Integrated PPF

Day 289 Week 42 Q4 Tuesday, October 17, 2023

If you are a water person, there is a single important piece of gear you tend to acquire to deal with large amounts of liquid flux. It used to be called a life preserver. They show up everywhere, from canoe trips, power boats, sailboats, ocean cruises, and even airplanes, but are now renamed personal floatation devices or PFDs. Since acronyms took over the world, everything got simpler, right? Well, that was the plan anyway.

Many of us now live in flux, in seas of change ranging from puddle-like to oceanic depending upon our circumstances, which also change externally and internally with stages of life and psyche. I have found it helpful to have something simple like a life preserver for chaotic times. I call it a PPF, not a PFD and this stands for trying to integrate (better than balance) my Psychological, Physical, and Fiscal well-being.

Seriously, there is change all around all of the time, but I find if I have integrated these three types of well-being, it does not matter much what the size of the waves are. The reason I say integrate instead of balance is because balancing requires continuous effort, but being integrated is a state one can reach, and it takes less effort to stay integrated than to be constantly rebalancing, especially for creative outliers who tend to rock the boat. 

Here is how it works to make it much simpler as a creative outlier and involuntary with the historical tendency to complexify more than to simplify. You are going to have a hard time being fiscally balanced when you are in poor physical shape, and you are also going to have a hard time being in decent physical shape if you are not in a state of psychological well-being.

Therefore, the simple equation is to get your head in the right place so you can actually do something physical to work out and not have to overeat for psychological reasons. If your psyche and body are doing okay, it is a lot easier to perform activities that have good fiscal consequences.

This may sound simple and obvious, but it has taken me a long time to learn that sustainable well-being requires that PPF order psyche, physical, and fiscal. If these can be integrated instead of getting unbalanced and then requiring rebalancing, this saves a lot of heartache, time, and effort. 

Integration is integral to integrity, which makes it a lot easier to enjoy being creative. Become PPF!

Does this seem relevant to your current or prior circumstances? Can you imagine a state where you can be more creative, supported by this stable underpinning?

Flywheel Identities

Your sense of self can be significantly contributed to by a set of flywheels, each representing different aspects of your personality and values. These can be in-person or virtual flywheels and can have as few as two people, you and one additional person.

It can be as easy to invent as asking someone you like to discuss a topic or two of common interest to both of you to get together regularly. This has happened to me. A person whom I occasionally ran into in a cafe we both frequented before the Covid Pandemic shut it down said we had such good conversations. Why don’t we pick a day and time and get together roughly weekly to talk?

This turned out to be a great reinforcement of our identities. We both spent a lot of time thinking about the creative process. I had another regular conversation on a different day and time with someone else several thousand miles away, during a time when people were not getting together much for fear of infection. These two conversations served to keep alive two completely different aspects of my identity.

Other flywheel situations I regularly participate in have between five and a dozen members. Sometimes they can be a class, club, organization or department, but over time these sets of relationships can contribute a great deal of stability and meaning to a person’s identity. The time invested in my life ranges from an hour or two a month to an hour or two per week. These few hours per week keep me connected to the priorities in my life. Even if I forget what mattered to me because of a crisis or deadline, these flywheels tend to remind me of my identity by exercising what and who matters to me.

This does not have to cost anything but a small time commitment. However, as the pandemic slows, a couple of local groups occasionally get together and have a cup of coffee or break bread. Again this is a nominal investment and surprisingly effective for creative outliers who are not normally joiners of anything. Depending on individual needs and circumstances, there is the freedom to drift in and out.

Neighborhood bars, cafes and other social clubs have played this kind of role for centuries for many people. What is different here is that creative outliers are not generally mainstream people and therefore do not have mainstream identities either. There also may not be a critical mass of them in any particular local, and they may be averse to joining anything as we tend to be go-it-alone kind of people.

Creative outlier flywheels can be surprisingly effective at preserving identity and helping each other accomplish concrete goals. As a fellow non-joiner who is allergic to rules, these are flexible enough to serve and not offend.

Flywheel Rebooting

Day 86 Week 13 Q1  Monday, March 27, 2023

We get bumped from our routines and schedules periodically because the notion of a linear life is false. If life or a  flywheel you have been hanged in has been spinning with enough momentum to keep going unattended, you can drop out and drop back in. When a flywheel or a habit is not yet very mature, it needs more directed energy to reboot. Some groups have gathered for so long that people start to die or lack the energy to continue. Neither we, nor groups, nor flywheels last forever. This is fine and the way it has to be. If nothing died or ended, there would be no room for the new. 

There are lives, groups and flywheels that are doing good work and deserve to persist for a while longer, and it is to these we are addressing the notion of rebooting here and now. The nonlinear chaotic nature of reality is what permits rebooting, just as a defibrillator can apply a shock to a heart that has either stopped or is beating irregularly. The system resets itself. If linearity were required all of the time, this restart or reboot would not be possible. Linearity is not only the nature of things but a survival trait. It is, in fact, related to why fractals can be used to describe many situations occurring in nature effectively.  But you can look that one up yourself or ask a Chat Bot.

Fortunately, we can resort to a restart because everything around us is designed for it. It is one of the reasons I prefer playing jazz and other improvisational music forms. I have not been willing to spend the time to perfect slices of linearity as they do not permit me to be in the present moment. Or perhaps it is simply being lazy, but if anyone thinks that Bach wrote out every note he played for his weekly gig at the church, they are mistaken. Like a Grateful Dead concert or a musician playing at a farmers market, the minority of the material is NOT written out. 

Perhaps a more succinct way of stating this is we are improvising all of the time because life is throwing things at us at a greater rate than we have time to prepare for by preprogramming our behavior. This is why I am not worried about robots replacing us, exempt from the tasks humans should not be made to do anyway. 

Flywheels nicely fall into this category; they do not have planned programs when they get together, they organically address what the group wants to address, and when they temporarily stop or fail permanently, all is well. But if you are engaged in something you do not want to stop, it makes sense to continue and reboot it! We do it when driving all of the time. We step on the brake and stop, and the flywheel becomes automatically unengaged and then re-engaged when we start up. Most people no longer have to take cars out of and back into gear by driving a stick. I still like to know what gear I am in, if any. Perhaps this is why I often get the job of rebooting the flywheel,

AVP Collaboration

Day 70 Week 10 Q1  Saturday, March 11, 2023

This is a special kind of collaboration. Assuming you have either assembled or joined a flywheel, in either case, there was some sort of co-creation going on, with the first act of collaboration being the creation of a flywheel suitable for you.  Be suspicious of flywheel initiatives that do not permit you to contribute to their creation. There is less of a problem with individual flywheel creation for those who are not creative outliers, as they are more willing to follow. You must have some creative skin in the game if you are a creative outlier.

The beauty of this collaborative arrangement is those who come together to create something care more about it and about each other, which makes it better than would otherwise occur. This co-creation of an Actionable Vantage Point makes it far more robust and has the benefit of greater persistence, further automating actionability. We tend to honor our commitments to each other more than our commitments to ourselves.  

Creating an AVP Flywheel can be much faster than creating a department or a company. It can also be far more authentic in its design to serve the group because the group owns it and takes care of it. It also requires being the opposite of a control freak. You need to be a collaboration freak! In fact, collaboration is probably more important Than any one project emerging from it. This is because relationships are more important than projects in the same way that behaviors are more important than goals. Many more people have goals and projects in mind than beavers and relationships in mind. 

Having a dynamically evolving actionable vantage point that is being constantly recreated serves to force us more into a feedback loop with reality. And we are speaking here of the union of the external and the internal realities. What better way to get in synch than by co-creation? 

If the greatest attribute of an AVP is the knowledge that you can not be stopped, then the greatest attribute of a co-created collaborative AVP is momentum. The increased mass of the group over an individual can make up for the potential reduction in velocity. There are natural tradeoffs, as momentum equals the product of mass and velocity. Think about how hard it is to stop a fast three-hundred-pound football player compared to a golfer.  Who would you rather bump into you?  And who would you rather help you knock down a door?

Innovation acts constantly encounter both internal and external obstacles. Having some forward momentum helps address both. Ensure those invited into your flywheel have some of their own momentum to contribute to the AVP Flywheel. The flywheel founders tend to have more personal momentum than the flywheel joiners, as it is much harder to found something than to join it.

This founder energy is what brings groups into being, whether they be a startup company or a jazz band, both of which are AVP Flywheels.

If you do not already have one, go and co-create an AVP Flywheel.

Be Your Own Flywheel

Day 65 Week 10 Q1  Monday, March 6, 2023

Ultimately we each must be our own flywheels. Yes, it is great to be part of a group with common goals moving in a similar direction, but if you are a creative outlier, this condition does not always exist. This is neither bad nor good. It just is. You need your own momentum to succeed. Some may be able to ride on others’ coattails, but creative outliers are less likely to do so, for they tend not to be joiners, and they also tend not to be leaders either. 

Where does this leave us? In some cases, it leaves us alone and depressed. In other cases, it leads us to forge our own paths forward. Is there really a choice? Not for me; there is not. There are farmers, and there are hunters. Both get food to eat. Both are hard work. One has more risk than the other. For some of us, the risk is less of a problem than for others.  We are the ones that must create and be our own flywheels.

Can it be lonely, and can it be dangerous? Sure, and can we do it all alone? No! What is the balance between belonging and forward striving? And does this balance point change as we move from young to old? It is customary to assume the young are racial and the old are staid. Can you become less conservative as you get older?  Are you willing to be called a child when you are old? 

The powers that be are mainstream and, therefore, dismissive of change, and this is mostly because they are afraid. The change agents are also afraid. Being afraid is not an unreasonable state to be in when there is a risk and changes are coming.  So what! Courage is moving forward even when afraid. Sometimes there is no choice. What if you are invaded? Then courage is the only reasonable response for appeasement never works long-term.  

Can you appease yourself? What if you are both the invader and the invaded? That is the condition of the person who never stops innovating. There are creative outliers who simply do not feel there is a choice as creating, not consuming, is one main reason they are alive.  This group has to become their own flywheels.  And this too is dangerous for collaborating flywheels, is difficult and requires great synchronization and great sensitivity. 

Again there is no choice. You can not accomplish very much by yourself in life. That is an illusion. Even if you think you did everything yourself, look more closely, and you will see that you did not. On the other hand, subordinating large visions to small frameworks does not progress society or our own life either.

There are many successful partnerships between powerful entities, each with its own flywheel. These entitled can be individuals or corporations, but in all cases, some synchronization occurs. This is the balance between being true to your own vision and the needs of others. It is called collaboration, but it is hard for a flywheel to collaborate with a non-flywheel. 

Flywheel Indeterminacy

Day 49 Week 7 Q1  Saturday, February 18, 2023

Flywheels, like other innovations, need a champion. If there is not one, they stop spinning. And that contributes to the indeterminacy. For, if the wheel may stop spinning, then who can count on it? One person can always count on it, and that is the person who started the flywheel spinning. If, over time, someone else takes on that responsibility; then the originator can stop showing up as consistently.

If there is one cure for indeterminacy, it is consistency. And like any other startup, there does have to be a driving force or a champion to ensure survival and reduce indeterminacy. In fact, all startups are risky because of the indeterminacy of any fledgling activity or enterprise. This is neither good nor bad; it just is.

Redundancy tremendously reduces the likelihood of failure. Three people who each only miss showing up 10% of the time translates into at least one of the three will be present 99.9% of the time. At least two of them will show up 99% of the time. This power of redundancy, which is why consistency reduces indeterminacy, is the power of the flywheel.

For the math-minded among us, the simple probability formula relating Reliability (R) and Fallibility (F) is;  R + F = 1. This means there is a tendency for a system to either fail or to be reliable. And since the failure modes are multiplicative, R = 1 – π(F1F2…Fn), where R is reliability and F1 to Fn are Fallibilities.  The π sign means multiply. 

This not-very-intuitive result is incredibly powerful. A group is going to be very much more reliable than an individual. And this is why collaboration and teamwork generally but not always triumph over an individual. And why repetition to the point of creating a habit, although equally powerful, can not guarantee the shared behavior called a flywheel will always work, making both indeterminate to some degree. They both come down to the need for a mostly bulletproof individual at the core of a reliable flywheel, habit, system or company.

If an individual takes it upon themselves to show up all of the time, then they can attract other individuals who will do the same, and eventually, there can be an operating Flywheel. Without that first person we can call a founder; the flywheel will never be sustainable. This is also why investors rarely invest in an individual and search for teams.

Get into the flywheel habit, and although it can be indeterminate who shows up, you can get to the point where it is extremely likely that someone will show up, thereby countering flywheel indeterminacy.  

Flywheel Flying

Day 20 Week 3 Q1 Friday, January 20, 2023

A flywheel aims to smooth out the intermittent nature of creative outliers. This works just as well as any other group activities smooth south the contribution of individual contributors but also permits something much greater.  Flywheels that are designed to support the large dynamic range of creative outliers also permit them to fly, that is, to transcend themselves by functioning on a higher level than they do by themselves. The act of smoothing out once intermittent creative nature is also a way of managing one’s internal energy.  That creative energy has to be matched with appropriate tasks in order to flow smoothly into the well-known state called FLOW.

A community of meditators gains a deeper meditative state than any individual can.  The same is true for prayer,  and the same is true for a community of engineers and a community of scientists and a community of artists.  Applying a flywheel to entrepreneurs is much less frequent but also extremely useful.  I was a member of a group called the CEO Club of America, which connected CEOs of small companies to act as each other’s Board of Directors.  We were each too small to afford to pay a formal board, so the concept was to get 10 CEOs, each managing small $2 million companies and get together once a month to act as each other’s board of directors it is an extremely useful unsuccessful enterprise.

The basic notion is even if some members of a flywheel or having an off day or week, or month, resulting in them not functioning at their best level, that this will not be true of the entire group or even the majority of the group. Some of you have witnessed this in a community orchestra where most of the performers are of medium to good quality. Still, when one single excellent musician is brought in, the entire orchestra rises to a new level. In fact, this musician is often called a ringer.

The reason why I create a flywheel is necessary is because it’s not reasonable for a gifted creative outlier to expect normal people in society to understand them.  In general, the only people who can understand gifted people or other gifted people. There is not much help available from someone who does not understand you.  It is not reasonable for creative outliers to expect those who are not like them to be able to meet them where they are.

Therefore creative outliers have to take the responsibility to meet people who are not like them in a place where they already are functioning.  A flywheel of creative outliers can help each other learn how to better communicate their insights to those who are unlike them.

The net result of this activity is farm war and smoothing out intermittent tie dynamic range individuals. It permits the future to be created by people who greatly transcend themselves.

Join a flywheel and learn to fly.

Outlier Flywheels

Day 347 Week 51 Q4  Tuesday, December 13, 2022

As mentioned yesterday, the main goal of SVIII is to help creative outliers become innovators.  One mechanism we have been using for a long time is the notion of creating a safe space for those with ideas to show up and express them.  In the past, our events were sometimes monthly and sometimes more often when supporting special initiatives.  One cardinal rule to ensure a safe space was to listen without criticizing. Discourse had to be civil; otherwise, the new ideas would never see the light of day. Many inventors and entrepreneurs showed up every month to explain what they were working on.  It turns out that people with new ideas have a hard time getting an audience, and this was a place where they could count on one that was supportive because it consisted of others like themselves.

In creating a safe space, we realized we had created a flywheel for outliers to engage in civil discourse regarding their new ideas, projects, businesses and artworks.  All people with new ideas benefit from showing up and getting out of their studios, laboratories and offices to get into a feedback loop with reality.  Having a periodic gathering which could be counted on ended up providing not only a safe space but also a deadline to get something done because there was an opportunity to share it.  This process had originated earlier within a group called the Coastal Creators that met weekly in half Moon Bay, California, at the home of the founder of SVII.

Woodworkers with pickup trucks brought their in-process sculptures, writers brought excerpts, and one person brought and performed the first versions of a rock opera.  It turns out that everybody benefits from having a deadline and an opportunity to show up.  To control the number of people who showed up, which grew to more than 40 on Wednesday nights, we added a second requirement in addition to civil discourse.  We added the requirement that everybody who attended show evidence of their creativity and not only talk about their dreams but show us some sort of progress which could have been as simple as a diagram indicating the next steps.  This acted as a filter and provided some pressure in the form of an expectation that attendees would not only have a place where they could physically show up but also that they had to show up creatively.

The Coastal Creators ran as an Outlier Flywheel for several years, ultimately evolving into the Silicon Valley Innovation Institute, now extending from a regional in-person process that began in 2005 also to include a virtual-international process. In-person local and virtual geographically distributed flywheels are currently operating.

Creative outliers do benefit from being supported by and by supporting other creative outliers. In addition to providing a place to show up, and an expectation to show up creatively, longer-term outcomes are also a focus. People have started new initiatives, careers, businesses, projects, and concerts of new works have been performed growing out of these flywheels. 

To summarize, the three legs of the solid flywheel stool are a safe place to show up, an expectation to show up creatively, and a longer-term view toward bringing into being something larger. 

Flywheel Validation

Day 326 Week 48 Q4  Tuesday, November 22, 2022

So, you buy into or had the idea that there may be some kind of flywheel you could invent to keep you moving in the right direction, and it could be a routine or a habit or a group of people or some combination of all of the above. Sure, as Sir Issac Newton reminds us, objects in motion tend to remain in motion, and so do objects at least tend to remain at rest. It is a hypothesis that remaining in motion may be a better state unless, of course, you are trying to mediate and quiet the mind, which is not my purpose here, at least at the moment.

Now, this notion of a flywheel to help you keep moving in the direction you want is a nice idea, or perhaps just a wild-assed guess, more formally known in scientific circles as a hypothesis. You know the drill, or perhaps you do not, if the scientific method was taught a day you were not there either literally or figuratively.  

An exceedingly brief description of the scientific method for much of society seems to have either forgotten it, never known it, to begin with, or is involved in attempting to disqualify and dispute it. Here goes. A person has an idea, it might be wrong, or it might be right. You try to articulate it, and when you do, if you do, it immediately gets confirmed upon it the status of a hypothesis. Then you try to prove it, disprove it, or do something to make you think that it might be valid (or invalid). After you get some evidence that might support the idea, you tell others. If others can get the same results as you did, then you might have some validation.

Validation best comes about externally, for you can convince yourself of a lot. But say you or others continue to poke at this idea and somewhere along the line get some contrary evidence disputing the validity of your idea. Well, this is a dynamic dance, as there is always more evidence, perhaps some for and perhaps some against.   

The dance continues, and this is called the scientific method. Prove, disprove, move forward, repeat. And this is not necessarily a victimless crime. Being wrong or being right does ripple through and affect you as well as others. So, the scientific method does matter! And it can also bring some joy when there is enough evidence that you were right. Hey, you have feelings, too, right?

I am happy to report that at least in my life and for some around me that the notion of a flywheel being beneficial to creative outliers, which at one point was a hypothesis, has now been showing signs of validation, r perhaps I should say revalidation, for I had validated it many years ago in other lives, but of course, being a bit of scientific nerd, feel the need to continue to validate it periodically. And the good news is, it still seems to work, although this time applied to music composers, certainly one of the many types of creative outliers.

A composer’s flywheel? Now that is a notion worth validating. 

Flywheel Smoothing

Day 323 Week 47 Q4  Saturday, November 19, 2022

I know I have mentioned flywheels elsewhere but never focused exclusively on their usefulness for creative outliers. For a quick review, a flywheel serves to smooth out the impulses of energy provided by a combustion engine.  A combustion engine, like a creative outliers mind, is a chamber that houses explosions to turn them into the propulsion which drives the motion. And before you ask, yes, electric and hybrid vehicles also have flywheels.  It is my contention that creative outliers resemble combustion engines, both producing power which, due to their explosive intermittent natures, benefit from having a mechanism to smooth out the energy flow.

Maybe you have never thought of yourself as an engine, but I bet you have noticed that you are intermittent in your creative impulsiveness. Ideas and insights may come in a stream like the firing of cylinders of a combustion engine. Increasing from a single-cylinder engine to a twelve-cylinder engine does make for a smoother ride. However, flywheels still had to be invented to smooth out further the jerky nature of an impulse-driven ride. And tonic metaphors, I suspect some of us are more like volcanoes than high rpm engines in that all of our explosions are not of the same magnitude, so that some serious smoothing can be beneficial.

Sometimes creators become fairly solitary figures in part because having a relationship with a volcano is difficult. The flow of lava, although quite exciting, can be difficult to channel into being constructive. You are fortunate if you can, at least for a period of time, be a pet volcano either by having a large massive company that can turn fairly significant explosions into products and services.  I had the good fortune to spend two decades at Bose and Apple, two corporations with strong innovation cultures founded by their own volcanoes, Amar Bose and Steve Jobs.  And of course, it can also be hard to be married to a volcano. And volcanos are not always known for succession planning.

This brings me back to the flywheel.  Whatever kind of creative, impulsive engine you may harbor within you, the ride can be smoothed by being connected to the world through some flywheel; for obvious reasons, flywheels tend to have a lot of mass and require a lot of strength which is why they are usually made of steel. Find a creative volcano in a long-term relationship, and you will also find the partner is strong like steel. But even those fortunate enough to have such a strong partner can benefit from a larger, more massive flywheel, a place where others can value and support impulsive creative energy, like an innovation culture.

For obvious reasons, there are not very many innovation cultures, but what if you could roll your own by spending time with a small group of like-minded also creatively impulsive individuals who can understand your nature because they are just like you?

What if a human flywheel comprised of creative outliers could be constructed? This type of group could both support and smooth out the inherent impulsiveness of the creative process. Furthermore, in these pandemic-fueled geographic proximity transcending hybrid times, the flywheel could even be in large part virtual, sometimes meeting in person and sometimes meeting in the digital ether, and eventually meeting in both at the same time.

This is a creator’s flywheel, and yes, they do exist, and they are beneficial in smoothing out and supporting the creative process within creative individuals.  I have personally experienced a few of these places where it is safe and constructive to be a creative volcano.