October 21, 2018



The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs



In this edition of the 8020Info Water Cooler we discuss how doubt affects decision making, the benefits of being a “caring coach” for customers, the downside of to-do lists, and ways to keep learning at work. Plus, we invite your input for our special 300th anniversary issue of The 8020Info Water Cooler. Enjoy!


1.  Doubt And Decision-Making: 

Businesses and government organizations are increasingly turning to use of “red teams” — small groups tasked with challenging the facts and beliefs behind major decisions to test how sound they are. In its simplest form, borrowed from the Catholic Church, a “devil’s advocate” is appointed.

In his book Red Teaming, journalist Bryce Hoffman says the Israeli Mossad, the country’s intelligence agency, calls this role the 10th man: If nine people in a critical meeting arrive at the same conclusion, the tenth person must disagree, no matter how improbable that line of thinking.

But a superior technique may be to simply consider the pieces missing in a decision. That emerges from research on overconfidence conducted by Daniel Walters, Philip Fernbach, Craig Fox, and Steven Sloman.

They found that devil’s advocacy reduces confidence when leaders are overconfident, but also when they are underconfident; in the latter situation, it’s not desirable. There is value in considering the unknown only when it reduces confidence in the situation where leaders were initially overconfident. They call devil’s advocacy a “blunt instrument”.

Looking at that finding on his blog, Bryant University management professor Michael Roberto offers two caveats:

  • First, organizational leaders tend to more frequently be overconfident than underconfident.
  • “Second, I have come to believe that who plays the devil’s advocate, when they play that role, and how they serve as the devil’s advocate matters a great deal. Indeed, it is a blunt instrument, particularly if not used properly. However, with some care, the technique can be deployed with much success,” he concludes.


2.  Become The Caring Coach

If you’re in a field where there’s client confusion, shady practices or customer mistrust, consultant Donald Cooper says you should become the caring coach, helping clients to choose wisely and more effectively use what you offer.

His examples are from business, where he says most companies face mistrust, but of course the same can be said for many non-profits and institutions in the MUSH sector of municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals.

One easy way to be a caring coach is to create quick tips for clients, such as seven questions to ask before choosing a renovator (or accountant, web site designer, dentist, or university). Or ten tips for buying the right photocopier or power drill, or five things to drive safer and improve tire wear.

Cooper convinced his local butcher to ask customers if they want their roast to be rare, medium, or well done and then to write the weight, cooking temperature and cooking time on the wrapper.

“He tells me that customers love it… and it’s a personal touch that you won’t get at the big supermarkets,” Cooper notes on his blog.

He says being the caring coach includes warning folks about the shady practices in your field, and promising that you simply don’t do those things. Your tips and warnings should be on your web site, in promotional literature, and a regular customer e-newsletter.  You can also share the information by writing articles for the local paper or industry trade magazine.


3.  Why To-Do Lists Cause Distress

To-do lists are meant to ease our way through our day. But productivity guru David Allen says they often cause as much stress as they relieve because they are incomplete lists of still un-clarified “stuff.” For example, a list might mention “mom.” But there is still some vital thinking you have avoided.

Mom is on the list because her birthday is coming up but the notation nags you to think about details you haven’t clarified yet.

“You don’t have the energy or mental bandwidth to think or make that decision. So, some part of you says, ‘Stop reminding me that I’m overwhelmed!’” he writes on his blog.

As well, to-do lists are often incomplete, so you don’t trust your brain or the list to give you the full story.

The answer for the first issue is to list the exact next action you intend — where you will shop for Mom’s gift. As for the second, either keep track of all your commitments on your list, or none, since halfway doesn’t work. His answer, strongly, is the former.


4.  Try The Five-Hour Rule

Successful entrepreneurs may be busy but John Rampton, a contributor to Entrepeneur.com, says they adhere to the five hour-rule: They set aside at least an hour a day over their entire career for deliberate practice or learning.

The most coveted activity is reading. Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Cuban, Jack Ma, Oprah Winfrey and Warren Buffet are all voracious readers. Can’t find the time? “If Barack Obama could fit in time to read while in the White House, what excuse do you have?” Rampton writes.

Also valuable: Reflection and experimentation.

Protect five hours, and use them wisely.


5.  Zingers

  • Brand Before Logo:  Ask people to name a logo they like and invariably they will choose one associated with a brand they admire. Blogger Seth Godin says that’s because what makes a good logo is a good brand — not the other way around. (Source: Seth’s Blog)
  • Try Soft Firing:  Digital media executive David Siegel has adopted a more humane approach to firing people — “transparent separation”, which he recommends. Instead of blindsiding an underperforming employee or firing him outright, you encourage him to leave on his own:  let him know he is going to be let go in time and needs to start looking for a new job ASAP. You also help him. “The results have been radically different from the response I received in the past. With this approach, inevitably I am thanked,” he says. (Source: Harvard Business Review)
  • Conscientiousness Pays: Men who stand out in conscientiousness earn on average an extra $567,000 U.S. over their lifetimes, new research shows. For women the magnitude is smaller, to some extent because they have weaker earning opportunities. Extroversion counts more for them than conscientiousness.  (Source: Bloomberg.com)
  • Move During Breaks: If you have 10 spare minutes at work, instead of looking at Facebook productivity consultant Charles Gilkey suggests using the time to energize your productivity level. Go for a walk. Find some administrative tasks that require the use of your body. Or find a quiet space to meditate or breathe. (Source: Productive Flourishing)
  • Assume Everyone is Challenged: When you meet someone, treat them as if they are facing a serious challenge or other trouble and you will be right more than half the time says blogger Benjamin Hardy. (Source: Medium.com)


6.  Q&A With 8020Info:

     Overcoming Barriers To Learning

Question:  I feel my career has stalled. I haven’t been developing, or learning new skills. Is this common? How can I organize myself to keep learning?

 8020Info Associate Matthew Wood responds:

Yes, what you are experiencing is not uncommon — many people stagnate in their careers and aren’t sure how to start learning again. It can be especially tough if you work in an organization where learning and self-development are not encouraged.

In his HBR article, author Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a business psychology professor at Columbia and UC London, offers four suggestions to re-start and boost learning:

  • Pick the right organization: Tomas talks about the “learning potential” of employment opportunities, and how jobseekers often overlook this search criteria. If continuous learning is something you want, make sure you pick an organization that will support this. If you are an employer, think about changes to make your organization more learner-friendly.
  • Set aside time for learning:  Scheduling time for education and professional development may be the biggest hurdle, especially when tasks are piling up and your manager is focused on output. Be proactive, and firm in setting aside time you will spend on education, or you will never get it done.
  • Ignore your strengths:  Don’t spend too much of your professional development time on your strengths. Although it may be easier or more interesting, you aren’t developing skills you don’t have. Expand your range of strengths.
  • Learn from others:  Your learning doesn’t need to come only from formal training — often some of the best learning opportunities are found outside structured courses or materials. Keep your eyes open for opportunities to learn practical skills.

At 8020Info we are particular about scheduling time for learning. But reading a great article gets you only so far — try out and practise what you’ve learned.

Personally, I find I develop skills less efficiently through reading, so I schedule at least half of my “learning time” for hands-on learning and deliberate practice.


7.  Around Our Water Cooler:

     Seeking Your Input For Our Next Issue

Our next edition of The 8020Info Water Cooler will be #300, a special anniversary issue. This milestone will mark more than 17 years of a continuing quest to bring you the latest insights for leaders, managers, board members, non-profits, start-ups and small businesses.

We are asking for your help:  Would you be willing to spend a couple minutes answering just two questions about our newsletter?

We’d like to know what you have enjoyed most about it (or not), and what types of content you find most valuable in your role as a strategic leader and decision-maker. To help us out and give your input, just click this link (or copy it into your browser):


We’ll be using your feedback to pick some “best of” content for our anniversary issue. It will also help us make our 8020Info Water Cooler even better for you in the future.


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8020Info helps boards and senior leadership teams develop, clarify and build consensus behind strategic priorities. Our services support research / stakeholder consultations, strategic planning processes, change and marketing communications. We would be pleased to discuss your needs and welcome enquiries.


8.. Closing Thought 

“A witty saying proves nothing.”

— Voltaire