pop-up ego

After years of training, trying to keep your ego in check, you think you’ve nailed it. You’ve become a calmer person and stopped taking everything personal. Difficult to measure the intangible ego, but you feel confident in saying your ego is tiny. Even contemplating the chance, you got rid of your ego altogether.

Until a situation presents itself where suddenly the ego pops up as if it never left. Hello, darkness, my old friend. Like some commercial real estate that’s been vacant for the longest time and almost overnight, a retailer decides to set up (a pop-up) shop. It doesn’t take long to figure out what’s at play. The adrenaline you feel when somebody in traffic breaks unexpectedly and a collision seems imminent. The visceral reaction that lets an adrenaline shot ring out in your body. The sequel to your life: “the ego returns”. This time it’s back with a vengeance.

The trick isn’t to try to suppress the ego. The trick is to actively look for more ego evoking situations to train responses better.

decrease dimensionality

Problem-solving requires understanding dimensionality. Problems in our mind aren’t bound to physical space, meaning that they rarely have but one dimension. A single dimension would be the least required parameters to define a (part of a) problem.

Identify both the characteristics and the number of all the different dimensions present in a particular problem. Once identified, the next step is to reduce the dimensionality as much as possible.

Occam’s razor states: “entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.” In other words, the simplest answer is the best answer. Simple answers are easier to falsify, which increases their likelihood of being correct.

With multiple, sometimes interlaced dimensions, finding a starting point is challenging. Untangle all dimensions one by one. This way, clarity is created. We can reintroduce complexity where necessary along the way.

confront earlier

Explaining an idea should be straightforward, although, in reality, it’s usually complicated. Looking at the world’s greatest minds, their abilities to simplify inextricably complicated concepts is astonishing. The capacity to describe something unconceived is ostensibly an inestimable skill to master.

Even in true “show, don’t tell” fashion. The potential for the idea’s inventor to overcomplicate the concept is real. Simplifying isn’t easy.

Adhering to lean principles, to get feedback on an idea as early as possible, measure the results, and build upon it is the way to go. If that means tinkering your way to an early prototype, be prepared to get your hands dirty. Improvise with paper, scissors, and glue if you must.

If you ship the first version of your product when you are satisfied with it, you have shipped too late. Confront your target audience with a very early manifestation of your idea. One that you’re both slightly ashamed of, yet audacious enough to show to the outside world.

honest hotel

On average, it’s about six and a half times more expensive to attract a new customer than it is to keep one. However, in some industries, the ratio is less meaningful due to people seeking new, unique experiences anyway. Out of two bakeries in your vicinity, equally distant, which one will you end up revisiting? Chances are the one with superior products and service. Repeat business is crucial for bakeries.

For businesses active in the so-called experience economy, repeat business may be significantly less critical. Consumers looking for thrills prefer new experiences anyway. In this case, referral — the number of additional customers one customer provides — becomes even more critical.

Let’s take a hotel (chain). While exploring online, the rooms look marvelous. Stylized, modern, and quirky. The tricky part is presenting the essential aspects of a hotel room that aren’t necessarily visual, such as quietness. A room with walls as thin as paper in a narrow street with no sound isolation makes for a suboptimal stay. Guess where you won’t be staying again?

On a micro level, this may not cause a problem for that particular hotel. Still, if it’s a chain, it’s actually a big problem. Let’s say the chain has seven hotels in seven countries. That’s slightly more chances missed than the above retention equation.

Promote your hotel, or any other business for that matter, honestly. If you can’t, you have a problem. Not so much with promotion but with the actual company or product.

cherish naivety

Involving other people to join you in solving a problem has the potential to create an instant breakthrough. Looking for someone to consult, expertise isn’t always a prerequisite. On the contrary, sometimes, the lack thereof is a blessing. The infamous “but can’t you just” advice has probably solved numerous problems. All thanks to a fresh perspective.

Naivety is often depicted negatively. Still, substantial value lies in approaching problems naively, in combination with expertise, of course.

Don’t dismiss naivety straight away. Cherish it.

our brain is a compression algorithm

Human brains are the most expensive organs in terms of energy consumption. As a self-preservation tactic, we try to save energy where we can. Therefore, being lazy could be considered smart.

Compression algorithms, the technology that makes files smaller, work similarly. There are many different ways of going about this. Still, fundamentally, many compression algorithms share the same approach at their cores. Look for similarities and omit excess information. For example, you take a photo of a loved one on a clear sunny day. The blue sky’s pixels could be rendered individually, or, in an attempt to reduce file size, the pixels could be clustered. Meaning, as long as the next pixel is similar to the previous one, we can group them.

Even cats go about their day applying compression algorithms. Our domesticated feline friends have excellent spatial awareness. When you put a cucumber, or any object for that matter, behind them when they can’t see, they lose their minds upon noticing. Why? They scanned the environment when they entered the room. The new information being introduced unknowingly is rather shocking for them.

People do the same thing. Cities can be tumultuous. If we have to pay attention to every single detail, our energy would be absolutely drained before we arrive at work. Riding a bicycle in a city, for instance, requires paying attention to cars, traffic lights, pedestrians, and so on. That’s plenty of information as is. Our brains will filter out the smell of the bakery, the sound of the birds, among many other distractions, in an attempt to save energy.

Have you ever turned down the music to better park your car? I sure have. That’s a semi-conscious action. Our brains continuously apply many compression tactics without us being aware. Depending on your energy level, we can try to bypass the compression or deliberately pay attention to things we’d usually miss. Children can notice pretty much everything, but as we grow older, we somehow lose the ability.

Suppose we want fresh perspectives and really be present in the moment. In that case, it’s interesting to be aware of our compression algorithm and turn it (all the way) down when we can and want to.

too much of a good thing is never enough

Growing up as a kid, we used to have a poster in the house with a quote from Garfield saying: too much of a good thing is never enough. The fat cartoon cat was sitting next to what’s left of a pie. I honestly don’t know why that poster was there, it wasn’t particularly visually appealing. However, the saying always stuck with me.

Even though it sounds nice, it’s probably inaccurate and perhaps even dangerous. A tasty pie could definitely be considered a good thing. It could potentially uplift our spirits upon consuming it. Eating the entire pie though, is an entirely different story. Without going into medical details, excessive sugar intake is just plain bad. Not all pleasant things (whatever they may be) are good for us, and inversely, not all unpleasant things are bad for us.

Arguably, there are bound to be some good things where too much is never enough. Let’s take charity for one, would too much charity truly never be enough? Quite possible so. The issue wouldn’t be the amount or quantity of charity going around; it would become a matter of distribution speed.

If Jameela is giving all of her money, after selling all of her assets to charity, Jameela could be considered a wonderful human being; however, chances are she didn’t do the best possible job she could have done. Maybe now she is struggling to get by herself, causing her to no longer contribute to charity. Whereas if she had distributed her giving slower and more evenly, in the end, she could have helped more people, starting a fund or non-profit along the way.

Too much of a good thing is never enough. Only if the speed (and recurrence) with which the item is consumed or distributed is moderate.