Incite 2017


Incite is Choose To Thinq's annual anti-offsite, where we bring together a gym-ful of some of the brightest minds we know to learn, converse, discuss what the year brought us, and set the stage for the next trip around the sun. 

Our first edition (in Dec 2016) featured what we had learned throughout that year: insights from books, actions, and experiments. The keynote theme was "Surviving A.I.". This year, we took on "Learning and Transitions".


Is 'change' in the air? It certainly feels like that, with attempts to rework societies, technologies, ways of living and working. All of us have made (and will make) transitions in life. Teaching ourselves new things are a key part of such changes. It made eminent sense to pose this as the central theme to a group that has excelled at self-learning and transitions.


Incite 2017 began with a round of introductions. This year, we got all our participants to tell us about interesting transitions from their life. The introductions were followed by a short question about them for everyone to answer. We moved on to "#This Year I Learned", featuring tidbits from CTQ's reading and experiences in 2017. For one, 2017 was a year when they had to deal with stolen wallets, and for another, it was reducing dairy products from his diet not because of a love for animals, but because livestock emit so much methane. Here is some more of what came up:

  • The idea of 'einstellung',  a word for the tendency to become stuck in our ways, act/think in th e same away even when presented with alternatives that are better.
  • There are two leading theories to explain 'choking' (i.e. snatching defeat from the jaws of victory): The Explicit Monitoring Theory which tries to explain this by focussing on how previously automatic actions start getting consciously monitored, and the Object Relations Theory which suggests a feeling of guilt associated with winning
  • Amar Chitra Katha founder Anant Pai was once taught by noted writer-musician P L Deshpande, who encouraged him to learn English
  • 'Just Lunch' is a dating service that only sets up first dates as lunch meetings so as to form an opinion without feeling obliged to come back for a second date
  • How the Sun still does not set over the British Empire
  • Why the current NSA of the United States once banned Powerpoint ('It's dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control')
  • Don't eat apricot kernel shells (take our word for it - they are poisonous)


A new segment at Incite 2017, Sounding Board sessions allowed participants to get ideas and feedback from others on a transition they had in mind. We used CTQ's upleveling framework to guide the conversation. Each speaker began by narrating their Call: what was the target of the change, why the need for it, assumptions and so on. The group, with its varied background, then gave them feedback and suggestions to begin their Quest.

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Some examples were:

  • Becoming better at networking
  • Making a habit of writing more meaningful posts 
  • Volunteering in spare time
  • How could a successful music newsletter find its next goal
  • How could an analytical-minded person expand his horizons to include things that defy analytical approaches?


In 2017, we encountered two interesting ideas in the world of learning.

One, the Feynman Method. If you are learning something new, can you express the concepts you've learned in language that a schoolkid would understand? 

Second, the book "Thing Explainer" by Randall Munroe, which explains real world terms using the 1000 most common words. e.g. an airline cockpit control = "the things you use to steer a plane" and Mars Orbiter = "Red World Space Car"

After showing a few examples, we asked our Inciters to try putting these ideas into action. Can you try your hand at these? Some of the terms were:

  • Bitcoin

  • Strategy

  • Paradigm shift

  • Covfefe

  • GST

Now contrast the Feynman Method to puffed up titles that you see on LinkedIn or pretentious items on food menus!


As part of teaching oneself how to learn and thus deal with transitions, we looked at insights from the lives of famous auto-didacts (i.e. the "self-taught", if you apply the Feynman Method!)

Some lessons came from:

  • Scientist Richard Feynman, who paired up with an artist - they would exchange lessons on science and art every week
  • Flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia, who 'rebooted' himself as a student in his 20s just to learn from a much admired guru
  • Frank Bender, a photographer who taught himself 'forensic facial reconstruction using sculpture'
  • Performer Kishore Kumar, who, despite being not formally trained, always worked on his 'riyaaz' and used his observations about speech to bring 'dialogue into music'
  • Polymath Benjamin Franklin's 'Junto Club' - each week you shared what you learned and also brought a new and interesting story for the others
  • Primatologist Jane Goodall found a way to do a PhD in ethology even though she had no formal graduate degree in science
  • Mathematician and writer Nassim Nicholas Taleb's idea of an anti-library (and anti-resume): what is it that you don't know?
  • Quentin Tarantino, who learned from the movies and didn't know what he wasn't supposed to do while making movies

Conclusion: You just can't stop a learner!

After the last batch of Sounding Board sessions and a few light predictions about 2018, Incite 2017 came to a close. What will 2018 bring? More learning, more insights, and more conversation, for sure.