Wicked Problems

Let’s talk about wizards and muggles. And no, not the Dursley kind of muggle. Jazz musicians in the 1920s coined the term “muggle” to describe the masses of “unimaginative adults” unable to riff with the free-flowing form of jazz. Those who were capable of creating musical magic were wizards. But wizards and muggles don’t only […]

Recursive Pareto

A rook, a bishop, and a pawn discovered a scroll. The pawn unrolled the parchment and read, “Buried treasure lies beneath the chessboard. Whoever amasses the greatest riches will rule the board.” The pieces leaned in, and the pawn continued: “Treasure lies beneath every square—” The rook leaped to the chessboard and ran across the […]

Four Stages of Competence

I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed. But I’m also not the dullest. I am merely as sharp or dull as the average tool in the shed. Over time, most of us regress to the mean for any measure. That said, our sharpness or dullness is not a fixed state. Like most forces in […]

Wabi-Sabi

Picture a small clay bowl. It’s not quite a perfect circle. There’s a dimple on its rim and a chip on its side. This bowl is wabi-sabi (侘寂). Traditional Japanese aesthetics revolved around this concept of “flawed beauty.” A wabi-sabi object evokes a sense of “serene melancholy and spiritual longing.” You see the little bowl […]

Baseline vs. Target

How many words do you write each day? If you don’t have a clear and precise number, the answer is zero. To make progress on any metric, you need a baseline. To create a baseline, you need a measurement system. For instance, if you’re trying to measure the words you write daily, you could have […]

Input vs. Output

Imagine a big, strange Dr. Seussian machine. You feed it groceries, and it spits out gold bars or useless goop. You don’t know how the machine works, if it will produce, or when the gold or goop will arrive. All you control is what you feed the machine. Any goal is like this: You own […]

Cobra Effect

During the British rule of India, venomous cobras plagued Delhi. The government offered a bounty per dead cobra to reduce the snake population, but the plan backfired: Enterprising people began to breed cobras to kill them and earn the bounty money. When the government caught wind of this, they dropped the bounty program, and the […]

Dogfooding

Dog food is a $56B industry, only $11B short of the $67B baby food industry. Given declining birth rates and an ever-growing preference for dogs over people, it’s not hard to imagine dog food outgrowing the baby food industry in coming years. Pretty wild, considering dog food was hardly a business until World War II. […]

Localhost Trap

In the 2000 film How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Jim Carrey recited his to-do list, and one item was especially salient: “Solve world hunger, tell no one.” What a concept! Only someone with a heart two sizes too small could create a beautiful and necessary thing and then deprive the world of its value! Creators owe it […]

Vocal Minority vs. Mobile Minority

Two types of minority groups could drive majority change: one that exhibits perceived change and one that creates actual change. The Vocal Minority is the loud voice, like angry people on Twitter. They talk incessantly and pollute your feed with extremist content—making you perceive their views as commonplace when they’re mostly noise. Imagine a Vocal Minority of weirdos who […]