences, coaches provide non-directive support by probing with questions.
When seeking guidance, we must determine whether we need a mentor or a coach. A coach asks us what we want to do, dives deep into why we want to do it, and holds us accountable to execute our plan. On the other hand, a mentor shares their experience, skills, and knowledge and answers our questions.
In other words, coaches clarify the confusion within ourselves, and mentors clarify the confusion in the outside world. Similar to the Dark Room Metaphor for learning, coaching is Constructionism, letting us reconstruct our own answer, and mentoring is Instructionism, passing down knowledge to us.
When giving guidance, it is also essential to determine whether to wear the mentor's hat, offering solutions, or the coach's hat, posing reflective questions. Oftentimes, people don't need a solution. They need validation, accountability, or just a sounding board. That's why the coach must ask what you really want to do.
This also reminds me of Lisa Feldman's view on emotions. When we want to be helpful in response to other's feelings, we first need to figure out what they want is empathy or solution.
4. Write with the door closed. Once ideas are formed independently, rewrite with the door open to gather feedback.
When writing my article "Remove Labels", I have this question of when I should solicit feedback. Getting feedback too early can distract and diverge my thoughts, while waiting too long makes it hard to fix critical writing flaws.
Then I read this from Stephen King:
"Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being just for you, in other words, but then it goes out. Once you know what the story is and get it right — as right as you can, anyway — it belongs to anyone who wants to read it. Or criticize it."
The optimal time for feedback seems to be once I've distilled my primary thesis and conclusion with a flexible outline. Such timing enables me to form ideas independently first while I can still comfortably fix critical flaws based on feedback.
"Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open" also reminds me of Beer Mode and Coffee Mode. On any given day, coffee mode, a state of focus where we try to get things done, lets us be more productive. But over the long arc of time, beer mode, an unfocused state where we try to discover new ideas, rewards serendipity, and intellectual breakthroughs.
5. Leonardo Da Vinci learned things purely out of curiosity. Not all knowledge needs to be useful. It can be pursued for pure pleasure.
Book: Leonardo Da Vinci
We have seen countless luminaries throughout history, yet none quite like Leonardo Da Vinci. He painted the Mona Lisa, and simultaneously produced unsurpassed anatomy drawings, made river diversion plans, opened the still-beating heart of a pig, designed musical instruments, and choreographed pageants.
However, Da Vinci didn't learn the knowledge required to accomplish all these because they are useful. Instead, his thirst for knowledge was driven purely by curiosity. He pursued it because it was fun. Not all learning needs to be useful.
This view from Da Vinci is very different from what I noted before: information is useless if it is not applied to something important or if we will forget it before we have a chance to apply it. There's no correct answer, but my heart certainly leans towards learning just for fun, as evidenced by a wide array of topics in Weekly I/O, from using your nose to breathe and how Bluetooth works to psychics and weed and Kuleshov Effect.
That's it. Thanks for reading. Please share which input you found the most helpful or intriguing. Just reply to this email with a number—it's quick and easy!
And as always, feel free to send me any interesting ideas you came across recently!
Looking forward to learning from you.