My friend Faisal Hoque is a serial entrepreneur, author, and thought leader. His life is a modern story of success, failures, and resiliency – leaving Bangladesh at 17 for the United States where he has since founded businesses including SHADOKA and others. You may know his writing from Fast Company, Huffington Post, Forbes, or BusinessWeek.
I previously talked with him about The Power of Convergence. His latest book, written with Drake Baer, Everything Connects: How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation and Sustainability. Like all of his writing, it is packed with ideas.
Faisal, it’s so good to talk with you again. Let’s start with your definition of “connectivity.” What is it? Why is it so important? If it is that important, how do we cultivate it?
Being holistic and humanistic is key to a great life and doing great work.
Our individual, interpersonal, and organizational working lives all interconnect. By examining these connections, we learn new ways to create, innovate, adapt, and lead.
We need to address our own mental experiences, our social interactions, and the mindset we can take to orient ourselves to this holistic, long-term view.
We need to explore understanding that leads to long-term sustainability, the way to act in a manner that promotes mutual flourishing, and how, crucially, a leader can urge us along this process.
We need to arrange our lives and our organizations in a way that leads to long-term value creation: surveying the subtle and not-so-subtle arts of idea generation, decision-making, and creating continuous value.
The newest problems of the world find solutions in the oldest timeless practices like mindfulness, authenticity, and perseverance—because Everything Connects.
Understanding Unique Motivations
“Somewhere along the way, people become convinced that stasis is safer than movement. Consistency feels comfortable; volatility is frightening.” As a leader, how do you motivate people out of the comfortable?
I think first, we have to appreciate the interior complexity of the people that we work with. Then, we need to make the links between a person’s individual motivations and what our organizations need. In other words, link the individual–personal goals like career trajectories–to the collective group goals like innovation, revenue growth, and impacting the world.
To do this we need to understand what people need from their work in order to do their best work–and how leaders can help arrange that for them. This distinction is rooted in intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. If people are intrinsically motivated, there is something inside of them that pushes them to their work; if they are extrinsically motivated, something outside of them brings them there. They embrace the unknown, volatility. Leaders need to connect with the emotional intelligence of their people and curate their talent to change, adapt, move forward. There is no substitute for inspiration, curiosity, and passion.
The Benefits of Meditation
You place a lot of value on meditation, calling it the “batting cage for getting familiar with the fastballs and curveballs of our conscious and unconscious habits.” Off the top of your head, what are the top three benefits of meditating?
Meditation allows us to be more ”awake” or “mindful.” As we wrote in Everything Connects: “In short, mindfulness meditation allows you to better regulate your attention…more skillfully relate to your emotions, and–perhaps more startlingly–loosens your conception of self.”
It allows us to discover and connect:
– with our authentic self
– with the present (the world we live in)
– with the future (the world we want to create)
Turning to innovation and creativity, you point to the fact that the brain has a “lizard brain.” In order to be creative, this part of our brain first demands safety. Since most of us want to be more creative, how do we ensure safety?
A lot of that safety has to do with how we look at time.
Let’s expand this argument to a philosophical level: By privileging hours over results, we distract ourselves from asking if we’re using our minds in the best possible way, resulting in a life style or a culture that is only accidentally mindful, if at all. Orienting our working lives around the hours we put in is a way of avoiding the responsibility of using our consciousness and our energy in the best possible way. Orienting around the end product (and present process) helps us to be more rigorous with the way we align our experiences with our outcomes.
And preserving time comes from consciousness management. If we want to be creative, we need to provide the time and space to do the work we need to get done. And this applies for self and organization. We do more and achieve more when we manage consciousness vs. time – it’s a great paradox.
You recount a famous story about Albert Einstein. He said that if he had an hour to solve a really tough problem, he would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and 5 minutes solving it. Most of us are so busy that we have that backwards. What recommendations can you share to move to an optimum level?
I know from a lot of failures that when we get solely focused on doing and finding the solutions, we loose sight of what problem we are trying to solve. As a result we create a high degree of complexity and lack of focus.
Relentless Innovation author Jeffrey Phillips argues, our busyness begets “a foreshortening of time”: we are habitually busy, and so we focus on the next activity, next day, and next fire rather than being able to give time to issues that require deep concentration. Being mired in tasks becomes the normal thing to do.
This is what happens when the quantitative has a stranglehold on the qualitative. It goes back to being ‘mindful’ about the problem we are trying to solve. As Einstein’s quip suggests, the framing of the question is an outsized portion of the solution-finding process. When we ask the right question, the answer becomes mechanical–so clearly we need to be privileging that process–which has a rhythm of introspection every step of the way.