A little list for learning

Are you looking to expand your learning and development perspective?Here are a few titles to add to your learning toolkit.

I have more serious lists to share, and will, over the coming months. But this is a nice little list of books and resources that moved me in different ways--so I thought I'd share.



1. Big Questions from Little People: And Simple Answers from Great Minds

A delightful alternative to Alexa! :-) and a smart, illuminating, essential, and utterly delightful handbook for perplexed parents and their curious children. Author Gemma Elwin Harris has lovingly compiled weighty questions from precocious grade school children—queries that have long dumbfounded even intelligent adults—and she’s gathered together a notable crew of scientists, specialists, philosophers, and writers to answer them.Miles above your average general knowledge and trivia collections, this charming compendium includes responses from: Mary Roach and Phillip Pullman, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, chef Gordon Ramsay, adventurist Bear Gryllis, and linguist Noam Chomsky. Questions with no easy answers (“Do animals have feelings?”, “Why can’t I tickle myself?”, “Who is God?”) are addressed by well-known comedians, columnists, and raconteurs offering hilarious alternative answers.

2. A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader

A collection of original letters to the children of today and tomorrow about why we read and what books do for the human spirit, composed by 121 of the most interesting and inspiring humans in our world: Jane Goodall, Yo-Yo Ma, Jacqueline Woodson, Ursula K. Le Guin, Mary Oliver, Neil Gaiman, Amanda Palmer, Rebecca Solnit, Elizabeth Gilbert, Shonda Rhimes, Alain de Botton, James Gleick, Anne Lamott, Diane Ackerman, Judy Blume, Eve Ensler, David Byrne, Sylvia Earle, Richard Branson, Daniel Handler, Marina Abramović, Regina Spektor, Elizabeth Alexander, Adam Gopnik, Debbie Millman, Dani Shapiro, Tim Ferriss, Ann Patchett, a 98-year-old Holocaust survivor, Italy’s first woman in space, and many more immensely accomplished and largehearted artists, writers, scientists, philosophers, entrepreneurs, musicians, and adventurers whose character has been shaped by a life of reading.

3. The White Cat and the Monk

My all-time favorite poem, about a monk studying his books late into the evening and searches for truth in their pages. His cat, Pangur, leads a simple life, too, chasing prey in the darkness. As night turns to dawn, Pangur leads his companion to the truth he has been seeking. The White Cat and the Monk is a retelling of the classic Old Irish poem and a contemplative story paying tribute to the wisdom of animals and the wonders of the natural world.Written as a playful ode in the ninth century, today the poem lives partway between lamentation and celebration — it stands as counterpoint to our culture of competitive striving and ceaseless self-comparisons, but it also reminds us that the accomplishments of others aren’t to the detriment of our own; that we can remain purposeful about our pursuits while rejoicing in those of others; that we can choose to amplify each other’s felicity because there is, after all, enough to go around even in the austerest of circumstances.That is a lesson we spend our whole lifetimes learning.



4.  There Is Nothing Wrong with You Going Beyond Self Hate

...and, I would add, every other book by Cheri Huber. Self-hate is something with which everyone must reckon. This book reveals the origin of self-hate, how self-hate works, how to identify it, and how to go beyond it. It provides examples of some of the forms self-hate takes, including taking blame but not credit, holding grudges, and trying to be perfect, and explores the many facets of self-hate, including its role in addiction, the battering cycle, and the illusion of control. After addressing these factors, it illustrates how a meditation practice can be developed and practiced in efforts to free oneself from self-hating beliefs.

5. Thanks For The Feedback

A highly applicable book from the authors of Difficult Conversations, this great read is for professionals and anyone looking to improve their relationships through better communication. This means you need to take on the toughest topic of all: how you see yourself. In Thanks for the Feedback, the authors explain why receiving feedback is so crucial yet so challenging, offering a simple framework and powerful tools to help us take on life's blizzard of offhand comments, annual evaluations, and unsolicited input with curiosity and grace. They blend the latest insights from neuroscience and psychology with practical, hard-headed advice. Thanks for the Feedback is destined to become a classic in the fields of leadership, organizational behavior, and education.

6. Finite & Infinite Games

“There are at least two kinds of games,” states James P. Carse as he begins this extraordinary book. “One could be called finite; the other infinite.”Carse explores these questions with stunning elegance, teasing out of his distinctions a universe of observation and insight, noting where and why and how we play, finitely and infinitely. He surveys our world—from the finite games of the playing field and playing board to the infinite games found in culture and religion—leaving all we think we know illuminated and transformed. Along the way, Carse finds new ways of understanding everything, from how an actress portrays a role to how we engage in sex, from the nature of evil to the nature of science. Finite games, he shows, may offer wealth and status, power and glory, but infinite games offer something far more subtle and far grander.This is a beautifully written book about the struggle between two value systems. It lays the challenge of deciding for yourself which game you are playing.



7. Podcast: History of Rome

The History of Rome is a podcast tracing the history of the Roman Empire, beginning with Aeneas's arrival in Italy and ending with the exile of Romulus Augustulus, last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire. Mike Duncan is one of the foremost history podcasters in the world, with over 100 million episode downloads over his ten-year career. His award-winning series The History of Rome remains one of the most popular history podcasts on the internet. Duncan mentioned that in making the podcast, he learned “human nature has changed very little,” and that people generally respond to the same situations in the same sorts of ways. “I don’t think we’re so completely different than any Roman was.” There is a lot to be learned here.

8. Podcast: Voices in AI

Published and sponsored by GigaomVoices in AI is a new podcast that features in-depth interviews with the leading minds in artificial intelligence. It covers the gambit of viewpoints regarding this transformative technology, from beaming techno-optimism to dark dystonia despair. The format features a single guest in an hour-long one-on-one interview with host Byron Reese. Featuring today’s most prominent authors, researchers, engineers, scientists and philosophers, the podcast explores the economic, social, ethical and philosophical implications of artificial intelligence. Conversation centers on familiar terrain relating to jobs, robots, and income inequality, yet also reaches more far-flung topics such as the possibility of conscious machines, robot rights, weaponized AI, and the possible re-definition of humanity and life itself. With a topic as rich as AI, there is seldom a slow moment.

9. Podcast: In Our Time

Last but not least, In Our Time seeks In Our Time is a live BBC radio discussion series exploring the history of ideas, expertly facilitated by Melvyn Bragg. Each program covers a specific historical, philosophical, religious, cultural or scientific topic. Bragg hosts a discussion of the week's subject featuring three experts on the subject. The program is normally broadcast live and unedited beginning with a short summary of the week's topic. He guides the discussion along a generally chronological route, then either concludes the program himself or invites summation remarks from one of the specialists. At the end of each podcast, they do some outtakes as they wind down over, and this is so British, tea and coffee.



10. Best Museum Recommendation: The American Writers Museum of Chicago

No single picture does it justice, so I encourage you to visit their website. The American Writers Museum is a museum of American Literature and writing that opened in Chicago in May 2017. The museum was designed by Amaze Design of Boston and was inspired by the Dublin Writers Museum (now on my list to see).The museum pays homage to American writers both past and present and is the first of its kind in the nation--and it did not disappoint! For lovers of the written word, the

American Writers Museum should be the first stop on a trip through Chicago’s cultural playground.The American Writers Museum worked closely with 65 authors’ homes and museums around the country in order to capture their unique stories. The result is a lively, interactive showcase that shares the personal tales and literary works of some of America’s best-loved writers, ranging from Mark Twain to Dr. Seuss. Multiple galleries have been designed to engage and spur the imaginations of visitors of all ages. The museum’s sense of playfulness and purpose is evident immediately upon entering, with the branches of a tree above the entryway formed by rows of hardcover books.Read more about it here!Christine Haskell, PhD works with startups, Fortune 100s, non-profit organizations, and individual leaders and thinkers to help clients interweave results and relationships. It sounds like a simple concept, but it is not easy to pull off. Her passion and specialty is to help clients leverage their leadership development to produce bottom-line business results. She is currently working on her third manuscript focused on what master craftsmen (and women) can teach business about leadership, creativity, and growth (pending publication in 2019).

Book Shelf: Strangers in Their Own Land


  • In a “great paradox,” Conservative red-state voters often oppose government programs that could benefit them.

  • Generally, members of the American Right oppose federal programs such as welfare and Medicaid even while participating in them.

  • Louisiana, where the author interviewed people holding rightist views, is the second poorest state and one of the most polluted.

  • Louisianans’ primary motivators are “taxes, faith and honor.”

  • Right-wing voters in Lake Charles, Louisiana, match a profile of the “least resistant personality,” those most likely to accept “unfavorable land use” nearby.

  • Oil provides only about 10% of jobs in Louisiana.

  • Louisianans interviewed felt liberals “badgered” them to feel particular ways.

  • They also felt as if they followed the rules to reach the American Dream while others broke in line in front of them.

  • Rightists might vote to promote their emotional – rather than economic – self-interest.

  • President Donald Trump makes his supporters feel part of an inclusive group.

3 Key Points

  • Why highly significant yet unpredictable events, called “black swans,” areunderappreciated;

  • Why people continually see misleading patterns in data; and

  • How to embrace randomness and come to terms with black swans.


More and more, Americans feel like strangers to one another over what sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild calls “an increasingly hostile split” in attitudes. A professor emerita of sociology at the University of California at Berkeley, Hochschild traveled to Louisiana repeatedly over a five-year span starting in 2011 for field research on the American Right. She attempts to analyze and understand the emotional motivations of her new “Tea Party friends.” Conservatives might feel Hochschild failed to take their perspectives on board; liberals might see a paradox in her effort to develop empathy for people who can appear to lack empathy for themselves. Hoschchild conducts fascinating research and conclusions to US voters of any ideology and to all non-Americans who seek greater insight into the sometimes contradictory, sometimes inexplicable behavior of the US electorate.


The “Great Paradox”

Berkeley sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild undertook 10 research visits to Louisiana between 2011 and 2016. She gathered 4,690 pages of transcripts from interviews with 60 research subjects. Hochschild sought to understand her subjects’ lives and their feelings to gain insight into “the emotional draw of right-wing politics.”Hochschild chose environmental pollution as the issue through which she hoped to gain broad insights into rightist points of view. She asked why Louisianans, whose state suffers pollution, tend to oppose regulations to clean it up. Generally, sociologists wonder why conservative red-state voters fail to support government programs that could help them – sometimes even if they are beneficiaries of those programs.“

My keyhole issue had taken me 4,000 feet down into the Earth. And following it down the hole was the Great Paradox: the Tea Party feared, disdained, and wanted to diminish the federal government. But they also wanted a clean and safe environment – one without earthquakes sending toxins into aquifers or worse.”Environmental protection is an example of this great paradox. Across the US, people who live in highly polluted states – often Republican-dominated – tend to vote against environmental protection measures that could improve their communities. At the county level, exposure to pollution correlates inversely with concern about pollution as an issue – even though people in these counties recognize that it poses a danger. Hochschild sought to understand why right-wing voters so regularly and passionately vote against their own interests.“The Tea Party was not so much an official political group as a culture, a way of seeing and feeling about a place and its people.”

Louisiana Poverty and Pollution

Louisiana is the second-poorest state after Mississippi. It ranks number 49th in the 50 states on an index of human development – based on measures of life expectancy, education as well as income – and 46th on public education spending per student. The federal government provides 44% of the state budget – only Mississippi relies more heavily on federal funding. Yet Louisiana also hands out a greater percentage of “taxpayer money than any other state.”In 2014, Governor Bobby Jindal awarded $1.6 billion in incentives to industry, along with decade-long tax exemptions. Louisiana slashed its state budget an equivalent amount and laid off 30,000 workers, including teachers, nurses and safety inspectors. Louisiana ranks among the most polluted states in America. Its men suffer from cancer at rates far higher than average. Yet Louisiana allocates only 2.2% of its state budget to environmental protection.“Louisiana was poor before oil came, and we’re poor today.” (Dr. Paul Templer, former head, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality)

Lake Charles

Hochschild conducted her fieldwork mostly around Lake Charles, Louisiana, about 30 miles north of the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The site of the largest chemical spill in US history is a few miles to the west along the Mississippi River where, in 1994, workers discovered a leak that had released 1½ million tons of ethylene dichloride into the water.

“One has the police to protect one’s property, Rush Limbaugh to protect one’s pride and God to take care of the rest.”In 2012, at nearby Bayou Corne, the Houston-based Texas Brine company was drilling – contrary to state regulations – into an underground salt dome under the Bayou and inadvertently drilled through a side wall. The accident caused a sinkhole that by 2015 had spread to 37 acres, bubbled up with methane, released oil and toxins into the aquifer, and necessitated the relocation of an entire once close-knit community. The so-called “sacrifice zone” encompassed the homes of 350 residents, now turned into “energy refugees.”One family had farmed 40 acres on the edge of Bayou d’Inde for generations; then, industry moved to their locale. Afterward, all but one member of the family suffered cancer; only two survived. Their animals all perished after drinking bayou water. Even the cypress trees died.“When I was a kid…if someone was hungry, you fed him. You had community. You know what’s undercut all that?...Big government.” (Louisianan Mike Schaff)

Conservative Louisianans

The people Hochschild surveyed in Louisiana cared about their faith and the church, their community and traditional values. Nearly all of them attended church, some twice a week. Many voted on the basis of political candidates’ religious views rather than based on their economic policies or environmental commitment. Some Louisianans told Hochschild that they believe in “end times.” One expressed his desire that his “10 great-grandchildren” live on a healthy, thriving Earth, but admitted to recognizing that the Earth may no longer exist. Lake Charles’s churches assume roles in their congregants’ lives that the government fills for more secular people, providing playgrounds, fitness centers, summer camps, sport teams and soup kitchens. Many people believe the government undermines or destroys a sense of community.

Louisianans “are actually victims, doing emotional work and suffering damages so that we can all have the products of the petrochemical industry.” Many of those on the right felt taxes were too high and resented having to pay them. They believed their taxes often paid for benefits that went to undeserving people. Many viewed the government as greedy, incompetent and corrupt. They dramatically overestimated the portion of the population that the government employs, as well as the level of federal spending on Social Security, Medicare and welfare. In spite of their opposition to such federal programs, many Tea Party supporters participated in them. As Lousiana Mike Schaff said, “Most people I know use available government programs, since they paid for part of them. If the programs are there, why not use them?”These Louisianans are primarily motivated by their views about “taxes, faith and honor.” They derive honor from “work, region, state, family life and church,” as well as sacrifice, endurance, hard work and charity. Given their belief in accepting what you can’t change and carrying on, those studied found honor in having the necessary “moral strength” to persevere.“Louisianans are sacrificial lambs to the entire American industrial system.”

“Locally Undesirable Land Use”

Many Louisianans resign themselves to an extraordinary degree to living with unpleasant circumstances. They closely match a definition of the “least resistant personality” that a California consultancy developed for California’s Waste Management Board. According to the consultants’ report, individuals who accept rather than resist locally undesirable land use tend to hold conservative views, vote Republican, advocate for the free market, lack college education, and live in small Southern or Midwestern communities, among other traits.“That’s not the Mississippi’s water. That’s Monsanto water. Exxon water. Shell Oil water… Industry owns the Mississippi now.”

Often, these Louisianans believed the oil industry brought the state jobs and economic progress. Their opposition to government regulation seems to stem from the belief that regulation hampers industry and reduces jobs.In truth, the petrochemical industry provides only about 10% of jobs in Louisiana. Rigorous environmental protections, in fact, make a state more competitive globally. After 40 years of oil drilling, the state’s poverty rate has decreased by only one percentage point. “In 1979, 19% of Louisianans lived below the poverty line; in 2014, it was 18%.” Some Louisianans believed unfettered free-market forces could bring about safe conditions without regulation.“The Sabine River is a public river. But if you can’t drink in the river, and you can’t swim in the river…then it’s not your river. It’s the paper mill’s river.” (Louisianan Paul Ringo)


Many conservatives believe liberals are trying to make them accept left-wing rules and browbeating them to feel a certain way. One woman pointed to TV journalist Christiane Amanpour crouching beside a sickly African child. In the woman’s view, Amanpour implied the US caused the child’s plight. The woman objected to any message suggesting she was morally inferior if she didn’t feel compassion for the child. Some Louisianans thought they might feel misplaced sympathy for seemingly deserving people who might be deceiving them.“A company may be free to pollute, but that means the people aren’t free to swim.” (General Russel Honoré)

Louisianan Republicans’ Emotional Life

Many of Hochschild’s subjects agreed that the following imaginary “deep story” conveys their feelings. A deep story shows symbolically “how things feel” to people. Its intent is to provide a nonjudgmental framework for helping people who disagree to understand each other’s views.In this fictitious story, many people stand in a long line waiting to reach the American Dream, and thus gain security and honor after long hardship and suffering. That the line has stalled conveys the frustration that older workers – particularly white men without a college education – might feel. Since the 1970s, their wages have dropped 40%. The people in line feel liberals are attacking their morality and values.

“In a period of political tumult, we grasp for quick certainties. We shoehorn new information into ways we already think.”

They notice other people aren’t obeying the rules. Some cut in line. Some immigrants, women, refugees and even animals get undeserved benefits at the expense of those who play by the rules. They imagine that President Barack Obama cuts in line. The resentful, obedient people see Obama helping other line-cutters. Feeling suspicious, dishonored, disparaged and taken advantage of, they band together. In this vision, the right sees the US government as an “ally” of the line-cutters. They view the free market, on the other hand, as their ally.

“Partyism, as some call it, now beats race as the source of divisive prejudice.”

Because they cling to this mirage, Hochschild’s subjects fail to perceive the truth about corporate power and interests. Lake Charles’s conservatives support industry, Wall Street, deregulation and the free market. In reality, these interests do not align with theirs. They don’t support federal programs that could, and do, help them.

“Team Players”

Some people in Hochschild’s study group show endurance and willingness to work hard. They feel that the “team” – be it the Republican Party, a corporation or the free enterprise system – brings good things to their lives and merits their loyalty. Willing to endure the downsides of the system, these Team Players work long hours and accommodate difficult working conditions without complaining. In their view, environmentalists dwell on negative conditions that a Team Player would face with bravery, while focusing on the positive. Team Players view willingness to work as a moral quality that confers deservingness. They feel little or no sympathy for people who don’t work.“What I discovered was the profound importance of emotional self-interest.”

“Worshippers” and “Cowboys”

Other rightist Louisianans – call them Worshippers – focus on the necessity of making difficult choices. They accommodate to their situation and willingly renounce some desires for the sake of others, such as sacrificing a clean environment for economic progress. Some right wingers – Cowboys – value daring and stoicism. They believe in taking risks to create as much good as possible and then, if things go badly, accepting the outcome.


Some players choose a new team and become Rebels. While remaining members of the right wing, they align with environmental causes or political reform. One Rebel became an environmental activist after losing his home to the Bayou Corne sinkhole, but he stayed in the Tea Party. A man who’d worked dumping Pittsburgh Plate Glass’s toxic waste developed disabilities as a result of chemical exposure. The firm fired him for absenteeism. But, still, he remained an active Tea Party member and supported an anti-EPA congressional candidate.

President Donald Trump\

While many of Hochschild’s subjects respect Trump’s business accomplishments, as voters they broke about half for Trump and half against. His supporters admire his leadership. His detractors find him frightening or “mean.” Emotion is the crux of Trump’s appeal. Some right-leaning people developed certain emotions, including grief, discouragement, shame and alienation, in the face of various cultural, economic and demographic trends. They find that Trump replaces these feelings with hope, elation, and a sense of security and respect. These emotions arise partly from the unity that Trump fosters among his supporters. Trump serves as a “totem” his supporters can rally around. His persecution and expulsion of out-group members strengthens this feeling of unity.

The right-wing Louisianans’ elation also results from Trump supporters’ sense of release from rules about what they are supposed to feel. Trump allows and encourages them to feel just as they do, validating their anger, bigotry, misogyny and racism. His supporters feel righteous, superior and vindicated. Their elation grows into an “emotional self-interest.” Here, finally, Hochschild finds the answer to the great paradox: Members of the right wing seek to promote their emotional, not their economic, self-interest.

About the Author

Influential sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild’s nine books include The Second Shift, The Time Bind, The Managed Heart and The Outsourced Self. Three of her books were New York Times Notable Books of the Year.

Book Shelf: A Beautiful Constraint


In this richly anecdotal, conversational and groundbreaking approach to problem solving, iconoclastic marketing consultant Adam Morgan and co-author Mark Barden help you learn to identify your habitual thought and emotional patterns so you can sidestep them when you face obstacles. They show how a tiny shift in perspective can bring enormous changes. The authors offer remarkably perceptive advice, with insight into and compassion toward the almost infinite roadblocks people put in their own way when trying to overcome a limitation. Unlike most authors who combine the psychological and the practical, Morgan and Barden never exclude themselves from those who need help. They discuss overcoming their own patterns of pessimistic self-regard. The authors’ practical guidance applies to career and personal situations.

Key Points

  • Embrace your “constraints” as inspirations
  • Recognize and transcend your habitual thought and emotional patterns
  • Learn what role emotion plays in motivation
  • Balance obstacles and rewards to achieve your goals


  • “A constraint is a limitation that materially affects” your ability to act.
  • Faced with constraints, people become “victims, neutralizers or transformers.”
  • To approach a constraint in a new, imaginative way, reframe the question it contains.
  • To cope with limits, know your “dominant path” and think outside it.
  • Place unreasonable demands on yourself, your suppliers and your customers.
  • Learn the value of your available resources to yourself and others so you can make mutually beneficial exchanges.
  • Being happy activates mental flexibility and openness to new associations.
  • Efficiency, not resources, drives results.
  • IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad’s motivating constraint is that making expensive products is easy, but making something inexpensive that endures is difficult.
  • Abundant business activity can limit the time you have available for the leisure activities that stimulate strategy and creativity.


“Beauty in Constraint”

“A constraint is a limitation that materially affects” your ability to act. Most people chafe at any boundary, even those they impose on themselves. Confinement feels “restrictive and adversely limiting.” But approached with a proper attitude, a limit can broaden your thinking and potential. For example, both worthy parenting and lean business improvement owe much to constraints. You may face time, technique or budget constraints. You may have to respond to a boundary you can’t control. Or, you may impose a limit on yourself to spur new ideas. Consider how shoe retailer Zappos deals with a primary limitation: its online customers can’t try shoes on to see if they fit. The firm’s success comes from its innovative solution: Zappos does not charge for shipping and accepts returns with no questions. Buyers can test shoes and send them back easily.

“Constraints…are liberators of new possibilities, and we need to have a completely new relationship with them.”

However, not every constraint has a beneficial resolution. Today’s human endeavors take place at the intersection of “scarcity and abundance.” Technology allows you to learn anything or to connect to anyone in the world, any time of the day or night. That’s abundance. Yet every business today, whatever its size, must cope with a scarcity of time, resources or opportunities. Faced with balancing ever-new challenges of different types, you – and everyone else in business – must put conscious constraints on your ambition.

“We sit at a nexus between an abundance of possibilities on one hand and the reality of scarcities on the other.”

The Stages of Dealing with a Constraint

When a constraint appears in your path, do you allow it to stop you? To “make the constraint beautiful,” respond, instead, by becoming more ambitious and finding ways to move forward despite limitations. The “tension” between the forcefulness of your drive and the force of the constraint fuels creative solutions. People respond to restrictions in three sequential “stages”:

“Personal motivation is crucial to the transformation process, and that can be sourced from the larger narrative of the organization, as well as our own makeup.”

  1. A “victim” reduces his or her ambitions and pulls back when constraints appear.
  2. A “neutralizer” maintains ambition and goes around the constraints.
  3. A “transformer” views a “constraint as an opportunity” and grows more ambitious.

Resource owners are “people or companies with whom we currently have little, if any, relationship, but who have an abundance of a particular kind of resource that we need.”

Learn to recognize which stage defines your current response to a barrier, and try to move forward by understanding why you are at that stage and what you can do to move past it. Be on the alert not to slip into a victim mind-set at the first appearance of a constraint. Asking why this is happening to you is a reflexive response, so ask, but then keep going. Deliberately identifying and leaving behind victimhood to become a transformer demands strength of mind, “method and motivation.” Accept that you can deal with the problem. Compare it to ways you’ve surmounted similar roadblocks in the past. Method means figuring out how to “frame the challenge” and deal with the constraint. Motivation means finding the willpower to face the constraint, a step that might demand breaking out of old patterns.

“The composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein remarked that ‘to achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.’”

“Break Path Dependence”

If you rely on established practices, you may suffer path dependence. Your “dominant path” is the proven problem-solving approach you’d generally follow to deal with obstacles. In the past, this course of action has produced positive results for you. Following the dominant path is a sound strategy for larger organizations, which must replicate their successes “at scale and speed.” Larger firms lack the time or energy to reinvent the wheel for each new situation.

“Scarcity and abundance are more accurately seen as an infinite loop, one side constantly feeding and stimulating the other.”

To cope with new constraints, you need to know your dominant path and think outside it. To change your habits, you first must recognize them. The limits most likely to paralyze you spring from your existing assumptions about yourself and from relying too much on your dominant path. Companies, teams and individuals all suffer from reflexive responses. Use self-examination to identify your automatic reactions and patterns. Then you can break free and think more flexibly.

“This desire to look for entirely new ways to arrive at answers is part of a cultural sense that ‘it is more fun when things are really hard to do’.”

“Ask Propelling Questions”

In 2006, when automaker Audi sought to win the legendary, 24-hour Le Mans road race, its engineers didn’t ask how to make their car faster than anyone else’s. They asked how they could win if their car wasn’t the fastest. Their radical solution was to design and build a high-performance diesel engine. The revolutionary Audi R10 TDI was no faster than its competition, but its diesel engine provided a significant boost in fuel economy and required fewer pit stops than its rivals. That margin led to victory.

“If we let them, the decisions we made yesterday will determine what is possible tomorrow.”

The way you frame questions makes the difference between success and failure. Ask questions that parallel your dominant path, but that still generate new solutions. IKEA did this when it offered a striking, sturdy table and kept the price down by having customers assemble it. Use the “Four Sources of Unreasonableness” to spur propelling questions:

“A world of too much data, too many choices, too many possibilities and too little time is forcing us to decide what we value.”

  1. “The unreasonable regulator” – You may feel that regulators impose unreasonable limits on commerce, such as limiting the use of fossil fuels. But the regulations drive efficiency and spur alternatives, such as the development of electric cars.
  2. The unreasonable consumer” – People reject “trade-offs” when they are buying. They want what they want when they want it. Each commercial category must find ways to meet its consumers’ wishes. City Car Share, for example, rents automobiles by the hour.
  3. “The unreasonable customer” – Retailers are often very demanding with their suppliers. Walmart demands more innovative goods, lower prices, simpler transactions and higher standards from every supplier. To keep Walmart’s business, suppliers comply.
  4. The unreasonable challenger” – In 2014, Airbnb rented out more rooms than Hilton Hotels. Why did Hilton miss this threat? If “legacy” organizations mistake their positions as unassailable, the market will teach them when they’re wrong.

“We need a particular kind of persistence – a creative tenacity, full of willing and adaptive experimentation.”

“Can-If Sequences”

Don’t talk about whether a goal is possible, talk about how it “could be possible.” Don’t say you can’t do something. Say why you can do it, no matter how far-fetched the reason. This attitude inserts the “oxygen of optimism” into your outlook. It makes every person in the conversation search for answers, not obstacles. It helps people regard themselves as seeking resolutions, not problems. Can-if sequences follow specific, structured “types,” like these:

“We are not suggesting that all constraints have the potential to be beneficial.”

  • “We can if we think of it as…”
  • “We can if we use other people to…”
  • “We can if we access the knowledge of…”
  • “We can if we resource it by…”

“Inventiveness, and the small and big breakthroughs it generates, will be at least as important as innovation to the future of what we do and how we progress.”

“Creating Abundance”

Improvisational comedy depends on all of the performers maintaining an open mind and being willing to build on what the other players offer to move their shared scenes forward. Mutual acceptance of each other’s ideas builds abundance into the process. Recognizing the “tradable value” in what you give others and in what they give you is the essence of resourcefulness.

“Those who refused to scale back ambition in the face of constraint…seemed to be the ones most likely…to make the constraint beautiful.”

You block your resourcefulness when you find benefit only in matters that are under your “immediate control,” when you don’t purposefully draw on fresh resources, when you let limits define your situation and when you don’t recognize the valuable exchanges you can offer. To gain access to the value in another person’s resources, think creatively about the value of your own. Sidestep your dominant path and regard your contributions through the prism of the other person’s needs. Those who can help you may include your stakeholders, outside partners, competitors, and those who “have a lot of” what you need and who want what you’ve got to swap. Approach them with a “mutually beneficial hustle” that serves your mutual needs.

“Activating Emotions”

Joy and delight “fuel increased cognitive flexibility” by unleashing dopamine and noradrenaline, which speed the movement of cerebral data and form links among diffuse bits of knowledge. Being happy makes you feel safer and less oppressed, which frees your thinking. Rage and dread make you tighten up and work harder and longer. Try to balance contentment with the right amount of anxiety to nourish your flexibility and increase your desire to attain your goals. Use the “science of mental contrasting” to balance a situation’s positives and negatives. Compare “indulging,” which means fantasizing about what your life will be like when you reach your goal, and “dwelling,” which means visualizing all that can go wrong. The most productive motivational state toggles between those two poles to balance obstacles and rewards. This process prepares you to create a strategy to fulfill your “implementation intention.”

Making Something Out of Nothing

When the McLaren Formula One racing team lost its major sponsors due to the EU ban on promoting tobacco, it faced a huge budget shortfall. Team leader Ron Dennis recognized the opportunity to do more with less. He had his team look at every detail of its operation to find ways to become faster, leaner, more efficient and more aware of costs. McLaren employees – from garage floor-sweepers to superstar drivers – saw that money alone isn’t what makes a team great. Efficiency and dedication drive results. Dennis also realized that his team could no longer be passive about sponsorship. Instead of just painting the racecar to promote their sponsors, McLaren’s people wore sponsors’ “logos, hats and watches” for maximum visibility. With this enthusiasm, McLaren scored a major sponsorship deal with the giant phone company Vodafone.In the “fertile zero,” you have fewer resources than you want or need, but the seeds of creativity can grow. This “Zero Constraint” can be inspirational. If you must ration your advertising, every statement must be powerful. If you can’t afford to boost yourself, “get others to talk about you for you.” If your main media outlet is too costly, maximize what you can get from a cheaper channel. Push your teams to find innovative solutions and create new partnerships; spur conversation about your product; and draw on “other people’s money, time and resources” to propel mutual goals. For instance, the citizenM “budget hotel with luxury aspirations” formed a partnership with Vitra, a Swiss furniture firm, to turn its hotel lobbies into furnishings showrooms at no cost.

“Constraint-Driven Cultures”

Large organizations can make constraints work for them as effectively as individuals and small companies can. IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad preaches that building expensive products is simple, but building inexpensive products that endure is a difficult and worthy mission. He revels in asking “impossible questions.” For example, when he saw rows of featherless chickens hanging in a Beijing market, he wondered what use he could make of the feathers. He turned “a food waste product into the stuffing for more affordable duvets.”Nike has always been a leader in sports shoes. But in the mid-1990s bad publicity about working conditions in its Asian factories – and its CEO’s initial defensive response – damaged its brand. When Nike discovered a constraint – that it could not monitor every factory to protect workers from toxic glue – it reinvented the glue. After Nike succeeded with this solution, the process of dealing with other constraints challenged and improved its business operations. For example, it reshaped its manufacturing process to cut the amount of waste materials left on the factory floor.

“Scarcity and Abundance”

Everyone must ask, “Is this the Age of Scarcity or the Age of Abundance?” Commonly seen as opposing forces, scarcity and abundance are, in fact, an “infinite loop,” fueling each other in an unending yin-yang spin. Scarcity means increased competition for dwindling material resources. Abundance means vast computing power, connectedness and the ongoing “reinvention of business.” An abundance of action can lead to a scarcity of time or concentration, and vice versa. If you don’t think deeply enough, your strategy and creativity will suffer. In business and in your personal life, discover where you have scarcity and abundance. Consider how they balance and nourish each other. Continued rebalancing is a constraint that can drive your inventiveness.

About the Authors

Adam Morgan wrote the bestseller Eating the Big Fish and founded the global marketing consultancy Eatbigfish; business speaker Mark Burden heads the firm’s West Coast operation.