Obvious insights are super valuable. It seems intuitive that to keep people’s attention and deliver something powerful, you have to have those TED nuggets in your presentation. You have to have counter-factual, unexpected data points and distillations that shatter people’s assumptions. Adam Grant writes in MIT Sloan Management Review that if you want to elicit action in an organization, it’s much more powerful to roll in with a strong data point that overwhelmingly reinforces what people already think: “Come in with a contrarian data point, and managers who have parked their careers in their lot of intuition and experience find it threatening. The visceral response is skepticism followed by denial. Waltz in with a piece of compelling evidence that people already believe is true — like Microsoft’s findings that it’s bad for employee satisfaction and engagement when managers are slow to respond to email and multitask during meetings — and you get immediate buy-in.” Hat tip to @marshallk for this one.
Forgetting is good; forgetting is also bad. Two stories crossed my path in the last couple of weeks about the awesome power of forgetting. In this first one, forgetting is the star of the show. We’re learning that the default state is really to forget things, and the inability to forget can lead to all kinds of brain disorders. “I would speculate that forgetting might be the default system of the brain,” Davis said at the neuroscience meeting. “We might have a slow chronic forgetting signal in our brains that basically says let’s erase everything unless a judge … comes to intervene and says this memory is worth saving.” There’s a ton of fascinating entry points into our currently evolving understanding of the memory process in this piece. (that link again, to a piece in Knowable Magazine)
The other story, from another fantastic newsletter, How We Get To Next, explores drugs that have been developed in order to aid in forgetting specific traumatic events, or in diffusing the tie between those details and strong emotions. The ethics of this pursuit are fascinating, and truly terrifying. It’s a minefield. In some sense, we’re all just a pile of experiences and the shards we’ve taken from them. And the ability to make negative emotional consequences less negative and less toxic could be used to take away the guardrails that make a behavior feel toxic in the first place. In the words of an ethics report about the broader area of exploration which was quoted in the piece, “It risks making shameful acts seem less shameful, or terrible acts less terrible, than they really are.” This one is fascinating to think about too: “Having truthful memories is not simply a personal matter. Strange to say, our own memory is not merely our own; it is part of the fabric of the society in which we live.” (that link again, from How We Get To Next)
The singular of sleeves. By rights it should be sleef, right? It used to be!
Bonus banana: Two Valentine’s day bits from the animal world today: Galapagos tortoises who dated for 100 years and mysteriously broke up, and from the same author, why penguins sex lives are so scandalous.
Those are the week’s bananas. Thank you. You can hit “reply” and it will go only to me.