Problem Solving


Multitasking: What We Know
  • The ideal state of work is the ‘flow’ state, where we have a clear, long period of focussed work without any distraction.
  • Busy periods of multitasking are generally seen as something that hinders our performance and increases stress, with visible cognitive strain and no upside.
  • The brain struggles to do multiple tasks at the same time, as evident by the fact that when we are trying to type a sentence or talk over the phone, we don’t process any conversation that is coming from outside, becoming a little deaf for a few moments.
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Problem Solving

Multitasking increases our heart rate as we act and engage in multiple tasks in creative ways, leading to more energy and alertness.

Several studies on participants doing multiple activities at the same time report increased energy and cognitive flexibility, leading to more creative output.

New studies which look at the long term effects of multitasking have shown that it enables creativity by tying together diverse actions, thoughts and ideas when the mind is free from rigid focus or diffused.

Juggling several thoughts at once can be confusing but can also increase the flexibility, originality and innovativeness of the thinking.

"What gets measured gets managed" is not only erroneously attributed to famous management consultant Peter Drucker, but it is also flawed.

The idea possibly came from a paper published in 1956 by V.F. Ridgway. He was pointing out that we should be more careful when using quantitative measures. The quote of journalist Simon Caulkin read: "What gets measured gets managed - even when it's pointless to measure and manage it, and even if it harms the purpose of the organisation to do so."

Blind measurement can lead to problems at the individual, corporate, and societal levels.

  • The wrong metrics can cause unintended consequences. For example, when the British government offered a bounty for every dead cobra in Delhi, enterprising started breeding cobra snakes to get the prize, leading to more cobras.
  • People are more than numbers. Much of a company's success relies on human factors that are sometimes impossible to measure, such as enthusiasm.
  • When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure. When a goal is set, measures can distort incentives.

While businesses do need metrics to measure their performance, performance indicators do not fit perfectly with a specific metric and should not be artificially forced to fit a measurement model.

Principles to help measure performance in a mindful way.

  • People-first management. Relationships cannot be measured or easily defined.
  • Metacognition. Periodically reflect on the way your current measurement systems impact the way you think and work.
  • Non-measurable performance indicators. Innovation, creativity, enthusiasm, expertise, etc. can't be measured.
James Webb Young

"You will find that a good idea has, as it were, self-expanding qualities. It stimulates those who see it to add to it. Thus possibilities in it which you have overlooked will come to light."

All ideas follow a five-step process:

  1. The gathering of raw materials—both the materials of your immediate problem and the materials which come from a constant enrichment of your store of general knowledge.
  2. The working over of these materials in your mind.
  3. The incubating stage, where you let something beside the conscious mind do the work of synthesis.
  4. The actual birth of the Idea—the “Eureka! I have it!” stage.
  5. The final shaping and development of the idea to practical usefulness.

It is such a terrible chore that we are constantly trying to dodge it. Instead of working systematically at the job of gathering raw material we sit around hoping for inspiration to strike us.

The materials which must be gathered are of two kinds: they are specific and they are general.

What is most valuable to know is not where to look for a particular idea, but how to train the mind in the method by which all ideas are produced and how to grasp the principles which are at the source of all ideas.

Ideas Are New Combinations

An idea is nothing more or less than a new combination of old elements.

Producing Ideas: Leading Principles
  • An idea is nothing more nor less than a new combination of old elements.
  • The capacity to bring old elements into new combinations depends largely on the ability to see relationships. The habit of mind which leads to a search for relationships between facts becomes of the highest importance in the production of ideas. And this habit of mind It's something that we ca cultivate.
Opportunity Cost

Saying 'yes' to something automatically means saying 'no' to other possibilities. This is known as Opportunity Cost. It translates into the potential benefits that we miss by choosing one option over another.

Subconsciously we are aware that we can't do everything we want at the same time. However, when we are more aware of this concept, we can make better decisions.

If you want to become more aware of opportunity costs in your career, prioritize the important work.

Make a list of your top 5 priorities, keep it in a visible place, and live according to those priorities.

Our first ideas are not always the best. At any given time, we have multiple options when it comes to spending our time.

We can't do everything. We have to make choices. When we get clear on our priorities, we will be able to eliminate many options and in the process, make better decisions.

It's easy to overlook the cost of hypothetical opportunities. But if neglected, opportunity costs will negatively impact your life, career, and relationships.

  • Working on autopilot means you put in the hours and get paid, but you end up with nothing: no important knowledge, experience, or assets. If you want to have a satisfying career, you can't afford this.
  • Missed Return On Investments (ROI). Our time and resources are investments. Ask yourself if you could be spending your time on something more effective.
Two kinds of Memory

There are two kinds of memory:

  • Communicative: based on current news events and happenings. (eg. a new pop song)
  • Cultural: the kind of historic memory, for information that can be accessed in the archives (eg. a biography of a dead celebrity)
Societies are forgetting more

A major study has found that recollection of events of popular culture, in a society as a whole, is degrading

In media, biographies last longer in memory than current music. Old/retro music is not in communicative memory but is remembered and accessed from the archives.

A collective decline in Memory

Various studies are being done on how long can any event or an artistic creation hold the public's attention, and findings suggest that there is a collective decline in memory and attention, at a universal level.

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