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Inspiration for Action
The Newsletter / Edition 019
From Sylvain Labs, this is Progress Report.
In our Off-White Papers, we provide practical guidance on how to respond to our rapidly-changing world. This weekly newsletter explores those topics in real-time, with information and action steps on how to make progress now.

In today’s newsletter…
  1. Magic in the slow simmer from Cristina Pansolini
  2. Breaking free from rapid innovation from Katie Driscoll
  3. Why human ingenuity will always win from Camille Drucker
And this time, our illustrations from Nora Mestrich.
From the Field

01 / Simmer in Productivity

From Cristina Pansolini
Being productive is generally associated with a frazzled to-do list and frantic jumping from task to task. Socially, we consider "busy" people "important" people: by necessity, they *must* be experts thinking fast and acting with assurance. HBR’s recent article, “Serious” Leaders Need Self-Care Too, contrasts this association of ‘fast, busy, quick’ equals ‘big, important, expert’ to our association of slow thinking with ‘breaks, meditation, yoga, a facial, a long nap.’ But slow thinking is not self-care. It’s a crucial form of leadership and working style that allows thoughts to simmer. And everyone knows the longer the sauce simmers, the better it tastes.
Why It Matters
Slow thinking is best used for working through complex decisions, which we seem to have a lot more of these days. But slow thinking is not meant to indicate slow decision-making. Instead, it means leaders implement a more structured, measured approach to tackling challenges on a daily or weekly basis. In turn, this creates an environment where quality, confidence and collaboration are the highest priority.
One Thing You Can Do Right Now
Champion slow thinking as a legitimate form of productivity.
As another HBR article states, “The best way to resist the siren call of action is to slow down. Panic makes people want to act right now to avoid a threat, but most of the actions you are likely to take will not be prudent in the face of a potential pandemic.” It works because A) slow thinking allows ideas to manifest and sit, the output tends to be higher quality, B) the mindfulness of slow thinking makes employees, and leaders, more confident in decisions, and C) putting frantic emails down to truly listen to others leads to creative collaboration.

Tips to start thinking slow, real fast:
  • Encourage time-blocking on team calendars to create protected space.
  • Build templates to work within, bringing structure to the thought process.
  • Attribute moments of success to this measured approach through leadership praise.

02 / In Defense of Slow Innovation

From Katie Driscoll
From slow food to slow fashion to slow travel, the ‘slow’ movement has been on the rise for some time now as a counterbalance to the intense pace of life we live. But what does the slow movement look like in innovation, where everyone’s ‘moving fast and breaking things’ in a race to be first to market? While speed is typically seen as a marker of success for innovation teams, we must beware of several ‘speed traps’ that this obsession with ‘first’ can present.
Why It Matters
It’s easy to fall in love with an idea and pursue it with single-minded passion, speeding to MVP and market testing. But chasing after an idea without slowing down to understand the problem can leave us blind to insights or data that might suggest a pivot. Speeding to an MVP without thinking through business model innovation can leave us with easily replicable or difficult to scale products. Speeding to market testing without properly identifying hypotheses, assumptions and isolating variables can leave us with confusing results that are near impossible to action.
One Thing You Can Do Right Now
Budget more time for understanding the problem.
Slow down to deeply understand the problem you are solving. That means investing time, money and resources to make sure it’s the right problem, and to get to the bottom of why it is a problem in the first place. Don’t rush this step, and the rest will fall into place.

We’ll leave you with this quote from Carl Honoré, author of ‘In Praise of Slowness’:
“[The Slow philosophy] is a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better. It is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace. It’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.”

03 / Humans 1, Robots 0

From Camille Drucker
The human brain isn’t without its faults. Catch one on a bad day and you’ll find it sluggish, fickle, even faulty. On its best day, our puny apparatus is still no match for the speed and magnitude of AI. And yet against all odds, human creativitynot automated performance—continues to emerge as the key to business growth as we head toward 2030.
Why It Matters
With human lives still on the line, a decline in creativity, and heightened pressure to ensure service continuity, enterprises across the globe have understandably accelerated their plans toward workforce automation. While momentarily justified, this expedited transition also risks instituting a more damaging conviction: that efficiency and consistency alone yield resilience, and that machines—designed to produce instantly and depreciate over time—are therefore more valuable than people—who are boundless but slower in their creative development and accumulation of knowledge.
One Thing You Can Do Right Now
Make a long term plan for your human talent—one designed to cultivate their creative potential.
  • What positions will you need to fill 2-5 years from now? What would hiring someone tomorrow to eventually fill that role look like?
  • What processes will need to be improved in the mid term? Could you tap a team to begin architecting solutions now?
  • What role does ingenuity play in the future of your industry? What workforce upskilling options might make sense to invest in next year?

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