Q&A 070

Published on:
May 25, 2022

Dear Q&A friends,

This week, we focus on two sides of solving problems. On the one side, we take a look at creativity and creating the right environment for better solving problems. On the other hand, our environment will sometimes correct problems on its own, whether we like it or not. Enjoy!

💸 Overdue

The word 'inflation' has regained a lot of attention in the past few months. The geopolitical and environmental changes happening at breakneck speed have caused our virtual 'shopping cart' to increase in price like it hasn't in a very, very long time.

While listening to a podcast with Tim Ferriss and Tony Fadell ('father' of the iPod and the Nest thermostat), I was confronted with an alternate view of the problem, that I found extremely interesting:

"When we look at inflation, I really look at it the opposite. De-inflation is stopping. We’ve been de-inflated. We’ve been moving everything offshore. We’ve been going the lowest common workforce, your lowest common monies for paying a workforce, getting rid of healthcare and all this other stuff. We’ve been just pushing the externalities on everyone else, what we’re doing to the climate. Now it’s all coming back to roost."

This action - reaction felt like a totally logical way of looking at it. What if low-income countries were just like us? What would our iPhone cost? What if the actual costs of environmental damage were included in our production? Instead of governments doing the corrections, our new day to day reality is showing us the pain points now. Inflation may not be a problem, but just another corrective mechanism.

🔭 Monomaniac

I tend to focus on subjects for a period of time monomaniacally before moving on and letting the subject fade out a little. If I really want to learn, there is no multitasking for me. While I used to think this behaviour was at odds with my convictions about life in general (being consistent over time), I tend to find more and more proof of the utility of this behaviour.

The first part lies in the myth of multitasking. With complex problems and concepts, it can take a while to get the 'wetware' loaded in your brain. Getting knowledge and connections top of mind just takes time. In that sense, it makes sense not to do too much things in parallel, but use all the focus you can on just one subject to get meaningful progress.

Another bit of the puzzle was handed to me in a Tim Ferriss e-mail about a 2010 article by Paul Graham of Y-Combinator. His article, called "The Top Idea in Your Mind" wonderfully links 'top of mind' with finding solutions.

I already knew what the value is of having your 'favourite problems' top of mind, because solutions tend to come spontaneously. Professor Richard Feynman's modus operandi was continuously checking new information against the problems he would like to solve. If problems are top of mind, you're feeding your unconscious with the riddles you would like to get solved.

Paul Graham concurs. While in the shower, you should be thinking about the most important issues you would like to solve. Which is why he found entrepreneurs having 'raising money' or 'solving legal issues' as their priorities, lacking in real progress. What are your thoughts in the shower, and are they the ones you want them to be?

🎓 Creative Education

Our education system is discussed regularly during our weekly Q&A sessions. We often conclude that we gained a lot, but also lost something during our childhood years. Having kids ourselves now, we try to optimize their experience. More than once, this leads to friction and frustration, losing small battles as we (reluctantly) conform to the system we're in.

We do however not give up. One of our most profound observations is that our education system does not promote nor teach creativity. Don't we all marvel at the inventiveness of our kids? How come, then, that we judge them based on whether they answered a series of questions according to a pre-set model of possible responses?

Looking for ways to innovate the educational system, I came across a 2006 TED Talk called 'Do schools kill creativity? by Sir Ken Robinson. In this presentation, he makes the case for creating an education system in which creativity is as important as literacy and math. He also explains succinctly and rather entertaining why the current system 'kills' creativity. He's quite explicit about it:

"All kids have tremendous talent and we squander it."

Most public education systems came into existence by the end of the 19th century in the era of industrialisation. As a result, language and math got far more attention than arts. That is still the case today. In fact, whenever arts is teached, music and drawing skills get more attention than dancing and drama. The latter two being important part of our storytelling and expression abilities, the main way in which we bring knowledge to a next generation.

Furthermore, mistakes are 'stigmatised' and Sir Robinson gives a couple of examples. Education seems to be focused "from the waist up, to the head, and then to a particular side [left] of it". Children all have extraordinary capacities and each their own specific talent. Additionally, kids have a unique capacity: they will take a chance. When they don't know, they will try, not afraid of being wrong.

Writing the word 'unique' in the previous sentence is exemplary for the message I'm trying to convey. We, as adults view it as unique. However, every child has that capacity, it's not unique at all! By the time you've become an adult, it has become that way. Sir Robinson notes:

"Creativity does not equal to be wrong, but if you're not prepared to be wrong you'll not come up with something original."

We should not punish being wrong. Apart from the fact that you could debate what the truth and therefore the 'right' answer is, there is always a reason why someone gives a particular answer. Trying to understand those reasons is likely to provide far more development and insights to everyone. That will improve our collective intelligence. Our intelligence is diverse, interactive, and distinct. That is what makes humankind unique. These three themes could be an excellent starting point for designing a new education system.

It is time to rethink our systems. Even though you may not agree with us or Sir Ken Robinson, I recommend watching this 20-minutes talk. I guarantee you'll have a laugh and come out full of energy to continue your day. Energy that may ignite your own, specific talents and create new things.

That's it for this week! If you got forwarded this newsletter and like what you read, get your own. Or get an impression of everything else we shared in our renewed, searchable archive.

As always, we would love to hear your thoughts and tips. Just reply to this e-mail to get in touch with us.

Have a great week!

Quinten & Alphons