December: It's the time to disc-, no wait, distill...

(This is from Edition 23 of The Upleveler, our weekly smartletter)


For many, December is a lame-duck month that you just want to see out.


For there's an entire 1/12th of the year left to use. It's also a month you should look to distill all the learning and insights and ideas from the previous 11.

[Promo Plug: each year, we do a form of distilling by producing our annual calendars. We take things we've learned about and put them into a format that can be easily shared with people. Take a look at our 3 calendars here.]

One way to think of a year is to split it into an "explore" phase and an "exploit" phase. You spend part of the year casting the net wide for insights, and then you spend another part of it trying to optimize an outcome based on these insights.

The mistake we often make in many information-based settings is to go with the first option, the default, or the nearest. So, unsurprisingly, a common part of many frameworks is to widen your perspective and to defer judgment until absolutely necessary.

Take the following three:

1. How to brainstorm better (by IDEO, the innovation consultancy): First, go for lots of ideas. To have a great idea, first collect many ideas, good or bad.

2. The WRAP model of making better decisions (in the book 'Decisive'): The 'W' stands for 'Widen Your Options'. One villain of decision-making: not realising that we've gone with very few options.

3. The Pre-Mortem (by Gary Klein): What are the ways in which your project will have died?

You see the pattern? First go for breadth, only then does judgment and depth enter the picture.

Explore and Exploit

There's a well-known strategy in the world of algorithms called 'Explore and Exploit'. Many have tried to apply this to other aspects of life: approaching a career (trying many things first and only then committing to one path) to financial planning and resource allocation, and so on.

At Choose To Thinq, we have also taken such an approach: right now, apart from the work we do at CTQ we also have sub-arms that work on quizzing-based engagement and on connecting kids with Indian culture. Things are in 'explore' phase for a long time and then when the time is right, you move to 'exploit'. And yes, for the ability to 'explore', it helps to have a strong base of curiosity and openness.

So, returning to December: instead of seeing it as a lame-duck month, can you see it as a time to 'exploit' all you've experienced in that year? One way to do this is to sow the right seeds for for next year. So get exploiting.

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