Saturday Cup of Joe from Detroit


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Week 211 in Detroit. Some good news. Not the John Krasinski SGN Instagram show although that IS good news — the show for us and the deal with CBS for him. I feel like the financial markets gained confidence this week indicating that some of the predictions we worried about 2 months ago have not materialized as severely as we thought. For instance, homeowners making monthly mortgage payments have fared better than expected, in aggregate.

There are still many homeowners struggling but indicators this week sparked optimism. I was on one call where a mortgage industry veteran said the feeling changes regularly, “it’s not just week to week but it’s day to day.” Some days up and some days down.

On the upside, prequalifications, preapprovals and purchase offers are up. Anecdotally, sellers in Northern Michigan are not negotiating because demand is strong enough. Buyers in Boise, Idaho are competing with 299 other offers. Home prices are holding and strong.

Several questions lie ahead — what happens when enhanced unemployment ends in July? Will the jobs lost come back just as quickly? How long will it take to return to GDP growth?

Are there other questions you are asking your leaders or your team this week?

What questions do you use to strengthen your assumptions and your planning?

When we worked in the office, I would walk by our President’s office and see the quote, “In the future, it will be about who can ask the best questions.” Part of Saturday Cup of Joe has always been about asking better questions.

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“Youth is no guarantee of innovation.” — James Bond, Skyfall

The hardest thing. One of the hardest things I find on a daily basis is looking at a proposal, plan or presentation and identifying what’s missing. It’s one thing to edit or rewrite what appears on the page (or the digital page, as the case may be). It’s entirely another to have the ability to see what’s not addressed and suggest it be added. There are categories of people that seem better equipped to do this than others:

1. SMEs — those with expertise or deep knowledge of the subject matter

2. Repeat players — those who’ve seen that type of information many times so can predict what questions are usually asked

3. Really intelligent people — some people just have a knack for it and I find those are the most valuable on your team and impressive to work with

I’m not yet any of those. I’ve started getting there as a “repeat player” from sitting through a fintech demo a week (or more) for the last few years.

But it remains the hardest part of evaluating someone else’s work.

I’m working hard to improve in this area and think broadly about “what’s missing” when evaluating content.

How do you think about it? What’s your mental checklist or do you find that it comes naturally?

The hard thing is the missing thing.

The St. Paul Brick Wall Zoo in Detroit. Our friend and neighbor @FrankieRose08 on Instagram created the drawings during quarantine. Check it out on IG.

“We can come up with brilliant solutions to the wrong problem.”

This quote caught my attention on a partnership call earlier this week. Exactly right. One of the most important questions in any partnership is “how will we measure success?” We can solve for a number of things and if it’s not the thing that will move the needle for the customer or leadership, might as well have not done it.

Make sure you are solving the right problem.

The #NextBelt is well represented in the list of best placed to start a career (or a business, in my opinion!). The #NextBelt is my characterization of Midwestern cities built on industry but poised to thrive. The #NextBelt cities are the story of America. Dynamic places of community, hard work and complex history of inequality. It’s the potential and tension of America in a place that is diverse, affordable and accessible.

The #NextBelt cities — Milwaukee, Cleveland, Detroit, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh — are all listed below but also stand ready to change the future of America. If you are looking for a place to join NOT DISPLACE the communities who live and work in these cities, come to Detroit and PARTICIPATE in a meaningful life of equitable opportunities for all.

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Follow @rawdetroit on Instagram

One of the things about the Saturday Cup of Joe that I love the most is when different areas of my life or different ideas I’ve been considering collide in a given week. Perhaps it’s the quirky way my brain sees the world, perhaps it’s an attempt to find meaning where there is none, but it happened again this week.

My Dad, loyal reader of SCOJ even though I’ve told him I can’t tell who reads and who doesn’t, sent me this TED Talk about how we process information. Not just how we process information but what information will then change our behavior as well. No surprise that we more easily accept positive information versus negative information. No surprise that the present overshadows the future.

Frankly, the existence of cable news and Twitter alone validate that people will also process information more readily if it supports their worldview.

But, beyond that, it is important to realize how information can then motivate a change in our behavior.

Based on the TED Talk by Tali Sharot, two motivations will change behavior:

1. Social incentives

2. Immediate rewards

Ms. Sharot mentions a hospital which posted the rate of handwashing in each shift and by the staff overall as a way to motivate handwashing. The genius of the handwashing scoreboard was that it accomplished both — your colleagues are washing their hands AND you can see the number increase as you wash yours.

One way you can implement one or both of these motivators in your business is to think about the company’s relationship to each other and the individual’s relationship to the future. How can you use social incentive or positive peer pressure to drive the change you are hoping for?

We all care about the future.

Across the board, agree or disagree on politics or policy, we care about future. Yet, we have trouble processing negative information about the future. How can you focus on progress or incremental gain to fuel the change you are hoping for?

It’s hard to see this and not think about politics (at least for me).

Social incentives and immediate rewards are never as prevalent as in politics.

Unfortunately, what feels right and what feels good tend to conflict with what we need to do for the future.

This is why political donations spike in the last couple of weeks of an election. At that point, it’s basically too late. But that’s when people are paying attention, the urgency kicks in and the immediate reward is the winner and loser will be declared in the near future. The problem is that’s not when it matters. It matters at the very beginning when donations and support build the foundation that grow more and more money. Giving early can translate into 100x or 1000x your donation because it’s like a snowball rolling downhill.

Unfortunately that’s when we’re still hedging our bets or deciding who we want to support.

By the time we get to the last few weeks of an election, not only is the money less effective but the type of spending in the final weeks tends to be broad and less effective (i.e. TV ads).

All that to say, when do you choose to pay attention and when do you choose to care?

Not just about politics but whatever problem you are attempting to solve.

This is not a public service announcement to get involved in politics. Instead, let’s draw leadership lessons and behavioral economics insights that will help us on all fronts — political (yes) but business, leadership and personal too.

In politics, leaning into immediate rewards and social incentives have created nonsense. For evidence, see the President’s Twitter account. But in politics, at least lately, there’s no downside to wild claims that do not need to be backed up with action. No downside!

In our companies and teams, consequences come much more frequently than every 4 years. Leaders in our organizations need to consider how to build in social incentives and reflect immediate rewards to move people toward what we want.

The reality is that our teams, just like customers / investors / regulators / analysts, are hesitant to change. Whether it’s a habit or a new way of doing business, people need incentives and rewards. Be honest about human nature and respond accordingly.

Establish a culture of positive peer pressure. Identify the right rewards that can be celebrated in the short term that build (over time) to the long term goal you are trying to achieve.

The joy of homeownership. We all have something in our homes we’d like to change / update / repair. Here’s a sequence of common issues you can identify before you buy. 60 Home Inspections in 3 minutes.

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More from St. Paul Brick Wall Zoo.

Business idea: Dad, how do I…?

I discovered this YouTube channel this week. I really enjoyed the idea. In fact, several years ago, I spent one too many nights spit balling a business plan for a new company. Teach Me To Fix.

The idea was that an on-demand homeownership app would immediately connect you with a handyman or home contractor in an emergency for advice or control an in-home crisis. Or schedule a project to video chat with someone who would teach you how to complete the project via video.

In the age of coronavirus, this may have been a valuable commodity.

In reality, the point is that homeownership is a series of decision points. Managing resources — your own time above all. Prioritizing upgrades — what is doable and affordable. Addressing anxiety — is this going to be ok?

Quote: “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” — Marcus Aurelius

Bonus Content: An extra day. Happy Memorial Day! Thank you to all the members of the Armed Services current and former who have and continue to protect us. Your sacrifice is evident daily in our communities. Thank you.

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Follow @badassboz on Instagram. CS Lewis quotes are his own.

Continued success and continue to answer well,

Written by

Thinker, curious leader, once an attorney…always trying to answer well.

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