Flip Flop and Flourish

I remember back in the 2004 presidential campaign, and the words “flip flop” being used critically against John Kerry on a change of position across several key political issues. A shallow carefree 20-something, the word association seemed to always conjure a Hawaiian-shirt-clad John Kerry in sandals in my mind. Flip-flops were for the beach! Over time, I learned the truth, that “flip-flopping” was a pejorative label meant to assault the character over another showing lack of grounding or confidence. Possibly bending to the whim of whatever audience is present. So it stuck. “Flip-flopping is bad. Better to form decisive opinions early and defend them with confidence.

As I grew personally and professionally, I came to learn how pathetic such a mindset can be. In my field, Data Science, those who fail to acknowledge new information and potentially re-evaluate previous hypotheses will never get past the first rung of the ladder. Each word in “data science” is equally important: Data – the completeness and organization of information, and Science – the work of continually learning and questioning. In his book Think Again, author Adam Grant describes a scientists as those “who dare to disagree with our own arguments” and that the profession requires “searching for reasons why we might be wrong.” It is a quest to continually seek truth and explain reality. But for some, it is a difficult path to follow.

What, then, stands in the way. Maybe, pride? Acknowledging that maybe, just maybe I didn’t have all the information at the beginning or that my initial judgement may have been a little emotionally biased could make me appear weak. So, I’ll convince myself that I was right, and stick to the story. Propping up anecdotal evidence and garnering support.

Does this sound like what our country and our world needs right now? People who are too proud to admit they were wrong? Time allows many great things to occur: 1) It allows new data to present itself 2) It allows us to rethink the problem when our emotions and distractions are under control. Flip-flopping, in my mind, should therefore not be discouraged but embraced. To me, someone who changes their position is someone who can demonstrate keeping an open mind and who is able to make decisions based on logic, new data, and relevance. And so ironically, I have flip-flopped on my understanding of the term flip-flop. “Flip-flopping is good. Better to keep an open mind. To listen. To question. To embrace humility. To grow.

This summer, as you put on your sandals, take a moment and think. Will you be a flip-flopper too?

7 Weeks of Rest (A Team Playbook)

Inspired by Rich Strobel’s post on LinkedIn, I wanted to take a great concept regarding Dr. Dalton-Smith’s 7 Types of Rest and bring it into action with my team at work.

The purpose of this plan is to explore the 7 different kinds of rest, and evaluate which types seem to meet unmet needs for each individual. My suspicion is that types of rest will yield different responses for each individual. By practicing each type of rest as a group, we can learn from each other and begin to take inventory of how to re-energize ourselves in the future. I’ve set the course to take 8 weeks, with the team exploring a different type of “rest” each week, and then discussing the overall feedback and impressions during the 8th and final week.

Feel free to leverage this plan with your own team, and please let me know if you have feedback or have any recommendations to improve the exercise!

As I mentioned above, the concept behind this exercise comes from a Ted Talk on Rest by Saundra Dalton-Smith, MD. 

SECTION 1: The Plan

Each week, the team will take time for a different kind of rest.  We will coordinate the “rest” exercise, and sometimes will schedule a concurrent “rest” session, and later discuss how it went and how we feel afterwards.  This way, each of us will learn what type of rest seems to help the most, and we can learn from others if there are steps or techniques that sound interesting for future “rest” exercises.

Week One: Creative Rest

Creative rest reawakens the awe and wonder inside each of us. Do you recall the first time you saw the Grand Canyon, the ocean or a waterfall? Allowing yourself to take in the beauty of the outdoors — even if it’s at a local park or in your backyard — provides you with creative rest.

The Exercise

  • Team Lead will Schedule 1 Hour for the team
  • First 5 minutes:  Read about Creative Rest (from the blurb above) 
  • Next 25 Minutes: ask everyone to choose 1 of 3 options:  (1) put on their shoes and go for a 20-minute walk (2) listen to your favorite music for 20 minutes (3) log into Flickr, Frieze, or Artsy or another art-centric website and peruse pieces for 20 minutes.
    • On your walk (or listening or viewing session), take time to notice something small or something new or interesting.  We will ask you to talk about what you noticed!
    • Reschedule if inclement weather is possible!
  • Last 30 minutes: Everyone hop back onto the call.  One-by one, share the thing you noticed.  Did this help you feel (a little) more rested?

Week Two: Sensory Rest

Bright lights, computer screens, background noise and multiple conversations — whether they’re in an office or on Zoom calls — can cause our senses to feel overwhelmed. This can be countered by doing something as simple as closing your eyes for a minute in the middle of the day, as well as by  intentionally unplugging from electronics at the end of every day.

The Exercise

  • Team Lead will Schedule 1 Hour for the team
  • First 5 minutes:  Read about Sensory Rest (from the blurb above) and ask everyone to:
  • Last 30 minutes: Everyone hop back onto the call.  One-by one, share the thing you experienced or felt (or didn’t feel). Did this help you feel (a little) more rested?

Week Three: Emotional Rest

Emotional rest also requires the courage to be authentic. An emotionally rested person can answer the question “How are you today?” with a truthful “I’m not okay” — and then go on to share some hard things that otherwise go unsaid.

The Exercise

  • Team Lead will Schedule 30 minutes for the team
  • First 10 minutes:  Read about Emotional Rest (from the blurb above) and ask everyone to
    • Write down how they are feeling.
    • “Thinking back 6 months ago, did you expect you would feel this way by this day?”
    • If possible, find a partner on this team, or in this company and share how you feel with them.  
  • Allow for last 20 minutes to have the team share their feelings in groups of 2 or 3.
  • The following day: set up another 30 minutes to meet as a group.
    • Discuss: how was the conversation.  Did it help you feel better?  Was it awkward or embarrassing?

Week Four: Social Rest

This occurs when we fail to differentiate between those relationships that revive us from those relationships that exhaust us. To experience more social rest, surround yourself with positive and supportive people. Even if your interactions have to occur virtually, you can choose to engage more fully in them by turning on your camera and focusing on who you’re speaking to.

The Exercise

  • Team Lead will Schedule 30 minutes for the team
  • First 10 minutes:  Read about Social Rest (from the blurb above) and ask everyone to
    • Set up a “for fun” call with friends or family over the next week.  Try to use “zoom” or meet in person if appropriate.
  • Since it takes time to schedule a call with others, it is not realistic to assume everyone will be able to do this within a week.  Maybe consider checking in voluntarily at the beginning of the  “Week Five” session to see if this exercise was beneficial to anyone.

Week Five: Mental Rest

Do you know that coworker who starts work every day with a huge cup of coffee? He’s often irritable and forgetful, and he has a difficult time concentrating on his work. When he lies down at night to sleep, he frequently struggles to turn off his brain as conversations from the day fill his thoughts. And despite sleeping seven to eight hours, he wakes up feeling as if he never went to bed. He has a mental rest deficit.

The Exercise

  • Team Lead will Schedule 30minutes for the team
  • First 10-15 minutes: Debrief from previous week (Social Rest).  Does anyone feel like it was beneficial?
  • Next 10 minutes:  Read about Mental Rest (from the blurb above) and discuss:
    • Are there things that any of you do to “take a break” during the day?  Are you able to “let work go” at night?
    • Ask everyone to schedule at least four 15-minute breaks the following day.
    • Set up a call at the end of the following day to debrief.
  • The following day: as mentioned, hold a 30-minute meeting at the end of the day where we can share “did having 4 breaks help you feel mentally rested?”  Please be honest!

Week Six: Physical Rest

Passive physical rest includes sleeping and napping, while active physical rest means restorative activities such as yoga, stretching and massage therapy that help improve the body’s circulation and flexibility.

The Exercise

  • Team Lead will Schedule 15 minutes for the team
  • First 10 minutes:  Read about Physical Rest (from the blurb above) and encourage w/in next 24 hours:
    • 20-minute yoga session (you will need a mat or a soft floor):
    • Plan for FULL 8-10 hours of sleep tonight!
  • The following day (or the next day): hold a meeting at the beginning of the day where we can share “did the active and passive rest help?”  Please be honest!

Week Seven: Spiritual Rest

The ability to connect beyond the physical and mental and feel a deep sense of belonging, love, acceptance and purpose. To receive this, engage in something greater than yourself and add prayer, meditation or community involvement to your daily routine.

The Exercise

  • Team Lead will Schedule 30 minutes for the team
  • First 10 minutes:  Read about Spiritual Rest (from the blurb above) and share that this one feels the most elusive.  
    • To me: things that can bring you confidence, or back to center:
      • Meditation
      • Reading about science or history
      • Prayer or Practicing Religion
      • Other interesting ideas:  Genealogy/Ancestral Praise, Crying, Fellowship on a shared interest (eg: tribal)
      • Any other ideas
  • Encourage each person to partake in 1 or more of the above over the course of the next week.
  • We will have a chance to share or discuss results from this exercise during our final meeting (mentioned below in section 2).

SECTION 2: The Results

As a group, let’s discuss this exercise and whether or not we found any value in exploring the different types of rest.

The Exercise

  • Leader will schedule a 1-hour meeting
  • 5-10 min: Leader can review each of the 7 weeks and what steps were taken.
  • 40 min: go around the room and let each individual share her/his experiences.  What types of rest were beneficial. Are you likely to try any of these again?  Anything that was uncomfortable or that you would not want to attempt again? 
  • Last 10 min: Any other suggestions on the exercises or other ideas to improve well-being?

Rise of the Gamer

No, I’m not talking about the Super Mario fiend or the World of Warcraft junkie. I’m talking about what unifies us as a human race. “Fun.” Humans desire fun.

By now, many of us have heard that we humans have an attention span of eight seconds (although, my pal Phil definitely has less). So, as marketers, how on earth will all of our hard-earned collective creative genius be recognized and appreciated by our customer?

Do you know how many hours and revisions we went through to get that shade of gray on the nav bar just right?! More than fifty.

One answer is out there. It’s games.

And the brands that can figure it out first will thrive in this new day in age. Creating portals and processes that tie in to gaming or character growth and recognition will create two invaluable assets:

  • Consumer experiences which are fun and memorable and which will create loyalty, curiosity, and advocacy.
  • Tons of actual human response data that can be consumed and analyzed creating an infinite testbed.

Not much more needs to be said about creating the “fun experiences.” I think we all get that finding a way to entertain and reward our customers will create strong affinities. I do, however, want to touch on how these data can then be used to create incredible outcomes.

First off, a game could be used to simulate shopping behavior.

Do you remember playing Sim City? All that time spent building a city, just to start over? Think of all that data which could be collected from that game. Why did the customer choose the hydro plant instead of the coal plant (maybe the customer is an environmental segment)? Why build a baseball field before a library (maybe the customer is a sports-minded segment)?  Did only 0.001% of gamers choose to build a harbor (maybe customers don’t see the value in a harbor)?

The data can be compiled to established segments and determine product value and simulate customer choice.

Second, humans can refine your analytical models.

Anyone else annoyed with Siri? Think about if Apple had invented some sort of trivia game, like “Who wants to be a millionaire.”  The list of questions could either be curated by Apple or solicited from the human playing the game. Responses would be fed back into the model and then refined over time.  At the very least, Apple should have developed some sort of feedback loop where humans could say “no, Siri, THIS is what I meant <next action>.” This feedback loop allows the algorithm to get better over time, because let’s face it, we humans are tough to figure out (and…as Boaty McBoatface helped remind us, hard to trust).

How about “voting.” Think about how Tinder has taken off (grown in popularity, I mean). It’s so easy to quickly discern taste. A game where players can quickly decide whether or not they like a certain feature could be invaluable for companies planning to release new products or enter new markets.

I’m barely scratching the surface here, guys, but the amount of value from the data we could source from interactions with games could be ENORMOUS.

10 years ago, social data was quite the rage. Companies needed to figure it out, and now, we see social marketing managers staffed within nearly every organization with even the smallest digital presence. I think we will see the same shift in gaming.

If I may be so bold, I predict that in the next 10 years, we will begin to see Gaming Strategist roles begin to pop up in organizations and agencies, as well.  These will be individuals who understand human attention, understand what creates curiosity, mystery, reward, and prowess. This individual will partner with Loyalty teams to create memorable and growth experiences, R&D teams to create market-ready products, and Sales/CRM teams to create razor-sharp targeting profiles.


Who’s already doing it?

Waze does it for driving conditions, and now Google is using them for their maps app. Foursquare was one of the first to begin giving users badges and status. Any type of “forum” nowadays gives the user’s rank alongside their comments. Rally Health and Novu are doing it for health tracking and living a better lifestyle. Mastercard has been creating games with a charity element attached to it.


Games are fun.

And games are data. The game (“fun”) component creates interest/loyalty and the side-effect of game-play data could lead to a fascinating behavioral analysis around how particular segments (or direct customers) make decisions.

Game on.  -Pete



Originally published on LinkedIn April 7, 2016.