Jeremy Utley: Co-Author of Ideaflow & Director of Stanford’s

Episode 311

Jeremy Utley, Co-Author of Ideaflow: The Only Business Metric That Matters shares with us how the proactive practice of exercising creative muscles so that the very best ideas can rise to the surface is vital for all to focus on these days. In this thought-provoking episode, we go deep into the concept of cross-pollination and cover several other strategies to discover as we discuss the ‘dumb things’ that geniuses just so happen to do to create great ideas and companies. Plus we talk about Jeremy’s own career journey and his role at Stanford’s Tune in and get your ideas flowing! On this episode of #TheKaraGoldinShow.

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Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be I want to be, you just want to make sure you will get knocked down. But just make sure you don’t get knocked down knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone, and welcome to the Kara Goldin show. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go. Let’s go. Hi, everyone, it’s Kara Goldin from the Kara Goldin show. And I am so so thrilled to have my next guest. Here we have Jeremy Utley, who is the director of Executive Education at Stanford d school, but maybe even more exciting, he has a brand new, amazing, amazing book out called Idea flow, the only business metric that matters. And it is so so good. If you sign off right now you have to get this book because it really really truly, truly is so, so great. And he is also the co host of the crazy popular, Stanford’s masters of creativity, which is so so awesome to listen to as well. So the book, as I mentioned, is coming out, we’ll get more into that. And the book shines light on encouraging the proactive practice of exercising creative muscles, and I am all about ideating. And so I really, really love this. In fact, I was going back and earmarking chapters, that’s always a really, really good sign. So I couldn’t find my thank you. Thank you. Well, I couldn’t find my yellow marker. I have a bunch of tabs in here all over the place. So it is absolutely like such a great book and really got me thinking about all kinds of new ideas that I have as well. So welcome, Jeremy.

Jeremy Utley 2:06
Thank you. I’m so happy to be here.

Kara Goldin 2:08
Speaking about your book, I would love to hear a little bit more about you. And I think it is absolutely fascinating that you’ve been at Stanford for you do not look like you could be there for that many years.

Jeremy Utley 2:22
Now. I started when I was 12 years old. So that’s that’s the secret.

Kara Goldin 2:25
Well, and that was shortly after I read a quote on your 10th birthday that your father asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, and you replied that you want to be one of the people who carry boxes with handles. So how did you end up being in the role that you’re in now?

Jeremy Utley 2:45
Wow, that’s a deep cut Kara. You know, my I grew up actually in the house of a preacher. My dad was a preacher and my mom was a makeup associate at Estee Lauder in Dillards. And I worked at in fast food. Okay, so when my dad asked me that question, you know, in my mind, there’s, you know, there’s people who do makeup at Dillards. And there’s preachers and there’s working the drive thru. I think I want to do that thing where like, I see people, they look very important. They’re wearing ties, and they’re carrying boxes with the handles on them. I just felt like that that must be a better career than what I had seen so far.

Kara Goldin 3:23
That is so funny. So what did you end up doing? Yeah, so

Jeremy Utley 3:26
I did a bunch of interesting things. One of the things that I did was I got roped into a venture accelerator program in Bolivia. And I saw firsthand in the developing world, the power of entrepreneurship and small business to drive dignity and poverty alleviation. And, and then a couple years later, I went to Zambia, and I spent some time at an AIDS orphanage. And I got really passionate about the topic of economic development. So of course, I had to do when I studied finance, I was lucky enough to get to go into management consulting. And because of that world, you know, you go into management, consulting, and then you go to business school, and then you go back to management consulting, it’s kind of just a very established path. Because of that path that had kind of been carved out for me as it were, I had a lot more kind of opportunity to be liberal with the search for my summer internship. So I was in business school at Stanford between 2007 2009 and in that summer, instead of, you know, working on at a job on Wall Street or something like that. What I did was I said, I want to work in a venture backed startup working to address poverty in the developing world. And I ended up with this startup called D light design in Noida, India, outside of Delhi. They were making solar lights for homes that lived off grid, they were burning kerosene, it’s a terrible environmental impact, terrible for health, indoor air quality, etc. And I was just fascinated by this topic. They had received venture capital, they were, you know, seeking to do something really special and So across these experiences in Bolivia, in Zambia in India, I thought, I’m going to do something related to economic development. But what was interesting is over the course, I was there for four months, and over the course of those four months, I’m in my spreadsheet, and I’m doing business development kind of stuff. And I love a good pivot table as much as anybody else. I’m in my spreadsheet. But I keep hearing these interesting rumblings down the hall from the design department. And I keep poking my head and going, what do you guys do on and why are you doing that? And at some point, one of them said to me, you know, you’re kind of de Schooley. And I took that as an insult. I was like your D schooling, you know? And he goes, No, no, no, that’s a that’s a good thing. That means you need to you seem like you’d fit in at the D school. And I said, What’s that? They said, We’re at Stanford, what do you mean? What’s that? I said, I don’t know. So they sent me back to the D school. And my second year, in business school, I basically took all my electives at the D school. And it really derailed my life, I ended up not going back into management consulting, I ended up starting teaching at the D school in 2009. And 13 years later, I’m just as invigorated by it, just as excited about it as I was then. And it was not even on my radar as a possibility until very shortly before it happened. So there you go for career planning, right from a box with handles to economic development to being a teacher for the last dozen years.

Kara Goldin 6:14
And now you probably have a backpack, right? Totally, totally. Absolutely. Not even a box for candles, right? So the d school is so well known. And even for people who haven’t gone to Stanford, you should definitely look it up. I mean, that you guys have had amazing people who have come out of there. Obviously, you’re teaching there, you wouldn’t be teaching there if it wasn’t absolutely fantastic. Yeah. But I mean, coming in there, obviously, super, super creative. Did you feel like you would actually be learning a lot as well, just from, you know, many of the people that would be coming in there, I mean, who typically is coming into these classes?

Jeremy Utley 6:52
Yeah, so it’s a really interesting interdepartmental Institute. So especially when I joined, we didn’t grant degrees, we didn’t admit students. And so what we did is, we would host kind of cross departmental collaborative opportunities. So a student in business school might take a class alongside a student in medical school alongside a student in law school and an engineer. And so a lot of those silos in the university, you know, if you if you get an MBA at Stanford, you got, you know, two years of intense coursework in the business school, if you get a master’s in civil engineering, you get two years of intense coursework, but all of those coursework tend to be very focused within the subject matter. And what David Kelley and George Kimball and others who were at their at the founding of the D school, what they realized is, a lot of the problems facing society don’t fit neatly. They’re just MBA problems, or just law problems there. They have lots of different facets to them. And we need to be equipping teams that are going to be interdisciplinary in nature, with language to bring their respective disciplinary expertise to bear. And there just wasn’t a language like that. So the d school was propped up at the time, thanks to a $35 million gift by Hasso Plattner to create opportunities for cross departmental collaboration. And so the students we teach, you know, in a typical class, it’s mostly graduate students, but we have MBAs, lawyers, doctors, engineers, journalists, computer scientists, etc, all seeking to complement their disciplinary rigor and depth, with these skills of interdisciplinary collaboration and human centered design and creative practice that we teach at the D school.

Kara Goldin 8:31
I love it. I always say that entrepreneurs come from everywhere. So it’s not just from business. I mean, people have ideas in what they’re doing every single day, it doesn’t even have to be what they’re working in. So I love the idea that you’re teaching in an area and you’re the director of executive education in an area where you’re able to get a vast pool of people that are coming in that you get to ideate. With so what do you hear is kind of the biggest concern from people, obviously, executive education, you’re getting people who are not undergrad right there. They’ve already been out in the workforce. They’re thinking about things, what is kind of the biggest challenge that they have? Well,

Jeremy Utley 9:17
I think, you know, there’s a global survey of CEOs IBM ran and what CEOs say the most important skill that needs to be developed for the future generation of leaders is creativity. And you hear that, that that kind of drumbeat a lot. Creativity is important. Innovation is important, a lot. entrepreneurial thinking is important. And it’s kind of reached these overhyped levels. And what we’re seeing is it’s almost like the tide has gone out a lot of organizations and a lot of leaders go, I’m hearing all this hype. And yet if I look at how we’re nurturing the capability, there’s a huge asymmetry here. We’re saying it’s important, but how are we actually developing people’s creative abilities? There’s an enormous Ms gap. And to us part of the reason for writing this book was, let’s actually close the hype gap between the emphasis people give you know, that you can’t find a public company that doesn’t have as one of its seven pillars, innovation. You know, everybody talks about innovation as a core of what they do. But if you have to individual, what are you doing to develop your innovative muscles, you get a blank stare, you know, it’s like people on Zoom, act like they froze, you know, because the reality is that I don’t do anything related to innovation. And I don’t even know what it means to practice innovation. And we say we value it, but that’s somebody else’s job or some other department. And we think that that’s a real shame. And that’s a huge opportunity that we’re trying to address.

Kara Goldin 10:42
I think like, the other big problem that I see just being with many, many executives is that people start to define themselves as not creative or an automatically when they think that they aren’t creative. They aren’t totally supposed to be the ones who are coming up with the ideas yet I, as I said earlier, I think the ideas can come from anywhere. So how do you get people who are coming into this class to actually be creative again, and come up with these ideas and break down their walls?

Jeremy Utley 11:14
Yeah, well, a lot of it comes down to understanding what creativity is. And the example or the definition that we give in the book is something we heard a seventh grader in Ohio, say, which I love, she said, creativity is doing more than the first thing you think of. And that is, it turns out is actually a totally profound definition. Because cognitively, what we understand about human creativity is The Art of Problem Solving, basically, and what we know about problem solving is human beings are subject to a very well known bias. It’s called the Einstein effect. I like to call it the anti Einstein effect, because it keeps us from breakthrough thinking, and what the Einstellung effect demonstrates, Abraham Lutens established this in the 1940s. And then Karl Duncker validated it. And then researchers at Oxford have validated in lots of different ways since, but the basic gist is, when people think of a solution to a problem, two things happen. One, they stop thinking of other solutions. And two, they’re blinded from seeing better solutions. So why is this seventh graders definition of creativity so profound, she said, creativity is doing more than the first thing you think of, and I would say, dot dot dot. And that’s really tough, right? Because everybody has a tendency to latch on to the first solution that comes to their mind. Right. And so part of what we are trying to inculcate in individuals when they come to classes, keep pushing yourself, you’re creating, you know, there’s, there’s a great study called the creative Cliff study, where researchers studied and they ask people, when does your creativity going to degrade right over time, not in stage of life. But in terms of, you know, you’re facing this problem? How long can you come up with creative ideas, most people expect their creativity to hit this what they call a cliff, right? It kind of drops precipitously after a period of time. But what the researchers have found is that’s not true, your creativity doesn’t degrade over time. And in fact, there’s a possibility to hit a creative ramp, your creativity can actually increase over time. But it comes down to the fundamental difference between whether somebody is going to generate more good ideas or not is, what do they believe about when good ideas come? If they expect, they’ll keep coming up with good ideas, then they will, it’s like a self fulfilling prophecy. If they don’t expect if they expect their best ideas to come up early, then, empirically speaking, all of their ideas are actually worse. They have fewer ideas, and they’re worse. And so a lot of it there’s these kinds of all that say there’s these deep cognitive biases, and then you go, Okay, well, how do I be creative? Well, one is do more than the first thing you think of, well, how do I do that? Well, let’s talk about inputs. Right? In creativity often gets overly associated with output, we think about the painting or the piece of music or the new product, but what creative practitioners know is they are obsessive about input. Obsessive, you know, my wife is a fashion designer, and as a finance guy, marrying a fashion designer, you know, I’m in my spreadsheets, and she’s going to Paris on an inspiration trip and I’m looking at her like, you just want to eat macrons you know, you know, what are you talking about right? But for a fashion designer, she knows know that the textiles and the colors and the shapes all of that is kind of grist for the mill as they say well to a finance guy i go i There’s no cell in the spreadsheet where I enter colors or flowy you know the words she uses right defy my logic as a finance guy. And what what creative what folks in creative fields, whether it’s entertainment, or design or art or things like that, what they’ve known for a long time as inputs to their thinking drive the outputs of their process. us. And what folks who come to the D school don’t appreciate is if you want to get more creative outputs be deliberate about seeking new inputs. And that’s how we define inspiration, the disciplined pursuit of unexpected inputs. And so people are surprised to learn when they come to the disco we go, hang on, the outputs will come later. What’s your practice around seeking new inputs? How are you interacting with customers? How are you interacting with supply chain partners? How are you interacting with people on your team? What is your practice for pursuing unexpected information? Because it’s those new inputs that ultimately provide kind of the cognitive building blocks to lead to new ideas.

Kara Goldin 15:39
I would just add that I think some of my best ideas actually come from looking at totally different industries to Sir not absolutely right. And I think so many people don’t do that. They think, Okay, I’m in fashion, I’ve got to only look at fashion, but actually looking at other industries, other categories has been totally helpful for me, because then I get out of this almost competitive sense, like, Oh, we’re doing something better, we’re doing something we’re

Jeremy Utley 16:09
become zero sum so quickly. I mean, that’s the thing, like thinking outside of the box is kind of a goal. And it’s kind of expression. But here’s, it’s a very simple thing, you want to think outside of the box, step one, leave the box. Step two, think they’re right, very simple, right? But everybody’s got their box, right. And it’s your box can be your office, your box, could be your team, your box could be your organization or industry. But if you’re deliberate about leaving the box, and then thinking out there, you know, you’re thinking outside the box, like literally your thing. There’s a there’s a researcher that I really admire named Arthur Kessler, and he wrote a book, it’s like this thick, it’s looks like a dictionary, it’s called the act of creation. And if you ever, you know, just find yourself with like a month free i It’s a fascinating read about, he compares kind of scientific discovery with invention and comedy. And he kind of weaves them together. It’s fascinating. But the way he defines creativity, maybe the second best definition after the seventh grader in Ohio is this Hungarian philosopher Arthur Kessler, and what he says his creativity is the collision of apparently unrelated frames of reference. And that’s exactly what you’re saying. When it’s an unexpected frame of reference. That’s where creativity happens. It’s that collision. But most of us carefully manicure our lives. So there’s no collisions with anything other than that, which is immediately and obviously relevant. And part of the discipline of seeking input is being deliberate about colliding with what seems random, right? There’s a lot of research that suggests that the farther afield and analogy is, the greater value it holds in terms of novel solutions. So if you’re in you know, if you’re in apparel, the worst thing you could do is say, How would our competitor solve this problem? The best thing you could do is say how would McDonald’s solve it? How would you know Disney solve it? How would Apple solve it? Right? And the farther afield you get from your industry, the better novel output comes because of its again, Kessler’s collision of apparently unrelated frames of reference. That’s where magic really happens.

Kara Goldin 18:15
So, so interesting, and I think it’s true, I mean, totally related, and unrelated. I always tell people that I get my best ideas when I travel, places where I’ve never been. And why is that it’s along the same things, right. It’s all new. So you don’t have expectations, you don’t have any relevance, you know, of sort of how it relates to anyway, I think it all sort of flows all together and getting people to think more clearly. But so your book idea flow, the only business metric that matters, you co wrote it with Perry clay bomb, and it’s quite excellent. How many ideas do you need to have to come up with in order to have a good idea happen?

Jeremy Utley 19:03
Okay, okay. So you’re kind of getting to, there’s this famous chemist, of course, I’ve got to go to a famous chemist. His name’s Linus Pauling. He’s the only individual in history

Kara Goldin 19:14
to win the Nobel please remember all these names, by the way? I

Jeremy Utley 19:17
can’t, I can’t help it. It’s like, it’s a requirement to teach at Stanford, you have to be a nerd. But this guy, Linus Pauling. He’s an amazingly breakthrough thinker. Granted, Mary Curie also did win the Nobel Prize twice, but she wanted as a member of a team. Pauling wanted as an individual and he almost by the way, won a third Nobel because he was neck and neck with Watson and Crick in discovering the double helix structure of DNA. Okay, so this guy is like, all time legendary breakthrough thinker and a reporter asked him once, how do you come up with so many good ideas? And Pauling response was very telling and it gets right to your question. He said, to have a good idea. You need to have a lot of ideas. What he’s saying is I come up with a A lot of ideas. And to me the telling thing is to ask someone, how many do you think a lot is? If you take as given Linus Pauling, his quote is, it’s empirically true to have a good idea. You need to have a lot of ideas, then the question is how many is a lot, and I go around the country, I interact with people in different cultures, whether it’s Japan, or Colombia, or Israel, or Kentucky, or, you know, I was in Texas last week. And I asked people this question, I did it. I was at SMU in Dallas this past week. And there’s, you know, 15 kind of banquet tables in this big hall, and said, Okay, we’re gonna give you you know, what I did on behalf of the event organizers, they’re gonna give you a prize, I don’t know what it is. But the table that gets the best guest gets a special prize, right? And you go around the room, and people say, 55, you know, and somebody says, 14, and somebody says, 89. So we said, 99, one bowl table said, 500, you know, and that, and then it’s just staggering. When I show people that there’s actual research, there’s actual empirical research, the number is closer to 2000. Meaning you need 2000 Raw ideas to ultimately if you go through, like an innovation funnel from kind of idea developments or prototype building to, you know, early sales, incubation efforts to ultimately commercial success, which is how, you know, in business, you define a good idea. It’s 2001. And this is that kind of figure just staggers people because it’s not, it’s not just one order of magnitude more than you think it’s multiple orders of magnitude that probably the average response I get is something like, 20. Yeah. So there are 100x

Kara Goldin 21:38
off? Well, and it depends on how you think about an idea, right? I think that even when you start a company, I mean, look at my company, my companies in Silicon Valley, I it’s, it’s definitely you’re constantly irradiated. ideating along the way, always right. And, and changing your ideas, and maybe not with the core product, but maybe along the lines of supply chain, or whatever that is. So that was awesome. The percent change.

Jeremy Utley 22:08
The The other thing I would say, I just add there, Kara is I didn’t say good ideas. And that’s really where people don’t, because anytime anybody hears this number, it’s like, it’s like, I’ve told them, You have to have 1000 Tigers. Yeah, they’re like, What? 1000? I can’t even have one Tiger. Right. And there’s this intimidation factor. And the thing is, we’re not saying great ideas. We’re not saying we’re just saying any unexpected connection, any novel connection is an idea, count it. But the point is, you need to be in the habit, not just of having good ideas. Everybody wants good ideas. You know, you think about Steve Jobs. What do you think of when you think of Steve Jobs? disruption, redefining categories customer delight, you know, these amazing things? Well, if you look at if you watch, for example, sir Johnny Ives did a tribute to Steve Jobs at his memorial service. And if you watch that, as I did recently, it’s fascinating. Johnny, Ive says, Steve and I would have lunch almost every day. And every day, Steve would say to me, Hey, Johnny, want to hear a dopey idea. And he said, most of the time, they were truly dopey. In fact, sometimes they were absolutely terrible. But every once in a while, they took the app out of the room and left us both breathless in wonder, right? into me, that’s like the perfect encapsulation of what I’m talking about is, you know, if you were to flash the a picture of Steve Jobs up on the, you know, the the thumbnail for this interview, nobody sees that and thinks, oh, that idiot, you know, that don’t? Nobody does. Everybody thinks brilliant, right? But what does it take to get to the point where you’re really brilliant, you’re willing to have and share ideas that you think are silly or dopey. And what we would say is dopey ideas are the price of delightful ideas. If you want to disrupt industries, you got to be willing to have dopey ideas too. And when you realize we say you need 2000 ideas to get to one commercial success, we’re not saying 2000 amazing breakthrough ideas. We’re saying lots of dopey stuff to lots of ordinary stuff, too. And it makes it much less intimidating. When you take the pressure of quality off of the word idea.

Kara Goldin 24:24
Yeah. Which I think is probably hard. The longer you’ve been in the workforce, right? You can’t help yourself. Get you get ahead of yourself. And as I, as my dad used to say to me all the time, if you think too much about the end, you’ll never get past the beginning. Right? And it’s I mean, that’s, that’s exactly what what you’re talking about. So, you argue that we are still brainstorming the wrong way. What’s the right way?

Jeremy Utley 24:50
Okay. conference rooms are where creativity goes to die, right? No one ever walked into a rainstorm and goes, Man now I’m feeling good, right? It’s like there’s a He rolls there’s fear. Very simply, I mean, there are rules of engagement. But very simply, I would just say even structurally, there’s no evidence that suggests that you throw a bunch of people in a room and like breakthroughs happen. One simple way to really amplify the creative output of a group of people is modulate between individual and group activity. So have individuals think about a prompt first, because all of a sudden you don’t favor the extroverts, right? Extroverts can kind of dominate the conversation. So you have everyone think about a prompt? How can we reinvent the unboxing experience of our product? How can we reinvent the the point of sale experience or whatever it might be? Right? Have everybody write down ideas? That’s an individual activity, think think for yourself? Maybe we call it a wander, wander, go on a wander, wander and wander around the neighborhood? And look at how it whole foods do it? How does Amazon truck do it? I see some Adidas shoes, how do they do it? Right? But individually connect with yourself. But based on your own background, you know, Jeremy, you lived in Zambia, how Zambian people do it right that just you know, whatever kind of stimulates unexpected ideas, then come together and you share those. And you have a period of time where in a judgment free manner, you build on one another’s ideas, use tools of improvisation and yes, and kind of get people to spiral unexpectedly upwards, then here’s the important thing. At that point. In most organizations, people go great, let’s choose the idea. We’re going to move forward with brainstorms over, let’s choose what the research suggests. And it goes back to what we talked about earlier with the creative Cliff illusion is that the best ideas haven’t come yet. And if you declare the ideation over, everybody stops thinking about it. If on the other hand, you say we’re not done yet, it triggers what’s called these economic effect after this Russian psychologist Bloom is agnostic, who identified that if you tell yourself a problem isn’t solved, your working memory will continue to stew on it in the background, your subconscious will work on it in the background. And so at the end of that meeting, rather than saying we’re done, let’s choose and move forward, say we’re going to meet next week. And our belief is that we haven’t come up with our best ideas yet. we’d invite everybody here to keep thinking about this challenge. Keep thinking about all the things that have come up today, and see if anything more interesting comes up. And then next week, when we meet will not only kind of review all the stuff that we came up with today. But we’ll also hopefully each have some better ideas to contribute to the conversation and we’ll make decisions, then. That’s a very simple structural change that can have a profound impact on a team’s creative potential.

Kara Goldin 27:35
And also bringing in people from different roles. Absolutely.

Jeremy Utley 27:39
Being cross disciplinary is important. Yeah. Oh, no, there’s so many, there’s so many variables at your disposal. Right? Who’s in the room? What kinds of questions? Are you asking? What kinds of input Have you sought? That what kinds of analogies are you drawing upon? There’s who’s facilitating right, what are the rules of the game, there’s all sorts of variables there. And that’s something that we go, as, you know, we go deeply into and one of the chapters of the book, but brainstorming, he gets a bad rap, because everybody’s had a really bad experience with it. And so everybody gets almost the way I think about as they get inoculated, like, well, I know that doesn’t work, you know, I can’t catch the real thing now. And so we can have to disabuse people of the you know, everybody’s been in the brainstorm with a person who says no to everything. Everybody has been in the brainstorm with a person who keeps advocating for their pet idea and keeps coming back to it. But what if we do the thing that I said earlier, you know, and so everybody, because of they almost have PTSD, when it comes to brainstorming, they go, I don’t want anything to do with that. And the truth is, there’s immense creative potential in groups. The question is, do you know how to unlock that creative potential?

Kara Goldin 28:41
Yeah, I totally agree. And I think it also really depends on who is facilitating it absolutely makes a huge difference makes such a big difference for sure. So the last couple of years, and the shift to remote and hybrid work has changed the way people collaborate, and there isn’t as much cooler talk going on. Has this factor changed the way? I guess that you’ve seen people think about creativity, and how do we get unstuck?

Jeremy Utley 29:11
You know, it’s a great question. That’s something that we’ve been grappling with. Even today, Perry and I were talking about this topic, because the truth is, as I joked, earlier, the conference room was never the place where creativity shines, right? And but And yet, for whatever reason, we’ve experienced this kind of plateau and innovation, or this cliff and creativity, organizationally, and it’s widely to, it’s widely blamed on Zoom, or it’s widely blamed on the fact that we aren’t gathering in person, but you think about it rarely to gathering in person results in the creative outcome. So there’s kind of a tension there. What we would say is, there are there are norms, there are archaic norms around what is work, that are actually driving the creative challenge that we face today. Meaning what if I’m working remotely where am I supposed has to be on this box, right? Fingers on keyboard, doing email doing slack messages camera on in my Zoom meeting, right? That’s how I define work. You know, I had the experience yesterday we were in, we were in a conversation with a partner. And it was me Perry and this person. And somebody said something amazing. And I wanted to write it down. And as I’m looking down, I was actually self conscious, because I thought, I don’t want them to think that I’m not paying attention. But the mode is, if I look away, I’m checked out, right? And that may be true people are also like, they’ve got 95 tabs open, and they probably aren’t checked out. But there’s, which is to say, there’s even rules that we have internally, about what does it mean to look productive? What does it mean to look efficient to be efficient? And the problem with innovation is it’s rarely efficient. And the question is not how do you do it efficiently? But how do you do it effectively? And the amazing thing about remote work actually, is if you and I both just look 90 degrees to the left, what do we see radically different things, which is actually an amazing gift to creativity, right. And if we get up, if we both agree, hey, let’s take five minutes and turn off the screen, we’re going to take a walk around the block, you’re going to take a walk around your block, I’m going to take a walk around my room on my block, we can come back with fresh minds in a totally different way, we can come back with fresh possibilities in a totally different way. But it comes down to redefining what being productive looks like. And increasingly, there’s this focus on productivity and this focus on doing more and being more efficient. Rather than being more effective at identifying novel and meaningful solutions, the problems we’re facing, we, there’s a lot of cognitive bias there at play, we just like to get tasks done. And so we do the easy stuff rather than the meaningful stuff. And as soon as we sit down, we orient towards the easy stuff. And we go to the inbox, rather than thinking, you know, holistically and using, you know, anachronistic models of how we could be reinventing the, you know, problems we’re facing. And so to me, there’s an amazing potential actually, with remote work to get people out into the world experiencing, you know, as you said, like travel has this profound impact, leaving your computer as a profound impact, you know, and then the other thing is, I find it hugely liberating to study breakthrough thinkers in the past, because if you look at most breakthrough thinkers in the past, they didn’t break through because they were just like, you know, banging on the model, or there just weren’t, you know, you look at Kahneman and Tversky, right, these Nobel Prize winning behavioral psychologists, they reinvented the field of economics. And when Turski was asked, How did you and Kahneman design such amazing experiments, you know what he said? He said, The secret to doing good work is to always be a little underemployed. You waste years when you can’t waste hours. Yeah. And he was referring to the fact that he and Danny would kind of take these long ambling walks around Hebrew University campus laughing, joking, and reinventing economic theory. And their colleagues. If they look out the window, and they see these guys walking around laughing, they what do they think they aren’t working? And what’s true, they were working very effectively, right? It’s just not all work looks the same. Not all breakthrough work looks the same. And yet, we don’t really have good permissions in place, and norms on our teams in place for how do we give one another the space and the bandwidth to seek new inputs into synthesize new information and unexpected ways? It’s not gonna come while I’m banging out email. Not gonna happen. And yet, increasingly, the definition of work is get all your email done.

Kara Goldin 33:45
Yeah, no, I think that that is so true. One of the things that we implemented actually, during COVID, primarily to get people thinking differently was they had to reach out to somebody within the organization, we had 200 people in the company, who they didn’t know. That’s cool. And you know, they’d look at the roster. And sometimes they would have been on a zoom with them, but they’d look at the roster. And what was fascinating is, most of them didn’t really understand what the role was. And it had them thinking about ultimately themselves or how their role interacted with that role in some way. But But the bigger sort of picture that I think people started to understand was that idea started to come when you actually exited your own world in some way. So I do think it’s possible to do it in a virtual world, but I know it’s, it’s something that many people are struggling with right now.

Jeremy Utley 34:45
Absolutely. It’s just a matter of permission. Yeah, it’s a matter of giving oneself permission to work differently as well. Because you can think like a lot of times like there is there’s this sense of why can’t we innovate? It’s because illegal dot dot dot it’s Because of compliance, you know, people tend to kind of externalize the reasons that they can’t be more innovative or more breakthrough. What I’ve observed is you deal with all the legal stuff you want, the problem still comes down to a lot of times an individual’s own definitions. Either I’m not creative, or this isn’t real work, or work shouldn’t be fun, or we shouldn’t laugh, or there’s all sorts of kind of rules they’ve imposed upon themselves. And so even if you deal with all the structural elements at play, that might otherwise hold people back, they’re still holding themselves back. And unless you get to that kind of fundamental core of how does someone defined work? How does someone define being effective in the workplace, then a lot of the, you know, peripheral structural stuff won’t help anyway.

Kara Goldin 35:45
Yeah, absolutely. And they have to want to be, right, they have to want to think too, I think that more and more, you know, really comes back to you. And if you’re not really thinking that there’s anything wrong with your life, and you don’t want to ideate and you don’t want to be creative, then don’t. But I think that there’s many more people who are sort of struggling with what else is there in life. And that’s what it made me really think about when I was reading your book that I have right here and such such a great one. So it was such a pleasure talking with you, Jeremy, and thank you so much, so much for all the great insights and conversation and everybody needs to pick up a copy of IDEA flow, they must definitely, and even if you’re an entrepreneur, is exceptional, if you are inside of a company, and you’re thinking, Okay, how do I actually figure out what I want to do next within your organization with outside of your organization? Or if you are just really excited to read about the future more than anything? I think it’s it’s good for all different types of readers.

Jeremy Utley 36:54
You know, my mom called me the other day, she goes, Jeremy, this isn’t a business book. She goes, I’ve been reading your book, it’s for me, too. And I go, that’s great. Mom, I think it is because nobody you say it’s a business book, but it’s it’s for everybody. And I said, well, um, you can’t say a books for everybody. This is not how it were. But I agree. These are these are tools and principles that apply across, you know, we have k 12 teachers who are deeply engaged, right, we’ve got, you know, retirees or folks on their third and fourth act, who are deeply engaged in our community. And the reality is these tools are incredibly valuable, regardless of the environment that you find yourself in. But the core I mean, getting back to what you said, you have to care. If you don’t care, don’t bother, right. But if you do care, there’s some really, really great material that were will amplify your creative output, accelerate your game and take you to the next level.

Kara Goldin 37:46
No, I absolutely agree. So we’ll have all the info in the show notes to please let

Jeremy Utley 37:51
people know, by the way, if they go, if they go to the website, idea flow Dot Design, we made a free chapter available there. There’s actually not even in your book that you’re holding in your hand. Oh, I just called how to think like Bezos in jobs. Oh, it’s a bunch of vignettes of who, you know, you know, Jeff Bezos. But it’s a bunch of vignettes of thinking strategies, they have to get to breakthroughs. And so that’s totally free on the website. You can go idea flow Dot Design, you can grab it’s called, we call it the bonus chapter. Truth be told, our publisher said, you can’t reference these guys so much, you got to take some of the material out. And so we put it in a bonus chapter. Because there’s only so many stories you can tell about a couple people. But anyway, we are eager to get these ideas out in the world to get folks feedback and engagement in the community. And I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to share with your audience,

Kara Goldin 38:36
I love it. And we’ll have all of that info in the show notes as well. So thanks again, Jeremy.

Jeremy Utley 38:41

Kara Goldin 38:42
Thanks all for listening to this episode. We hope you enjoyed it. And I want to thank all of our guests and our sponsors. And finally our listeners, keep the great comments coming in. And one final plug if you have not read or listen to my book undaunted, please do so you will hear all about my journey, including founding, scaling and building the company that I founded. Hint we are here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Thanks everyone for listening, and goodbye for now. Before we sign off, I want to talk to you about fear. People like to talk about fearless leaders. But achieving big goals isn’t about fearlessness. Successful leaders recognize their fears and decide to deal with them head on in order to move forward. This is where my new book undaunted comes in. This book is designed for anyone who wants to succeed in the face of fear, overcome doubts and live a little undaunted. Order your copy today at undaunted, the and learn how to look your doubts and doubters in the eye and achieve your dreams. For a limited time. You’ll also receive a free case of hint water. Do you have a question for me or want to nominate an innovator to spotlight send me a tweet Tweet at Kara Goldin and let me know. And if you liked what you heard, please leave me a review on Apple podcasts. You can also follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at Kara Goldin. Thanks for listening