Creativity can come in a variety of forms, and for Jake Knapp, author of Sprint and Make Time and guest on the Unlearn Podcast it was a mixture of painting, artistry and old school programming. Jake finds creative satisfaction in trying to figure out how to design, optimize and improve everything from the default settings in his own life, to how people run meetings and design products. Sometimes, having an outsider’s view can be quite useful.

What Is Holding Us Back?

We’ve all had times when, at the end of the day or week, we just feel like we haven’t gotten enough done, or we haven’t gotten done the one thing that would have helped us make real progress towards our goals. Jake talks about how experiencing moments of intensity helped him understand and prioritize the outcomes from his life he really wanted.

Looking at and thinking about the outcomes he wants, and then gathering data that allows him to review his behavior in light of these outcomes is one of the keys to Jake’s success – and perhaps one that can be replicated, even by people who don’t see the world as he does—as code. [Listen from 6:15]



Failure Actually Sucks

You’d almost think that tech startup founders are handed a script before being interviewed, clearly outlining how they should mention that they absolutely love failure, and it doesn’t bother them in the slightest. Most of us don’t feel quite that way about it. Barry and Jake discuss how, unlike the popular ideology would have you believe – screwing something up sucks. It hurts, it’s embarrassing, it impacts other people and it can feel terrible. Jake points out that the thing to do with failure isn’t to pretend you like it but to actively and intentionally learn from it as part of the coping process. [Listen from 12:00]

Principles Have To Be Learned, To Be Unlearned

There are certain assumptions we make when we start to gain experience and expertise in our fields, especially when we’re leaders. One of the most critical things Jake had to learn was that other people’s ideas and contributions were as likely to be the best ones as his own. Barry notes that the idea of not selling or pitching your idea to your team goes against most of what we’ve been taught about working in companies. Selling and pitching is a skill set that can be totally unrelated to the problem you’re trying to solve, and it’s better for the best idea to win – not the loudest or most popular person. Jake shares a story about the development of what would eventually become Google Hangouts – and what it taught him about collaboration. [Listen from 21:00]

The Value Of Supporting The Decider

There are people whose job it is to come into a situation and make the call—the deciders. Jake talks about how it’s important to have some empathy for that role – even though it may not result in the decisions you personally would make. What you can do is support leaders and decision-makers by giving them the tools and resources they need to make the best possible decision. It’s not always a democracy, but if you do the groundwork to minimize the possibilities of bad options, then great things can happen. [Listen from 28:45]

SiFi Futures For Jake

Something helping Jake learn and unlearn right now is writing a science fiction novel. He’s not sure when it will be finished, but creating it and using the process he’s refined in other areas of his life, gathering and analyzing data to help optimize for outcomes, is playing a role in how he writes. [Listen from 33:00]

Start Your Unlearning Journey

Unlearn: Let Go of Past Success to Achieve Extraordinary Results by Barry O’Reilly

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