Uncharted Insider - September 2018

Uncharted Insider - September 2018

Hi everyone,

Welcome to the September edition of the Uncharted Insider.

Uncharted Update:

  • We are hiring (again) a Program Director and a Program Manager. Spread the word! If you recommend someone we ultimately hire, coffee/beer/trendy brussels sprouts on me.
  • We’re moving offices. We outgrew our office, so we’re doubling our space. We’ve been working with an architect to design the new space, and we’re moving in two weeks. Come visit! 2330 Broadway #105, Denver, Colorado

Ideas on my mind:

How do you become a true learning organization? I’ve pondered this recently and have been inspired by the way Ray Dalio, from Bridgewater, applies the scientific method to his work (see his book, Principles). Whether it’s for marketing, management, business development, or any work process, the approach looks something like this:

Step 1: Objectively take note of the phenomena (“Our team reported a greater sense of strategic clarify in the last team meeting.”)

Step 2: Seek out the underlying cause-and-effect relationships/patterns that drive the phenomena (“Surveying the last 10 team meetings we’ve had, meetings that followed the x,y,z structure were more strategically clarifying for the team than meetings that followed the a,b,c structure.”)

Step 3: Create a playbook of actions rooted in those cause-and-effect relationships (“For team meetings where the desired outcome is strategic clarity, follow the x,y,z structure.”)

Step 4: Apply the playbook to future scenarios, and repeat steps 1-3 (“After applying the x,y,z structure to team meetings, the most critical elements are x and y, but not z.”)

I’m starting to apply this approach to a few parts of my work. I’m curious if I can accelerate my rate of learning and produce successful outcomes more often and in a more repeatable way. Being able to understand and then influence the underlying “machinery” that drives outcomes isn’t rocket science. It’s simpler: pay attention and consider everything as part of a larger case-study. I’m curious how others build learning loops into their work.

Monthly Rant:

Note: this was written before Musk’s settlement with the SEC.

Hero complex. I’ve been tracking Elon Musk’s journey, and like many, I’m impressed by the audacity of his vision, but I’m concerned by what appears to be an unsustainable approach to leadership. As this article suggests, his actions are more a study in willpower than in leadership. He seems too far out in front of his companies, and their success too dependent on him. He may be a rare breed when it comes to an audacious vision, but he is among a sea of entrepreneurs seemingly afflicted with the hero complex, trying to be the everything for his company. I’ve found myself trying to play hero before, but I am striving to be conscious in how we're building an organization that is resilient beyond the strengths and weaknesses of its leadership. How do we build an organization that has many faces (instead of just one)? How do we empower people to be the CEO of their role? How do we build playbooks that codify the brilliance of each team member? How do we ask for help? Bottomline: An organization is truly exceptional when it doesn’t need heroes.

What I’m reading:

  • 89% of obese adults are verbally abused by their romantic partners. The pervasiveness of fat shaming in our culture and the new ways to address (and celebrate) obesity. Here.
  • One third of the American workforce earns less than $12 / hour. How jobs aren’t poverty panaceas, the working homeless, and our un-nuanced cultural understanding of the poor. Here.
  • Elder care duties cost the average American woman about $324,000 in forgone lifetime earnings. How women disproportionately are responsible for caring for elderly parents, and Maine’s ambitious plan to do something about it. This story hits close to home for my family.
  • Memoir Pick: Educated is a masterpiece. A devastating, poignant memoir that weaves together the wounds of family, the complexities of culture, the dynamics of gender, the paradoxes of epistemology, and a redefining of the concept of education, this is one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Something personal:

A few weekends ago, I visited my friend Ryan in Michigan. On Sunday, we ventured 45 minutes into rural Michigan to participate in a county fair. I was munching on an apple I’d picked from an adjacent orchard when a wave of culture shock hit me. I was surrounded by people who looked just like me, who drove a similar car to the one I drive, and who were from the same country, but who were living drastically different lives. Driving home, I lamented how rarely I insert myself in an environment outside my cultural bubble—even when it’s only 45 minutes down the road. The grooves of my life are well-worn and familiar, but it’s tempting to stay in those grooves and conclude how important I am and how important Uncharted’s work is and how the universe orbits around my little Banks-centric universe. But my life needs regular Copernican revolutions to grasp just how big and varied this human experience is.


Standing with and believing survivors (this week especially, and every day),