Action 11 | Visual Learning, Art of Questions, Operational Creativity

Hello friends – its time for round 11 of The Action!

💡 Whats New?

Visual learning with Deepu

The highlight of my past week was chatting with Deepu Asok, creator of Visual Wisdom. Let’s take a quick look at his work:

Deepu and I connected immediately over all things art + thinking as he introduced me to the idea of perceptual learning and the book Mind in Motion: How Action Shapes Thought. I’ll have to dig into these a lot deeper, as I have pages of notes from our conversation.

Coaching round 3 begins

My coaching program with Product Management Studio via UC Berkeley Exec Ed starts this week and runs until November. I’m particularly excited as this will be my third time back and I will be coaching two different teams – one based in EMEA and one in APAC.

This is a testament to the power of the internet in 2020, as we’ve seen more demand for online learning across the globe. My favorite topics in the course are: defining and delivering value + mobilizing and executing. I’ll do a long form write up of some of the key takeaways and will be sure to share out with you all.


🔁 Recurring Motifs

Creativity is turning inputs into outputs

Inspired by Aaron Alto’s awesome short video How To Be Creative, and several other conversations, I tried my hand at “auditing” the creation process. At any given time - where are you? which step are you on? I came up with the following 7 steps and simplified diagram.

I find the “new skills” and “strategy” phases the most tempting and prone for procrastination. Upskilling is alluring, and strategic planning is also really engaging, but may detract from the heart of the matter – executing the skill to create. Will be keeping an eye on this as I streamline this process over the next couple of weeks.


🚀 Actionable Ideas

Idea #1: Goodhart's Law

Themes: goal setting, metrics, gameability

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Goodhart’s Law states that when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure. At its core, this principle is about gameability – people will optimize for the objective rather than the consequences. For example, if a call center employee is compensated for the number of calls made, those call numbers will go up but have potential adverse consequences (lower quality conversations). Vanity metrics are considered a form of Goodhart's Law in action.

Action item: identify what metrics you are currently tracking and optimizing – both in work and life. Are they accurately measuring your intended goals, or are they gameable? Can your measures be easily manipulated?

Idea #2: Talent Stack

Themes: skills, competitive advantage, career planning

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Talent stacking is the idea that the intersection and combination of normal skills yields a unique and extraordinary profile. Originally coined by Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip, Adams uses himself as an example: he's not the best artist, business expert, or writer, but as a combination of the three he is potent. The combination of skills is what is uniquely marketable. This is not a replacement for skill specialization, but rather an available alternative. This idea is similar to David Perell's concept of a personal monopoly, geared more for the internet age – "the internet rewards unique people. Find your unique combination of skills, interests, traits."

Action item: as an exercise, list out the 10-15 skillsets and interests that drive and energize you. Now prioritize your top three and see where they intersect – in one sentence, what is your talent stack? 

Idea #3: Eigenquestion

Themes: problem solving, principles

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An eigenquestion is a question framing technique – are you asking the right question before you try to solve a problem? An eigenquestion is a question, that if answered first, would provide answers for most of the other follow up questions. The term borrows from the linear algebra term eigenvector which is a vector that captures the majority of points in a space. Similarly, eigenquestions are framed and tweaked to capture as much of the root of the problem being asked. In essence, correctly framed questions address the heart of the problem – the principles – rather than jumping to solutions.

Action item: identify a problem you are currently working on and all the questions you are asking to find a solution. Now add a constraint – what if you could ask just two questions? What is at the heart of the problem that could be captured in these two questions that would answer most of the follow up questions?


That’s all for this week – I hope you are all staying happy and healthy!

Andrew