Beyond new resolutions and fresh mojo, I look forward to January for the forecasts. I get giddy to dive head first into Pinterest Predicts, Ford Forward, Pantone’s Color of the Year, and the hundreds of other corporate reports that take their best guesses at what’s coming in the new year. 

But this year, I’m far less excited to dive in. 

If I’m being honest, I’ve struggled to devour news the way I used to. Hard news is exhausting, and clever or surprising cultural updates feel harder to source. Now granted I could be distracted this year, shorter on time for morning reading — but still, I think there’s a fundamental lack of motivation to catch-up on all the trend reports that goes deeper than distraction or time. 

So, what gives? As someone that was completely blindsided by this entire year’s unfolding, shouldn’t I be eager to read, lest I miss the next global curveball? Shouldn’t I want to know what’s around the bend? I should. I should want to be better informed for next time. And I do. 

It’s just that this year reading trend reports doesn’t feel like any fun. It feels more like a chore. 

I’ve been unsubscribing to dozens of newsletters a week. Last weekend I tried reading 3 articles from every tab across New York Time’s homepage, and I was left with not a single spark of inspiration. And as I keep having these periods of reading without finding any spark, I’ve noticed the time I spend reading has dwindled. 

HALP, what’s wrong with me? Can I not find anything interesting any more? Is the news getting worse? Am I ill? 

I heard something funny.  

No not ‘lol’ funny. More funny in the way people say ‘that’s funny’ when they don’t believe something. Here’s the story: Roger Martin, a Professor Emeritus at the Rotman School of Management at University of Toronto spends a lot of time thinking about interdisciplinary thinking. He’s quick to recognize the pitfalls of an MBA education that typically teaches otherwise bright scholars to match broad, worldly problems to a single categorical solution. That’s not what’s funny. 

What is entertaining is the outcome of an experiment. Professor Martin created a set of exercises to help MBAs think more expansively: To help them let go of “matching” a problem to the most accurate pre-taught case study or model and embrace more of a “mix and match” style solution. 

Some 10th grade school teachers learned of this set of exercises and wanted to try it on their own students. They tried it, and their students picked up this ‘higher education skill set’ in no time despite many less years of professional and academic experience. 

Then elementary school teachers wanted to test their kids with these exercises too. This seemed preposterous at first, but in fact the participating first graders proved to be excellent at brainstorming solutions outside of initially provided options. 

Isn’t that funny that 7 years olds proved to be exceedingly better than MBAs at problem solving. Professor Martin pointed out one reason for these results is that kids have an advantage because they have nothing to unlearn. Meanwhile many adults become conditioned to assess options and judge which one is better — rather than asking if they can make up a new way forward. 

Now that’s not only funny but also sounds like way more fun.

Trends forecasts, good ones anyway, do what the kids do. They reveal the intersection of disciplines and identity the untapped potential in those in-between spaces. 

And as a reader that typically enjoys tracking the emergence of trends, I’m realizing my lack of reading is making the few moments I do make time to read less enjoyable. I don’t have enough ideas to ping pong against each other as I work my way through an article. 

Have you ever noticed how articles are so much more engaging when your brain goes ‘bing’ ‘bing’ ‘bing’ making connections between something else you read? It’s just like good conversation – there should be an easily flowing link between one thought and the next. 

At least it’s still January. 

I think it’s back to the resolution drawing board. Gotta find more time to read. It’s a must. Reading just a little bit is no fun. Hopefully I’ll be back to the blog soon with some fresh ideas of what’s to come in 2021. 

Pandemic, you haven’t scared us away from making our predictions. If anything, you’ve revealed just how important it is to keep our eyes wide open, connect the dots, and keep our word count diets nice and full. 

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