S2. Ep5: Take Their Perspective; The Art of Problem Solving.

With Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg, Author of "What's Your Problem?" & "Innovation as Usual"

Summary.

Episode 5 of the Talent Equals series welcomes acclaimed author and globally recognized expert on problem solving. Thomas wrote the spectacular books “Innovation as Usual: How to Help Your People Bring Great Ideas to Life” and “What’s Your Problem? To Solve Your Toughest Problems, Change the Problems You Solve”. 

It was wonderful to speak with Thomas and hear his insights, as a thought leader and a fascinating person, this interview was a real pleasure.

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William Laitinen

Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg

Transcript.

William Laitinen   

Brilliant to have you here. Thank you so much for coming along. Um Thomas, um where in the world are you right now? Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg, welcome to the show.  

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

Thank you Will.   Sitting in New York, far from my ancestral home of Copenhagen, where I’m originally from. 

 

William Laitinen   

Okay, it’s good to know. Well, it’s um thank you for joining us in in New York and um crazy times right now. So I’m, I’m speaking to you from Devon, England in deepest lockdown right now. So um I don’t know which one of us is better off, actually. So there we go um [Laughing]. Take New York or I take that um. Thomas, you join me today, because uh one I love your book. So we’ve got we’ve got a fantastic book that I want to talk to you about today. But also, we want to dive into a bit about this whole big theme of problem solving. And this idea of problem solving. So we’ve got a, you know, a number of things I’d like to cover off with you today and talk about, but the book that I first came to know you through is this most recent book you’ve written, which is, ‘What’s your problem, to solve your toughest problems and change the problems you solve’. So I would maybe like just first of all, for those out there who don’t really know much about the idea of problem solving, and we’re all trying to solve problems, and specifically how you talk about in the book about reframing. And how reframing is the key to better problem solving. So yeah, why don’t you introduce your book in a much more artful way than I just have. [Laughter] And tell us a bit about what you’ve er, what you’ve done with it. 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

Or or maybe like less artful but longer way?  It’s kind of Yeah, er I mean, in brief, it comes down to the er the fact that there’s kind of a missing skill. In our problem solving toolkit, we’ve kind of been trained to think that problem solving is about analysis, and then solving, right, you analyze the problem, and then you go fix it somehow. But before that, there’s really something that’s called in academia problem finding, or I like to call it framing or reframing the problem in practice, and that’s just something most people they’ve never been trained in it. They’re pretty horrible at it when they try and even people who are good at it, they can’t really explain why. And so the book is really taking the, like, 50 years of research that we have on this topic, and and mixing it with a lot of practice to, to really just upgrade people’s ability to solve the right problems. er I I I can share a brief example if like, if you know, the slow elevator problem if 

 

William Laitinen   

[Laughter]  Yeah, I think Yeah, for those out there. You know, I think whenever you you Google your name on this book, one of the first things that comes up on YouTube is the example around this slow elevator in the HBR article, which I think was probably one of the sort of the genesis of the idea, right that focus on this I love this example. So yes, please share about the slow elevator. 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

The notion is that you are the owner of an office building and your tenants are complaining about the speed of the elevator, it’s too slow. And um most people in that situation, they kind of you know, they take the problem for granted. And then they focus on solving it. So they say how do we make the elevator faster? Put in a new motor, go and buy a new lift whatever. If you ask us, you know, an experienced landlord, they’re going to give you a different piece of advice, which is put up a mirror in the hallway, because that’s really good at distracting people from the fact that they’re waiting for the elevator. What what that little example kind of highlights is that sometimes what you want to do when you’re faced with a problem is actually not to jump into solution mode. But try to step back and see if there is a different problem to solve, not necessarily asking, why is the elevator slow? But rather asking, is the speed of the elevator the right thing to focus on? or might there be some other aspect of the problem that we should really address in this case, you know, that people notice the wait and get get annoyed by so so that’s kind of reframing in in 60 seconds. 

 

William Laitinen   

Yeah, I think this is actually a really interesting place to pause. Because I think, intuitively most people will listen, when they hear that question, like the elevators too slow, you’re like, well, he’s just obviously a crappy elevator, we need to get it to go faster. And that’s this sense of like us diving straight into solution mode, as you talk about. And I think even when I’m posed with that question, first of all, I’m calling Well, isn’t it obvious, you just need to get the the elevator to go to go faster. But as you said it actually, it’s more a question of stepping back, and trying to gain their perspective, and then trying to understand actually, like you just put it was really interesting nuances is that, do they notice the weight? Are they noticing that they’re actually waiting for the elevator? And, you know, most of us will know, we stood in front of an elevator with mirrors, and you just start, you know, doing your hair, you know, sort of bemoaning that last hamburger you had that you shouldn’t have had um. And that and that all sudden the elevator appears right? 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

 Yeah 

 

William Laitinen   

So that’s a really interesting way to rethink it. It’s not the speed, it’s the noticing, and the distracting. That’s more of an issue. 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

And I’m like, you know, if you put me in front of a mirror, I’m like enough of a narcissist to go, right. No, no, I’ll take the next elevator. Go ahead. [Laughter] um but yeah, it is just that we we so easily latch on to like, Oh, great, this is a technical problem. Let’s fix that, instead of kind of practicing the art of, again, taking a step back and asking, Hey, what’s going on inside the heads of these folks, or, or even beyond that, might there be a different er different way entirely of looking at this is this is really just the tenants who are trying to squeeze the rent down, you know, they are inventing fake fictional complaints er. It, it’s just such a basic skill. And it applies to almost any area you can imagine from, you know, you’re trying to fix that issue with your kids during COVID. Or you are dealing with a difficult client, you’re doing recruiting, or you are er struggling with a strategy problem internally, like in all those cases, you want to, you want to be really careful about not just immediately solving the problem that somebody else framed and put in front of you. 

 

William Laitinen   

And that that is a really key point to consider that like, people give you problems. And we are generally solution orientated, folk, we just want to solve the problem, right and want to get it done. So i’m i’m sort of interested maybe to step back a little bit and go, why did you try and tackle this problem? What was it about this book that you wanted to write? 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

It came from? In some sense, the work I did around my first book, so eight years ago, I published my book called innovation as usual, with with with HBR, as well. And er that, as part of that, writing it and kind of afterwards, I was just immersed in a lot of companies work to do innovation in practice. And it gradually struck me through that, that there was this skill that, you know, around reframing and solving the right problems. I thought we knew how, like I kind of had this idea. Well, we’ve known about this for 15 years. So surely, we’re kind of on top of that. And I realized that, you know, if you spoke to people about it, they kind of okay, they understood that, and they agreed, but they didn’t actually know how to do it, and that there was nowhere they could immediately like, if you want to learn how to reframe problems right now, where would you go? Like, sure, you can invest in a two year executive education MBA thing or sign up for six sigma course. But that’s expensive and takes a long time. Like, where do you go if you just want that skill right now, like you want to get more make you or your or your team better at solving the right problems in a short span of time. So so I think it was really being in that intersection between management of practice but also knowing the theory behind it and kind of saying, wait, that there’s there’s a mismatch here, if you 

 

William Laitinen   

isn’t that almost ironic that there was a the the problem solving is one of the biggest issues, but no one had tackled it as a problem. Uh i’mi’m  actually when I found out about your book, actually in, there are some pretty heavy recommendations. Eric Schmidt, Adam Grant, to name just two that most people notice. And then Douglas Stone and Sheila Hien, two two people, some fantastic books. And they all obviously, caught the fact that this is such a big gnarly problem. But problem solving, like the quality of our life is based upon the quality of the way that we solve problems that we’re faced with. And so um when you sort of delved into the material, though, for for trying to solve this issue, did you realize there was a whole range of information available or was it sort of hard to get at? 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

It was one of the key shifts I experienced, er or reframing, if you will, in writing the book, because this is not a new topic at all. And if you start, like rummaging around in in the drawers of academia and kind of practitioners, there is like almost every single discipline has kind of tried to touch on this. And in the beginning, I thought, hey, I need to include all of this in the book. Um until it struck me that the core challenge I was solving for, was not like to say every single thing that needs to be settled this topic. But rather to create a method that was so simple, you could actually use it in practice. And that meant stripping out a lot, or rather relegating it to the footnotes, if you will, like the the this, we often I think, in academia, we try to elicit every last nuance of things like oh, notice this, this funny little detail about how something works. And every time we add a layer of complexity, we make it less likely that the method will actually be used in practice. So a big part of my work was after I kind of understood er the method and how to do it, then actually going and road testing it in companies. So I so I spent years going around and companies and like both teaching them the method, and then sitting in while they were solving problems and kind of seeing what worked, what didn’t work, what kind of pitfalls do people fall into, and so on. That that was really I think, the process behind it. 

 

William Laitinen   

Is there anything from those experiences that was specific, quite counterintuitive, that you found that you observed? 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

Speed. I think if you talk to people about problem diagnosis, like nine out of 10, we’ll throw that fake Einstein quote at you kind of Oh, if you had an hour, I spent 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about the solution. That’s horrible advice. It doesn’t come from Einstein, either. It’s just some random guy who said at some point, what that advice really tells you is to get trapped in in paralysis, like in analysis, by paralysis by analysis, it’s called, you know, in the real world, thinking that problem diagnosis needs to take a lot of time. It’s just a recipe for never getting it done. Because for 99% of your problems, you do not have the option of going off to the mountains for a weekend thinking deep thoughts. And so the big surprise to me, and I develop this in my workshops, as well as you can do this in five minutes. Like it it’s literally a question of getting people together and spend five focused minutes on challenging your own understanding of a problem or situation of just asking a couple of questions, to try to dig into the assumptions you may be blind to effectively that that I think was the biggest aha moment for me. 

 

William Laitinen   

mmm so speed isn’t a negative when it comes to problem solving, it can be a real asset when you have the right tools. So my next question is, can you give us an example I would love to get Do you have any example that sort of stands out for you about this type of idea of balancing speed and solution? 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

ah I I’d say the the key distinction here is between analyzing a problem and frame, checking whether you framed it correctly, because analysis can take time. But a framing example. One company I worked with early on, they were trying to roll out an innovation program because they felt their people weren’t innovative enough. And so they’re sitting and discussing it in a meeting. The leader of that team had some sense that that that may not have framed it correctly, so it does a crucial thing. He invites his personal assistant, a woman called Charlotte into the room. And as they’re discussing this, she just says, Hey, folks, I’ve worked here for 12 years, I’ve seen three prior management teams tried to roll out in the innovation framework, and they all failed. I don’t think you have an innovation problem. Literally that perspective, her adding that to the discussion, just makes them pauce everything in their track because they realize, Oh, she’s right. And they, by by going further, and like talking to people and so on, they actually recognize they don’t have an innovation problem, people had the skill sets necessary to do creative things. They had an engagement problem, like people that their employees inside the company didn’t feel that the company cared about them. And so they didn’t go the extra mile and try to do something new, when that might have been possible. So such a fundamental shift sometimes can come from a five minute discussion. Now you still need to do the work of analyzing Okay, so what’s wrong with our engagement? But if you don’t open that door, you’re gonna like barrel down the road of rolling out a fancy innovation framework that just doesn’t work? Or wouldn’t have worked? In this case, at least? 

 

William Laitinen   

Yeah, that’s very interesting, isn’t it, then? Because solving problems is a cognitively difficult process. And, and it requires energy and effort and, and Geez, in big organizations, the manpower to do that. So getting it right, getting the reframing right, I do observe that. And I I actually make an admission here, because I read through the book, and I read through it twice. And first time I listened to it the second time I read it. And have actually missed a really key element to this, this book. And I think I’ve shared this with you. But it is the insight about that perspective over empathy, and how dangerous empathy is in reframing. And maybe you could sort of talk a bit to that. And for those who are interested, we’ve got to get this book, which is bloody well should. It’s on this is sort of starts I think in chapter chapter eight, taking their perspective, and I sort of just lost the so you talk to us about like the danger of empathy versus perspective. 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

 When you think about understanding other people. The default people jump to is really to understand their emotions, like, you know, oh, how are you feeling? Yeah. And that’s great, that that’s not a bad thing. But when it comes to problem solving, like feelings alone, are not necessarily the key to anything, and they can kind of lead you astray. If you look at the research here, there’s the distinction between empathy and perspective, what’s called perspective taking and perspective taking is different from empathy in the sense that it doesn’t just look consider feelings. It also considers What do you know, what is your situation? What is your like? What is your context? Um the core, like, the basic example I use is to say, imagine that your neighbor is putting up a fence and he is he hits his finger with a hammer. Empathy is to feel his pain as as he hits his finger. perspective taking is to understand why he’s putting up the fence. Like what’s what’s his logic here, Watts’s worldviews and his beliefs and unless you get that you can kind of get trapped in just in in the emotion part, which I I I you know, everything that’s going on in today’s world, with identity politics, and so on, can kind of sometimes show the danger of that too. 

 

William Laitinen   

mmm yeah, very true. And I think as you want to go back to the elevator example, that’s exactly what I think happens if people feel that pain. I know what it’s like waiting for something. And let’s just make it faster. Let’s make take away that feeling of frustration and um annoyance of waiting. But the perspective is very different. When you start to understand, put yourself in that person’s shoes and think about, okay, what is the experience like? what how are they experiencing the weight?  

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

And 

 

William Laitinen   

What is it about the weight?  

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

and also going in like, if you were to say perspective taking here, you’d say, well, also, this might be a question of why do they need to get out of the building? like, is this an issue with er this horrible coffee in the canteen, so they they frequent the better coffee store down around the corner? And okay, well, that’s the issue. Can we reduce the traffic, or the demand for the elevator by just making sure we have better coffee in the building? er I mean, it’s the what I’m highlighting here is the the mirror. It’s kind of a memorable example of how to solve a problem differently, but it’s not the only answer, and it’s not necessarily even the right answer. The point is that when you go in and when you start applying this perspective, You can identify typically many different ways of thinking about a problem. Another one could be, will, they need the elevator at 12 o’clock, because that’s where everybody’s lunch break is happening. How about staggering the lunch break, so we spread out demand. All of this you don’t tend to get unless you consider both reframing and you you step beyond the immediate feelings of the situation and look at the bigger picture of the context, the situation, the knowledge, people have the goals they’re trying to achieve. 

 

William Laitinen   

Let’s, that’s a very interesting way to think about it. And I have my own personal example that the book really helped me think also about the way some of the problems I was facing recently, and I had one at this, this Christmas time as maybe many parents will that my son, my older son really wanted a new bike, and the bike he he already has a mountain bike, but he wanted a full suspension mountain bike, because he believed he wanted to do downhill and various other things. And so he went straight into a solution mode, like I know what I want. So I want to get a new mountain bike that I need to buy the mountain bike now I inadvertently got sucked along in that journey as well, trying to help him solve the problem that he had, which was one of the new mountain bike and how we could get one for the money he had. But it took me probably a few days to think actually hang on a second. Am I even trying to solve the right problem here? And something didn’t feel right. And it was at that moment with him that I said, I actually took step back as what is he actually want? What does he what is the truest, you know, sort of perspective of what he’s looking for. And I actually thought that true outcome what he wanted was fun. Really, when he got down to it, he just wanted to be traveling at speed through mud, and feeling like you know, feeling good. And at that moment, I was helped him reframe it. And he’s already got a mountain bike. He wanted to mayvbe buy a few more features that would enable that to go a bit better. Because I asked him, What are the other things that help you do this. And then we realize he didn’t need to buy the mountain bike. So he could then purchase add ons, which would be much cheaper, much easier and keep his bike. And I thought that was, you know, had I not taken a step back and not sort of tried to gain some perspective on the whole situation. I probably be sitting with a very expensive mountain bike right now with the garriage. And not necessarily needing it right. Yeah. That did I think the the secondary thing I got and what do you think about this is because as a, as a parent as well, I actually then started realizing that maybe I was trying to solve his problem for different reasons that he was trying to solve his problem. Either I was trying to be a good parent I was trying to be provide. And then I realized, actually, what I need to do is teach him money management skills, and delayed gratification. And that bought a whole new set of problems I needed to try and teach, which starts loading on and on this sort of cognitive load that you have the energy that needs to be associated with said problem. So yeah, I sort of wonder what you think about that. One, you know how these sort of problems start multiplying and compounding almost all while we’re attacking them in different ways. 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

What what strikes me here is how often we don’t understand our own goals. Like it’s surprisingly, so there’s a psychologist, um Steve deshazer, that I talked about in the book he worked in the 80s is, he’s a big figure in the field. And er his experience was that when when when people came into his therapy practice, um two out of three times they wouldn’t understand their own goal. Like they they they weren’t capable of giving it an immediate answer to the question, Well, what do you want? Like, what what is? What does success look like for you? And that’s another way of reframing of really just going in and getting clear on what we’re trying to do, are are  we if you’re at a Thanksgiving dinner, and you’ve gotten into an argument with your drunk uncle or father in law, or whatever, is your goal to win that argument? Or is your goal to maybe have a, you know, a harmonious time together with a family or even just to understand your father in law’s perspective, better er? That there so often we just take our goals for granted, we take our problems for granted. And then we end up barking up the wrong trees. 

 

William Laitinen   

That is a very true observation of where we’re at at the moment with the debate in politics, this polarization. Um people are feeling certain ways but not being able to take the other perspective or maybe recognizing why you’d  want to take somebody else’s perspective. I wonder what your thoughts are on that. I mean, this this idea of reframing If it we focus it on business, but, you know, it’s ultimately a human activity, right? This is why we’re thinking about the way that humans solve issues. So, yeah. Do you have anything to add on that point?  

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

Well, I mean, one of the reasons I wrote the book is because this applies equally to big societal problems. And I think, if you even look at the whole Black Lives Matter, question, one of the things, of course, arose was this idea of like defund the police. Now, if you consider defund the police as a solution, most people who know anything about this will tell you, that’s a pretty bad idea. And indeed, like I think it was in Seattle, there’s actually a period of time where there was an autonomous zone created where the police couldn’t enter, and what happened, crime skyrocketed. So the notion of removing police is a pretty bad solution. Now, on the other hand, if you take the expression defund the police, well, it’s presented as a solution. But what it really is, is the expression of a problem, like it is the recognition that something is off here, and we need to fix it. And many of the existing reforms we tried, they haven’t worked. In that sense, I think there’s something very true about it. And we need to me to rethink how the police are trained. And even to delve deeper into that, like, there’s an economist at Harvard, Ronald Fry, who’s kind of, he’s gone very deep into that, and, and kind of tried to really tease apart what’s really going on in this situation, the danger here of course is, again, with emotions, that that the debate becomes so politicized, and so emotionally overheated, that we start just missing the nuances and you just go, Well, that’s a nail, let’s take the biggest hammer, we can find and sling it down on that nail. There’s a long, long history in anything public policy and whatever, that when you do that you create. More often than not, you create unintended consequences, or things get worse instead of better on on some parameters. So there is a reason we have a if I could say this provocatively, we have a representative democracy, the whole idea of that is to go in and trust that some experts with good intentions can actually find better solutions than if we simply were to give everybody a direct vote in saying, oh, here’s what we’ll do on every single issue of governance, because we do need to understand these problem in more depth. We do need studies, we if you drive purely with your emotions, at at at the wheel, you you sooner or later go off the road. 

 

William Laitinen   

Yeah, I find actually, there’s an interesting example about defund the police because on, depending on where you are, you know, if you’re in a community where in this way of taking perspective is really important. If you’re in a community where you feel marginalized, you feel discriminated against. You feel like maybe the actually, the answer is yes, let’s defund the police. And if you live in a suburbs of where you have a big house and lots of property that you don’t want stolen, you know, you probably think no, no, we need the police because I need my stuff protected. And if you don’t, first of all, even appreciate that there could be a different perspective right there, then then that’s a problem. And then I when I was hearing your your point there around that is, you know, defund the police if we’re jumping straight away to well, that the their solution for that is to take away money. Well, it could mean defund the police in terms of purchasing military grade weaponry, to use in civilian situations, it could mean defund the police in um in sort of  sought some sort of training, which is um inefficient in the protection and restraint, restraint of citizens, either. There’s a whole kind of a set of nuances, I suppose if you spent a bit of time reframing that problem and saying, actually, what is a better way to solve it? And yeah, I’m, I’m really drawn to that, because there’s so many big issues. And I think you’re on the climate change one, if I’m honest, if maybe we can touch some big topics right now. One that’s close to my heart, which is around climate change. And it’s such a big problem with so many facets. And I’m personally interested in the protection of forests facet of that. And specifically, one of the really gnarly problems is around carbon credits, or you know, this, but, you know, discovering that carbon credits are hugely inefficient solution for the problem. Yeah, because they only solve one part of the problem and they’re very prescriptive in how they can be applied. So and, yeah, yeah.  

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

Well, Will, it’s, now you bring I saw a really thought provoking example of reframing and this comes from I believe, the name is Megan Christ’s wrote in the London Review of Books about carbon footprint. Now, who do you think invented that idea of a carbon footprint? That came from British Petroleum? Why would British Petroleum invent cart the carbon footprint as a concept? Well, there are some different interpretations of that you could say. they genuinely wanted to create an understanding of like the individual person’s contribution to our climate crisis. Or you could say, well, this is corporate window dressing. And they’re kind of, you know, doing this as many are greenwashing eh er. But I think this interpretation may not be true, but it is nefarious. It is a very, very elegant way of shifting the responsibility on to individual consumers. To to say solving the climate crisis is about your actions as consumers that you choose to fly less, or or whatever it is, which may, to some extent, remove the attention from the fact that part of the solution here is systemic regulate regulation of of many big companies, including perhaps british petroleum, or BP. So I what this is highlighting to and I don’t use a lot of time on this. And the book is, of course, that reframing can be used as a weapon as well. And everybody knows the classic example of do we call these insurrectionist? Are the freedom fighters, so are they terrorists? But but but that goes quite quite far up on there’s a huge benefit to getting to increasing your problem literacy to understanding framing of problems better you you also become better at discovering when somebody is trying to manipulate you er, if you will. 

 

William Laitinen   

That is That is very true. There is a positive and a negative side to this. So you that’s that’s interesting that I actually I recently heard this very point around carbon credits, maybe we may not know that you can’t apply for carbon offset when it comes to forest protection, unless that forest is deemed to have been under imminent danger, or has recently been been deemed to be an immediate logging danger, basically. So if you’re protecting pristine, central rain forests, which is safe from logging, as such by purchasing them, you can’t offset the carbon as a purchase of that, which to me sounds crazy, because you’re still doing effectively the same thing. But I get it, there’s still this issue that they need to say, say in somehow that that would be you know, they need to define in some way. But equally, you could exactly say what you’ve said, you know, who else has an interest in framing this problem in the way that they’re framing it to create to meet their own needs? So do you have any other examples of how maybe reframing can, how we can look out for for neck for bad reframing? 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

Well, I think one of the one of the instinct and this comes back to perspective taking one of the interesting findings in this is that you can’t trust your own intuitions too much. Well, so while this is an original finding by Kahneman and Turski, the notions that perspective taking has two components, it’s called anchoring and adjustment anchoring is to step into somebody else’s shoes. adjustment is to after that ask how might they be different from me? Simple example I like to use imagine you have to go out and buy a toy for your eight year old nephew. Now anchoring is when you imagine yourself as an eight year old, and you say, Well, okay, if I was eight, what would I be excited about? Well, that red fire truck over there. That looks really exciting. I remember I played with something like that when I was a kid. adjustment is to ask how my eight year olds today be different from what I my preferences would have been as an eight year old? And the answer here would be does the red fire truck have an internet connection? Because if not, it may have a very limited shelf life in your nephews toy collection. 

 

William Laitinen   

Uncle Thomas is not cool. 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

Yeah, exactly. [Laughter] Right. So what what people er er and so there’s another researcher, Nicholas Epley, who’s kind of talked about this, the biggest mistake people do with perspective taking is not to do it at all. They literally just do not consider what it might be like if you have a conflict with your sister. What might it be like to be in her shoes? The second mistake, though, is that you imagine it but you don’t invest enough effort into it like, what must it be like if you voted for Biden to be a Trump voter? Well, they must clearly just be stupid and not care. about anything like, it is so easy to jump into some kind of, you know, easy prejudice about other people or or forget to question whether they may see have a different life story than yours and so on. And one of the core findings from perspective taking is, you actually have to question that guess your first guess, no matter how true it feels like it can feel very intuitively true. Oh, yeah, that’s right, you know, and yet, you will get better at understanding others. If you go beyond that and ask, okay, so that’s one hypothesis. What else might explain my sister’s behavior in the situation? 

 

William Laitinen   

mmm have you found in working with companies then, like how long it takes people to sort of build that muscle of perspective taking because, you know, my own experience, it doesn’t come easy. It takes a bit of time, to continually try and take somebody else’s perspective, right on some things. 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

it it does. And I think one of the one of the, one of the mistakes companies make is to think that it’s only a physical act, like, Oh, you should just go spend time with your customers. And then you will understand them. Now to be clear that that’s not a bad strategy at all, you you want to do that. But just the mere act of being exposed to somebody else, isn’t actually quite enough. Like if exposure was enough, well, then our bosses would understand us pretty well. And our families would understand us perfectly, you you you kind of have to also get into the the mental journey of kind of truly being curious about who they are, what they want, how do they see their goals? What like, even down at an identity level, if you want and, and the good news is here, there is a good deal of kind of tools available, especially from the lean startup world, where you can go in and like user journeys and customer preference mapping and all of those things that can help um 

 

William Laitinen   

I don’t want to direct people. Yeah, I don’t direct people away from your book too much. But there, you’re absolutely right. There’s some really good on the testing business models. And there’s some great work done on that, on that, where you draw out your customer and you think about what they want. You know, I think as you I first thing I thought there is like, yeah, it’s really hard taking other people’s perspective that God is, and if just being in proximity to people is the answer, we’d also understand ourselves entirely. If that was the case. And often we don’t do we, we really just don’t even understand ourselves a lot. So I know from my own interests, if you look at a lot of the fundamental beliefs in in ancient philosophies and religions, like Buddhism and stoic philosophy, the central tenants are about perspective about seeing things, clearly seeing things truly for what they are. And I mean, I was kind of get a bit stunned, really, when I finally got your book, I was, oh, wow, this is such a cool topic that I really, really want to read. And you read through and again, oh, my God, this is like something we should just be learning straight away at school. I mean, this is fundamental right? taking somebody else’s perspective, we teach our kids in a way, you know, be nice what how would you feel about it? If somebody did that to you? Maybe we’re doing it wrong. We’re asking about feelings again. So it can be done. But it just takes lots of effort, right? 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

Yeah. The good news is you can get better at it relatively rapidly. It’s not like becoming a true ninja wizard master of this takes time. But even a little 

 

William Laitinen   

Is that the badge, Ninja Wizard? Thats brillaint, I want that one [Laughter]  

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

 Exactly. Oh, yeah. There’s the two and there’s a club. [Laughter]  No, I mean, even taking one or two steps in that direction can help. Like it is not. It is not that difficult. Well, it’s a difficult hill to reach the top of but actually starting to climb it and getting a clearer perspective. You You you do that relatively fast. So so I I wouldn’t throw the towel in the ring too quick. What you brought up before was knowing yourself. One of the people I talk about in the book, Heidi Grant, who’s an I, social psychologist, has this kind of useful advice, which is basically ask somebody who knows you well. What do you think a stranger’s impression of me would be? Like, if somebody if you didn’t know me so well as you do? What do you think people might think about me that that you of course know is not true. And that that’s really just an elegant way of allowing your friends to dis you which, 

 

William Laitinen   

[Laughter] 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

 you know, they can see things you know, I know you’re such a loving person, but you strangers might think that you’re an egotistical asshole. [Laughter] You know, slightly exaggerated for effect. For the same reason I’m 

 

William Laitinen   

Sure a few have said that about me. Yes, there we go. That, that that’s a great one. So like, so the question would be as someone who knows you what others might think of you, if they just met you effectively,  

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

yes Like, what what, what kind of impressions May you be giving off without knowing it? Heidi has this example of her. Somebody she worked with who’s kind of, he tried to listen very intently in meetings to really show his staff that he cared about their thinking, and didn’t get very good reactions to it until somebody told him, Hey, is that like, you’re listening face looks really, really angry. It’s kind of, you know, when you’re trying to intently, you know, browse together, trying to understand things, people are thinking this guy’s about to murder me [Chuckles]. So I things like that we just don’t see despite looking at our beautiful selves in the mirror every day. That that is unfortunately a distorted view. And we need sometimes outsiders, to, to see ourselves more clearly. 

 

William Laitinen   

That is very true. And I’m, I think the idea of having somebody you know, hold up a mirror to us is both terrifying, and also quite exciting. Because, you know, I know that my there’s a lady I know. And she does. She’s a very talented actress, but she has this innate knack of copying people, and spending some time with you, and then be able to copy your mannerisms. And, 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

oh wow, yeah, 

 

William Laitinen   

you always don’t want to do it. Because, you know, she’ll go through other people that you know, and it’s incredible. And it makes you laugh. And then she will often not do it, I actually asked him to do it to me. But both being not really wanting her to do it to me, because, you know, it’s also you’re like, Oh, crap, what am I gonna see about myself? Which I really don’t want to see about myself? 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

Did your friendship survive?  That’s kind of, so did she do it? what like, if she did it, I’m curious to hear what er what do you notice? Like what what shocked you the most about her?  

 

William Laitinen   

[Laughter] Okay okay, she did so so I coach football for this, our children. So my, my son is eight, seven, and eight. And her son is also in the team. So she observes me as a coach and referee at times. So my kids unbeknownst to me, I have a face that apparently says everything that I’m not saying, at the very moment in time when I’m coaching. So it may be if say, one of the kids does something at times, which you wish they wouldn’t do ie they do soemthingSo they just completely missed the ball, or they, you know, you want to score a goal. And they they hit the corner post instead of hitting the goal when that was in a way, way harder. At apparently it tells all over my face. And she would do the mannerism of how I would look. inside. I was like, Oh my god, I had no idea that I was telling people how I was feeling so obviosuly and so her doing that it’s actually helped me think about maybe how people are perceiving me a little bit and how maybe even the kids are perceiving the way I feel about them. When I’m so I’ve kind of had to so so Yes, she did. Maybe she pulled some punches as well, because I’m still friends with her so, there we go. 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

I mean, this is erm there’s a tech, there’s a tangible advice here for people too, which is finding somebody in your daily circle or colleagues or whatever, who’s willing to push you to tell the truth that like to, like confront you with uncomfortable truths, or if you don’t have that person develop that relationship with somebody because here’s the story that my own co author used to tell a lot. He was sometimes prone to pulling stuff out of the sleeve. So I’m not actually 100% sure this is true. But supposedly, Winston Churchill had on his staff, this character called Lord Alan Brooke. And in Churchill’s diary, you can see how he’s really frustrated with Alan Brooke. He’s like, oh, today, horrible, this horrible old Alan Brooke, again, countered My suggestion, blah, blah, blah. And when you looked at it, of course, who had hired Alan Brooke and who kept him on the staff Churchill did, because there was some part of him that knew that he made better decisions if he had Lord Alan Brooke to get in his face on occasion, that that’s there’s a bigger perspective there about like that there is that question? Do you have a friend or colleague who is willing to to be your Lord Alan Brooke and kind of tell you when you’re being an idiot? If not, can you start developing that with somebody? 

 

William Laitinen   

In my case, that lady’s name is Polly Whitfield. So yes. Or maybe it’ll be so yeah, she was very good at that. That is very interesting. And I think we because again, it’s it’s somebody else’s perspective. I actually talk about diversity a lot with clients who are the big theme in the FinTech and InsureTech world right now is diversity, because it’s mostly dudes and a lot of white dudes at that in, in businesses as they get established, and the question gets raised, I need, we need diversity. And my number one point around that is, you know, diversity is, is important, but maybe it’s not important for the reason that people think it is. And what I’ve always said is diversity is important, because the amount of perspectives it gives you, like, if you come from a ethnic minority, and you’ve maybe been poor at some point, and you’re trying to create a financial services product, what is important to you would have been important to you. Will be very different from maybe the founder, who comes from a, you know, very wealthy, middle class, white background, you know, equally, if you’re gay, you have a very different perspective on maybe the way the economy works for you. And it just kind of compounds out is all of these different perspectives. And it’s you, we can, I think, make ourselves more robust, right, by surrounding ourselves by these different perspectives. And that’s why I talk about diversity. And then I maybe I throw out the one also is that maybe people don’t often want true diversity. What I mean by that is that, you know, you want maybe race, ethnicity, you know, gender background, such, but you want, generally don’t want diversity of intelligence, you want the smartest people, you can get that you want to try and hire the most people. So sometimes, you know, this, this idea of diversity is also sort of, yeah, could be reframed. And, and we could think about it in another way. 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

I think, I mean, always kind of want to want to latch on to that a little bit, because I think there’s some interesting perspectives with diversity. So diversity in problem solving is has a good track record of being really helpful. So yes, especially when reframing like having people with different perspectives, they can better see blind spots that the rest of the group might not identify. I think there’s, there’s an interesting er, it’s not a misconception, but it’s a pitfall around it, that, say you’re working on a technically complex problem or something like it. And then you try diversity in the sense of bringing in somebody who’s not like, doesn’t have the same detailed understanding of the problem. They are actually helpful, but only if you use them right. Because the mistake people make there is to expect the outsider to have answers for them. And I can tell you, if you know, you’re dealing with a technical problem, and you pull in an artist or a, you know, an Australian watchmaker who is wood carving, they’re not going to be capable of giving you an answer, because they don’t fully understand the problem. The key thing is what they are good at is to ask questions, that makes the problem owner think differently. They can come in and prompt thinking on on behalf of the team that are genuinely experts, which can really make a difference, you’re gonna miss that if you just expect the balloon animal artists to waltz into the meeting and screw you with solutions to climate change. That that’s, that tends not to happen. 

 

William Laitinen   

You know, that that’s a read that got me thinking actually a really interesting point, going back to the football coaching, that I’m trying to teach the children about football. And you know, often you think you start with this idea that you want them to do, you know, wing play and cross the ball and all these complex things, then you have to go actually hang on a second, I need to take it back to basics. And and how this came about to me is I in that idea of asking a non expert who I was actually Samantha who works with me. She has no idea about football. She’s never coached football. And so I wasn’t your right I could never expect her to say give me expert advice on how to coach or tactics. But you know what she did? And I was talking to her about something I was trying to teach you she went, what’s a throw in? and I went oh and she went what’s the what’s the sideline? And I’m like, oh, you don’t know what that is? And I realized, probably the kids don’t know that either. We’re using they don’t know necessarily what a throw in and it was true. They didn’t know what the goal line was. They didn’t know what like a goal kick was they didn’t know what the penalty box meant. They didn’t they had all of these things that we presumed were right now you’re right, though, I had to use her feedback, her reframing in a very certain way. But it was nonetheless invaluable for me in having a better perspective on what I was trying to solve. 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

Really good example I think of just like how this works in practice, it can be so impactful if and it requires you to be willing to listen like when  when like somebody else might just have rejected that as stupid questions. You kind of went in and said wait, there’s actually something interesting here that I might be capable of learning from my old co author again. I remember, we saw a jointly, we saw this presentation by somebody who was a really horrible presenter. And I noticed that like, I sat there and I went like, Oh, that’s wrong. That’s wrong, too. And kind of, you know, and he was sitting happily scribbling. And I asked him afterwards, like, why didn’t you? Why were you so happy? Didn’t you noticed that the guy was an idiot? And he said, Oh, yeah yeah yeah, but I used him to think, you know 

 

William Laitinen   

Yeah [Laughter] 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

he used that idiot input took to kind of spur new thinking on his own behalf. And I thought that was such a beautiful example of kind of how to reframe. I spent all that time sitting and saying, No, that’s also wrong, you know, which is useless. 

 

William Laitinen   

Yeah, that’s a very interesting point, isn’t it, the opportunity for learning is really dependent upon the learner. Not not really the teacher as such, it’s, that’s, that’s an interesting way to think about it thats a nice interesting reframe. Think, at this moment, you know, Thomas, I’d like to, I like to pivot a bit, because I think you and I share an interest and you’re far better at than I am. And that’s around writing. And um I um you know you’ve know, you’ve written now, sort of two books. And this, this book you’ve created here, I I just want maybe you sort of talk us through a bit about it, because I think writing is such an important skill for people in industries, professional people to develop, but it’s a very difficult one to develop um. So I wonder what your thoughts are on about writing and how you create and because you can sort of take it any way you want. 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

So I’d say overall, that writing in my head is not a skill, but really a collective of skills that are not necessarily correlated. So one of those skills is, for instance, just like being good at string sentences together. And there are people who are really smart, but who are bad at that, and that there’s, there’s no shame in such a situation and going out and like find a er co-author or a ghostwriter, or whatever. So we can get you a really great thoughts out there. The skill I want to zoom in on I think, is that of, of almost, I think of it as insight development, or kind of even deciding what books to write if it’s a book or it could this could be an article or for that matter to be if you’re giving a talk, what do you want to zoom in on? Because that, I think, is that the that’s the kind of the skill that people know the least about? Like, there, there’s advice out there for how to become a better writer, like the craft. But how do you become better at understanding what to write about? And in that perspective, and this is where the link is to to problem solving and reframing. One of the most fundamental things here is say you want to write a book. There are so many people who start out ah being passionate about their solution, they have some kind of like, their seven letter framework, or whatever it is, and they want to sell it to the world. problem is people don’t care about your framework at all. Like they care 

 

William Laitinen   

 I am guilty of that by the way, yeah yeah 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

 Oh, yeah. But like,  

 

William Laitinen   

Much more painful for me, 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

 we all do it.  

 

William Laitinen   

[Laughter] 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

Like we have this baby er in our heads. And we kind of go, Oh, this is a wonderful Baby, you know um. But this is a point, again, we spoke about earlier, Doug stone and Sheila Hien. Who are they also, they’re two of the people who gave me feedback on my book, as I was writing and it was super, super helpful and amazing people and um one of their core points is you you kind of have to start not with your solution, but with a felt problem that your er readership has, it has, it has to be, you know, some kind of challenge that your, er your audience is struggling with. And er it has to be felt challenge in the sense that it’s something they they need to actually recognize, you may have an idea that they have a different problem. But that’s going to be hard to sell to them, you need to start from the point of, Hey, what do you experience? Like? Do you also experience that it’s hard to motivate your team? Well, here’s some good advice on that. It’s just such a fundamental thing. But I see budding authors spend ages fleshing out their wonderful theory, and and never really just doing the work of getting clear on what problem does this book help my reader solve? 

 

William Laitinen   

So when you’re going through that process, I mean, this is touching a lot of interesting points for me, because I’m dealing with a similar issue. I have a good solution. But I don’t know if there’s actually a good problem for it. I think there is a good problem for it. But I don’t know if people feel it, they don’t feel the problem. And that’s very hard to attack giving a solution if they don’t really feel it. So how is there like a methodology? Do you have a way that you do this is somehow your purchase book, but um any other tips you can give out to that all these frustrated writers? 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

Yeah, I think er a couple of things probably, I think the first one is just the distinction that’s helpful to understand. And that’s this distinction between erm obvious versus overlooked problems er. Now this, this is gonna sound a little bit counter to what I just said and unexplained. In in what sense these two things are compatible. But you can tackle an immediately obvious problem. Like we spoke before about how to motivate your team. Right now there’s a ton of people struggling with that my sister-in-law Merete Wedells-Wedellsborg, she just wrote an article on HBR. about that topic, how to energize your team during COVID. And that became HBR’s, most read article on the site for all of December. So So clearly, there’s something powerful if you have good advice, of kind of really hitting the head, or hitting the head of the nail on the something a problem people feel right now er. That is really taking up a lot of space in their heads. Now having 

 

William Laitinen   

I almost feel like, I always feel like I need to pause for a second. So your sister has also now got What the hell is in the water at the Wedell-Wedellsborg house? 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

No, 

 

William Laitinen   

Can you get some for me please? [Laughter] 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

 In this case, only the the art of picking a good spouse because it’s not my sisters, my sister in law, so it’s my brother should be criticising there. 

 

William Laitinen   

[Laughter] We will also have to reframe it. 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

No. So I’d say that’s one topic. And the the important thing there is, of course, that you first of all, you have a really clear understanding of the problem, and then that you have useful, credible advice on it. Now, I’ve gone a different route. I have in both cases, I’ve been really unlike we spoke about problem finding earlier the academic term for what what we’re talking about. I’ve always been on the lookout for overlooked problems that once you once you mentioned them to people, they actually recognize it is a problem. So it’s still a felt problem. But they’re not immediately aware of it. Like in my first book innovation as usual. There was a recognition that a lot of the innovation talk out there was aimed at people in Silicon Valley, or if you’re CEO, and could just like big strategic thinking and whatnot. What was missing was a guide for people who are in a big company, somewhere down in the middle of the machine, they had a day job, it was a bureaucratic place, and they had to manage, like make innovation happen at the same time. That was kind of a missing skill. And when those people read books about how to entrepreneur or set up in a, in a garage in Silicon Valley should just fail faster. I mean, it didn’t apply to them, because they were sitting in a pharma company and failing meant people maybe getting like death and destruction and whatnot. So that was the first book finding that problem. And recognizing that it hadn’t been properly answered. And on, of course, weirdly enough, on a meter level, that’s the same thing with reframing. Like, if you look at the core of the problem of problem solving, it is that we are we are good at. We’re good at analyzing, we’re good at solving, but we’re not good at framing, it was just this big, missing link, or missing skill in problem solving that I met, it took me a while to recognize how widespread it was. But the second, I write about this in the book, I was running a course for big tech company, where as part of a one week thing, I had two hours while I told them reframing there was like some 300 people in the room, they were all the top talent from the entire company that was gathered there. And by reframing session, ended up scoring the highest of all the sessions they had that entire week. And I was that well, wonderful. But that worried me because I was thinking, Wait, if these people in Silicon Valley in a fortune 500 company, top talent in their company, if they don’t know how to reframe what, you you I I think that was the moment for me, it really struck me that we needed to teach this but I think we spoke about before, I think it’s insane that people aren’t taught this in school, you know, in the very like, at entry level job positions, because for sure, it’s not just the top of the organization that has problems we need solving, and getting better at solving the right way. 

 

William Laitinen   

I Thomas, I think, you know, the idea that you said it discovery of felt problems that aren’t really recognized. And I think problem solving was that one for me as well. Honestly, I was like, Oh, yeah, this is definitely something I need to investigate. This is fantastic, like, how we make better decisions about the problems we’re trying to solve, so that we can then apply ourselves more effectively, more efficiently, you know, just be better at navigating the myriad um problems that we’re constantly faced with. And um yeah, I mean, I feel that so I think my when I was hearing you say that I suppose my initial thought was like Have you got any heuristics that have you found help you uncover some of these? And you think that you that sort of like the sort of the canary in the coal mine. Yeah, you’re getting close to something. 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

Yeah. I think I have both some discovery heuristics. And then a heuristic for whether it’s worthy of publishing, if you will. The discovery heuristic is, that’s basically, as a rule of thumb, I’m always, of course, I’m looking at cases we spoke about that for when I run into somebody who succeeds when you wouldn’t expect them to kind like, wait, what what happened there, or this is what goes counter to my beliefs about innovation and how it works, how come it worked. And so a basic curiosity around the things you encounter. On your way, whenever you see I think it’s Clay Christensen, who spoke about anomalies. And now he loved those because anomalies point you to where your model of the world isn’t right um. I have a thing around common wisdom, like. or cliches if you will, like in any field, there are these things that everybody just keeps repeating like parents, because they kind of sound smart. But very often, when you go into them, there’s kind of there, there’s this gold to be dug, either by challenging them, or by a by, like for instance, oh, yeah, innovation, the sky’s the limit. And you shouldn’t put limits on yourself within an innovation. Well, a lot of the successful people I saw innovate in big companies, they did that they they they deliberately constraint their search. And they were more successful than the people who thought it was about blue sky, just take as much risk as you can get away with. Not always a good recipe. So I think I’m looking whenever I run into oft repeated kind of common wisdom, things I start to get curious about. Going further into that. The final thing I mentioned, one of the good tests for whether this can attract, for instance, the interest of that magazine or publisher, is to ask whether there’s anything counterintuitive in it, or or or new in it, because if your recommended solution is something people already know, what’s the benefit of writing about? Like, what, why why would you go out and share that in the first article I wrote for HBR um. The classic example here is you have a good idea. So how do you get that moving forward? Well go to the CEO and get his or her approval. Okay, you can’t write an article early on that, because that’s a such an obvious piece of advice. And by the way, that’s really hard. So yeah, I wrote an article on how many of the companies or sorry, many of the people I’d worked with in companies, how did that they make things happen? Well, they actually didn’t go to the CEO, they kept it under the radar, they started using their friendships and alliances, they started building small prototypes. And that way, they kind of navigate the politics of innovation to actually make it happen. So so you have to have, like, if you look at your answers, and you say, Well, this is something that’s pretty obvious to people already, mmm then at least they can’t be the conclusion of your book, then you have to get into the details, saying, Okay, if this advice is obvious, well tell me the non obvious truth about how to make it happen. because anybody can tell you, it’s a good idea to spend four times as much time with your customers and your individual employees and really coaching and listening to them. But how on earth do you do that in practice, if you can tell me how to do it in practice? Now I’m listening, if you’re just telling me that I need to spend more time listening without telling me how that’s useless. I mean, that that’s, you told me something I already know. And that’s really difficult to do. Thank you. 

 

William Laitinen   

And that in that, that final one, this idea of sort of counter intuitive solutions is because I said, what I feel in that is that it unlocks like a felt problem back to sort of Sheila Hien and Douglas Stones thing that it unlocks a felt problem for you that and there’s like a surprise associated with that. And then in that, recognizing that there’s, Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, see, course you don’t want to let everybody know about it first, because then politics just destroys the idea. So you know, building these sort of, sort of underground networks, if you want to have sort of innovation to get your thing to prototype before you reveal it. That can sound like a really cool way to do it. I haven’t really tried that. But it makes a lot of sense. I get it. That is so that in that there’s some there’s some an opportunity to to uncover a real felt issue. Felt problem as you put it. 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

yeah. And and like linking back to how, how do you know what to write about? I mean, my understanding from all of that came from people who might have studied so I have a habit of when I might run into anybody who’s done something really interesting. I go in, and I want to write a case about it. And I say, Hey, tell me exactly how, how this happened. And let me talk to your colleagues as well. And like, suddenly you get all the richness of a real case that illustrates it that I think one of the problems with people want to write is that they have a theory, but they don’t have specific examples. And then you have to ask them, well, if you can’t actually mention a real world example, that of your theory, does it hold water? Like it’s a lovely theory, but people need both the abstract theory and the tangible examples of how somebody put that theory to use in order to make it work. You know, from my book, you know, there’s a, there’s a ton of examples from most of them from people I work with, for how they solve problems differently. Without that, if you don’t have the examples, it’s uphill. And people don’t want to read again, about Steve Jobs, they it’s actually more interesting to read about some completely unknown person who had an interesting problem, and you’re merit is that you sat next to that person, as you help them solve that problem and can solve the story. 

 

William Laitinen   

And so this is, this was the idea of like, kind of, you know, identifying, you know, a problem and then testing that problem. And then, and then having to go out into making sure that testing is making sure that other people are actually fixing it that way. Are there anybody else? So you got this identify this underground approach to developing a product and you have the go out and find us, I think the anomalous success one, and I also really like the way that you use them the cliche idea or the sort of common wisdoms, and how to attack those. And is there something in that, thats obvious?  

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

Yeah it’s almost an evidence of itself that if people knew how to do it, we wouldn’t be repeating it so often, like, you know, keep an open mind. Yeah, that’s kind of, again, a useful piece. No, sorry, useless piece of advice, because it’s easy to say, but nobody, like knows how to do it, when they’re standing in the in the moment. I think one other vetting thing that’s necessary to add here is you, you can be led into drawing wrong conclusions. If you only for instance, look at the winners, you know, or you like classic example is, from the Steve Jobs story that people conclude it’s a good idea to be an asshole, because the Steve Jobs was sometimes in at least in his early career, an asshole. But he may have been an outlier. And so what you do need to do is to burrow through the theory in your field to and kind of understand, what does the research look like here, because research is, it’s really just a compilation, a systematic compilation of lots and lots of different people’s experiences with a specific thing done in a way. So we know we can trust the findings. And if you, you know, if you have a pet theory, and all the research speaks against it, I would say then you have a problem. And, 

 

William Laitinen   

yeah, so maybe for the average listener, who’s out there, maybe as a, you know, divisional head and thinking about this research, and maybe they’re thinking, Oh, my God, you know, for you, I know, you’ve been published on HBR a number of times, and it’s a really, you know, a pinnacle website to be on, and it’s a lot of people competing for it. So I suppose in sort of getting onto that, what do you generally have to put into the sort of research of an article, for example, on where you want to talk about book, but just to get the evidence that you just talked about to test your hypothesis to the point that you’re ready to know that your problem is needs a solution. 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

Yeah well well, I’m, I almost like to kind of like from a very practical perspective, say, you don’t need to do the research yourself always. There’s people, lots of other people who may have probably have studied what you’re doing. So it’s often more question of finding it. And very specific thing I do is using Twitter for it. Most people think of Twitter as this, cacophonous hell of a you know, people shouting at each other about political opinions. But if you find the right people to follow, they’re actually researchers out there from really interesting kind of institutions that post about new research. One, one particular guy like this guy called Ethan Mollick, from Wharton. He just posts a ton of Ethan Mollick. He wrote a book called The unicorn shadow, about like entrepreneurship. He posts a ton of interesting research, old and new about entrepreneurship and related topics. And so whatever field you’re interested in, I can guarantee you, that’s probably a good deal. people posting about that on Twitter, go find those people follow them. And that that’s probably one of the best ways to quickly become aware of the interesting research that’s out there so you can start so you can start making sure your not just developing a pet theory that only work for you, but will work for nobody else. 

 

William Laitinen   

That’s a great one. Yeah, there are actually. So I remember actually coming across somebody research on Liverpool Football and football analytics, and he published some of the most amazing analytics I’d ever seen. It was maybe a little bit too much for the kids I’m training but um it’s at that point, he’d done some incredible stuff, which was really helpful. So I heard you sort of you so just in sort of recapping that bit, thank you so much for this stuff, Tom. It’s really interesting, sort of discovery heuristics that you’ve got, they’re sort of in or looking out for sort of anomalous success, looking for common wisdoms, and sort of maybe what might be counterintuitive about those, and we’ll be right about them. Then also asking, Is there anything yet counterintuitive and sort of diving into that a bit more? I think that was those are really interesting ways to think about discovering cool ideas. Have I missed anything? There’s anything I’ve butchered in your own explanation? 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

No more than I butchered myself, I think No, no, no ah I mean, this is it’s a topic that interests me a lot, because different authors have very different approaches to this. And I think there’s a lot of different ways that can work. Mine’s, by far, not the only one. But I found it useful, just in my own work to think a little bit more systematically about these things. Like, what what makes there are some really smart people that they show me some kind of draft or an article they hope to get published. And it’s, it’s, it’s horrible. And I’m like, no, hey, there’s a couple fairly simple rules of thumb, that can actually, pretty quickly upgrade what you’re trying to do. If you’re kind of getting there. I think that bad piece of advice, or at least in my view, bad about, oh, yeah, just open a page and aim for writing five pages a day, and soon you’ll have 400 pages, yes, of crap. I mean, to be fair, that works for some, so I don’t want it this bearish too much. Sometimes that is necessary, in order to you to move forward. But But if you think she, she calls it, the shitty first draft, you you have to have it, but you also have to remember  it’s shitty and it needs to be improved. alot. 

 

William Laitinen   

[Laughter] I think I think I recently read on on Twitter. In fact, Ryan Holidays, is a very prolific author as well he, he talked about, you really need to have a clear sense of what you’re trying to solve. And I think, to this point, and if guys, if you want to get it on there, he’s kind of written down what he needs, what you need to do when you’re writing a book. And he so I think what you’ve just said, really sort of chimes with me, and I’m, you know, also, you know, it’s someone who has a piece of work that I’m trying to frame in the right way, trying to find the right problem for it. I think I know, the problem. I don’t know people really have, it’s a felt problem. So this is really helpful for me. Thomas, I’m mindful of time, and I just want to say thank you so much. And, you know, just, you know, your book, this this, you know, what’s your problem book that you wrote, it is a fantastic book. And I um, I genuine was one of my favorite ones that I read this year alongside with Sheila Hina, Douglas Stones, thanks for the feedback. And I would really think that anybody who’s looking to improve the way that they just are tackling their life and their business, they should read this. So thank you for making for writing it. It really was a great piece of work. Thank you for sharing sort of the experiences that you’ve given us today as well, because thats been like super helpful. If people want to find you, how do they find you, Thomas? on social media? 

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

I stay as hidden as possible. Now. My my surname will lead you to me relatively rapidly. It’s one of those weird Danish double barrel things so googling Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg or, or just even reframing, will probably get your there I have? I have a couple of sites, but that or maybe like the book, what’s your problem published year er last year with Harvard Business Review. 

 

William Laitinen   

Brilliant. Thank you very much. Well, again, big thank you for leaving us through some of your thoughts. There’s some really interesting stuff. And um well I er wish you the best of luck with the next project you’re working on, and er again, thank you.  

 

Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg   

Thank you William 

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