This week our guest is Harvard-train physician and Chief Innovation Officer at Betterup Labs, Gabriella Rosen Kellerman, who co-authored the recently released book Tomorrowmind: Thriving at Work with Resilience, Creativity, and Connection―Now and in an Uncertain Future.
In this episode, we take a tour of the many behavioral traits and characteristics that are becoming increasingly necessary as the structures of our work lives change in response to technological innovation. Along the way, Gabriella provides an incredible amount of actionable insights and tips on how to improve one’s work circumstances, making this one of the more pragmatic conversations on our show.
Learn more about Singularity: su.org
Gabriella Rosen Kellerman [00:00:01] A whole period of our history where we built these machines and it took a lot of creativity build those machines. But then once they were built, as we say in our book, essentially only Homo sapiens could have built these machines, but a Neanderthal probably could have operated them. There's no creativity needed or even that's beneficial in sort of moving something down an assembly line. And that is a legacy that we need to sort of shrug off now.
Steven Parton [00:00:39] Hello, everyone. My name is Steven Parton and you are listening to the feedback loop by Singularity this week. Our guest is Harvard trained physician and chief Innovation Officer at Better Up Labs, Gabriella Rosen Kellerman, who coauthored the recently released book Tomorrowmind: Thriving at Work with Resilience, Creativity, and Connection - Now and in an Uncertain Future. In this episode, we take a tour of the many behavioral traits and characteristics that are becoming increasingly necessary as the structure of our work lives change in response to technological innovation. Along the way, Gabriela provides an incredible amount of actionable insights and tips on how to improve one's work circumstances, making this by far one of the more pragmatic conversations on the show. One quick note There was some technical difficulties on my end with my microphone during this recording, which I put great effort into cleaning up to make it sound as good as possible. Unfortunately, it did diminish quality a little bit. Luckily, that has been resolved. And anyway, you're here to listen to Gabriella, not to me. And so with that in mind, everyone, please welcome to the feedback loop. Gabriella Rosen Kellerman Well, I think the best place to start, obviously, is with your new book Tomorrow Mind, which impressively for a first book you did with Martin Seligman, who is obviously a titan of the psychological world, what was it that brought about this book in your collaboration with Marty?
Gabriella Rosen Kellerman [00:02:19] Yeah. So in 2017, at the request of Better App CEO Alexi Robichaux, I started Betterup Labs, which is a research organization that studies the needs of full time employees as humans, trying to live fulfilling lives, trying to succeed and grow in their careers and their professional skills, but also as and, you know, self-actualized beings. And there is some science around that, but there's also way more that we don't know so that the lab's goals are to understand what are the needs, and then to figure out if we have the science to serve them or if not, then to go out and do the science accordingly. So started that in 2017 and went out to recruit a number of key scientific advisors. So we brought on that year. Adam Grant, Sonia Mirsky And number of others, and Marty was my very first top of my list of folks to collaborate with and builds with. And so we began that and he's been the most important advisor for the lab for sure, and a key inspiration even before we had met him. For Adi and Alexi, our founders, in terms of what we're trying to do, I better up by scaling the science to as many people as possible. And, and and so the nature of the work is typically topical, right? Where identifying specific needs. For example, prospecting was one that when we first started working together, Marty was already very interested in. I felt a ton of conviction, continue to feel a ton of conviction that it's a skill that we need to be a lot better at than we are and also that we can grow in it. But at the same time, and we had this broader perspective forming around the nature of those needs, what determines what those needs are, the sort of increasingly canonical set of of skills that we we feel this conviction about. And so you can publish pieces of that in academic journals or even popular magazines. But to get that full perspective out there, you need a longer format in a book. Just seemed like the natural way to do it. It wasn't something we ever thought we would do or I ever thought I would do and, you know, set out to do it six years ago. But at a certain point, looking at the volume of work we were sitting on, that we hadn't been able to get out looking at this broader perspective. That didn't make sense in any other format. That's when the book kind of came into view.
Steven Parton [00:04:57] Yeah. And what is it about the modern world that you think makes it maybe special, unique compared to the history of work? You know, obviously things are changing very rapidly, which brings about a lot lots of uncertainty. And you mentioned the idea of protection there, which if you could define that and kind of bring that into the picture of why this time period might be unique.
Gabriella Rosen Kellerman [00:05:21] Yeah. So perspective and thanks for the prompt is the ability to imagine and plan for the future. It's it's not about fortune telling. It is about being able to foresee an array of possibilities. To evaluate those possibilities and then to align your planning around the possibilities that are most likely, while also keeping in your peripheral view the possibilities that are what what I think of as high fliers. Like they're a very small probability, but if they happen, you want to do what you can with some limited resources today to get ahead of them. And the the nature of our our world of work, which there's, you know, so much has been written about it and probably in like the sixties or 70 years was when military theorists started coining a number of terms and frameworks that are really helpful in thinking about the world of work today. And they were doing that because the world of warfare was actually changing in many similar ways ahead of where we are today. It was going from this sort of hierarchical everything fought in these linear battles to this much more distributed, highly contingent and more fluid, dynamic, constantly changing battlefields with, you know, where individual soldiers are out on their own, needing to read the environment in the context and make decisions for themselves, not receive commands from anyone else, because no one else knows what they're up against except for them. And and so the frameworks provided by those folks were like the VUCA acronym Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. A really great description of our world of work today and successfully adopted to inform strategy among other applications in the modern corporate world, as well as this idea of complex wicked problems. So these are problems that describe most of the most, most of the critical challenges in in the modern world of work where there's not a simple solution to them and where the inputs are constantly changing, where as soon as you advance a solution, it changes the problem space. And so now you haven't really solved anything. You just have a brand new set of problems. All of that's being driven by a few things globalization for sure, and technology, which in addition to changing the nature of work because it absorbs certain forms of work, it really just changes our communication with each other, which then accelerates globalization. And it means again that things can change so quickly that people at the edges of the business are seeing things for the first time that no one else in the business even knows about. So they need to be enabled around it. And then I think the abundance of of investment capital, you know, even in a in a recession or a downturn, there's so much capital available to start new initiatives. And that means that no corporation, no matter how advanced, no matter, you know, how much they've dominated the market, is safe from disruption and safe from newcomers. And all of that yields a working reality where every quarter is different than the one before, where we can't predict with clarity what's going to happen. We can't pick a project and just work on it for several years, which is something taken for granted by previous generations. And we need to pivot and walk away from things we've put our hearts and souls into for 18 months or, you know, even six months. It can be really hard to walk away from that and do something else. And it's no one's fault. It's just the entire landscape has changed in that time. And that is very different from the world of work that we evolved within as hunter gatherers. There are some similarities in the sense that hunter gatherers individually were in touch with their environment, right? There wasn't the sense of the command and control. We were out there making use of what was abundant and available and figuring out ways to do that, and that required a lot of creativity. So in some ways we get to return to that native creativity, which I think is very beautiful. And at the same time, of course, the pace of change, the complexity, no, no species is designed for that that we know of because it's such a novel environment to to exist in. And so we really have to adapt to that perception is one of these capabilities that the more we can get better at positioning ourselves against an array of possible features. So we're agile at any given moment and it helps restore our agency, It helps us feel more centered and calm and capable and, and and that's, you know, one of the five skills that we talk about in the in the book. And hopefully that answers your question as to why it's it's so essential today.
Steven Parton [00:10:24] Definitely. Well, I want to get into some of the traits that can help us navigate what you're talking about there. But before we do, you brought up something that I think is interesting, which is this kind of idea of. Flattening the hierarchy and more of the impetus or accountability being put upon the individual rather than just kind of a command that comes down your way. In some ways, I think people like that idea of having some increased autonomy, but in other ways that feels very daunting. Some people don't want to take on all of that accountability. So as we, I guess, think about how work is changing. Can you maybe address if flattening hierarchies is a benefit? And what this really does mean for organizations that might be pushing more of this decision making on to just your everyday average employee who's kind of in the weeds making decisions?
Gabriella Rosen Kellerman [00:11:19] Yeah, I mean, it's a complete reinvention of how we work. So it's not to be underestimated in terms of the impact. I do think it's possible to thrive in a command and control environment, and I think it's possible to thrive in a more distributed hierarchy. And we need different skills we have to do to succeed. And either we also need our leaders to have different skills. And so one of the shifts that we talk about in the book and I think is is really important. It's part of what and, you know, I spend time with companies talking about and helping them with is that leaders today need to enable the people beneath them rather than delegate or in even instruct in some ways because they are not themselves going to be in touch with the edges of the business. Each person is again seeing this reality that they need to respond to more quickly than they can consult with their leader to know what to do. And so in that sense, a leader becomes more of a coach than a manager, than a manager implies. Like there's a static reality and you're pushing work around and a coach is someone who embeds skills, helps people build skills so they're able to respond to that. And that's a very different type of leadership than a lot of people are prepared for, even want. So part of that is systemic change that needs to go along with that is clear expectations around what does it mean to be a manager today? Well, who's going to be the right fit for a role like that? And for people who it's not a good fit for, who really have no interest in that kind of a role, how else can they kind of progress in their career so that they don't feel they it's a, you know, a round hole square peg or the opposite and that they we need authentic ways to grow and it's not going to serve anyone well if there's only one path. And that path you know is is increasingly being occupied by people who who don't authentically want to develop those those leadership skills. And I think autonomy and agency is really important to our well-being. One of the counter points to that is that to thrive in a lot an environment of high autonomy, we need a high degree of self-efficacy. So self-efficacy is it's kind of like self-confidence, but you can have false self-confidence, whereas self-efficacy is something you build by witnessing your own successes. We build it by small incremental wins, and eventually we attain a feeling of mastery. And that sense of mastery transfers from one domain to another. So, for example, if I set out to lose £10 on a diet and I'm successful in doing that and now I feel a certain level of confidence that I can actually achieve goals in other domains as well. And that is something that managers, parents, teachers are really good at helping people develop. And so that's another part of the new role of the manager is as you're working with people to decide what are the goals, what are those key outcomes that they're going to be responsible for achieving, scoping those appropriately. So, you know, again, as as a modern manager, you're not going to tell people what activities to do. You're going to tell them what outcome they need to get to and then figure out the activities. But you've got to scope that appropriately so they actually can achieve that goal. And as you do that, you can remove more of the scaffolding, make the goals more and more ambitious because they're developing self-efficacy, which then helps them thrive with autonomy rather than be sort of overwhelmed by it.
Steven Parton [00:15:09] Yeah, well, in terms of aligning oneself to the task and you mentioned in the book that during the Industrial Revolution we basically began to let the machine set the pace of our work. And I wonder how you feel we're navigating that now. You know, how, how does one kind of embrace that sense of efficacy, of mastery, of competence when they feel like they're kind of grasping at a very fast moving, you know, technological pace of change that they feel they need to keep up with, but they're not really getting time to harness much confidence or skills.
Gabriella Rosen Kellerman [00:15:45] Yeah, that's a great question. So we try to spend time in the beginning of the book and making very clear that the project of thriving at work today, it's not about any one moment of change, it's about being prepared for the. The vast universe of change that we're always in. And there's this analogy by our colleague John Seely Brown, who was the director of Xerox PARC in the early days, and really a legend in a Silicon Valley history. He talks about today's world of work as the White water world of work. So, you know, if a century ago it was more like a steamship that was sailing the ocean and then maybe last last generation, it was a sailboat where we're now kayakers in the white water, often on our own, constantly surrounded by change. And so to feel that we can cope, to feel resilient, we need to accept that it's not about like a day of white water. It's not about a week of white water. It's not about a particularly gnarly rapid. It's about a lifetime in the white water. And if you need a break, you can get off the river and stop working for a while. But we need income. We need to earn. So accepting that the project is to be able to thrive in this pace and in this environment. The first skill in our book is resilience, and that's where I always tell people who are struggling to focus and we break down five drivers of resilience. And these are the pillars, you know, based on studying hundreds of thousands of people and what leads some to have resilient outcomes and others not to you. These are the key psychological drivers of whether you are able to achieve that level of equanimity and that level of just being able to be in the white water and have a sense of centeredness and calm. Self efficacy is one of those five. By the way, it's a key driver of of resilience.
Steven Parton [00:17:51] And what are some what could you say the other four.
Gabriella Rosen Kellerman [00:17:54] Yeah, absolutely. So the five are optimism, which is a tendency to believe that a positive outcome is possible, even likely, but a realistic, positive outcome. We're not talking about, you know, a magic genie or or even even just something that's a little more fantastic. We're talking about something that can is actually within the realm of possibility, and it's a positive outcomes within that realm and cognitive agility, which is our ability to switch back and forth between the forest altitude and the trees. So in the white water, we always have the rapid immediately around us that we have to cope with. But there's new information coming, there's water coming behind us, there's information coming from the sides. There's trying to see ahead to how are things going to accelerate and maybe just ten feet. How do we go back and forth between those so we can focus our attention closely where we need to but not miss the signals coming from a higher altitude? We talked about self-efficacy, emotional regulation, as is a huge one. And for many people, this is a lifelong project that's really all about how do we understand our emotions, accept them, but not react, rather respond, respond thoughtfully. And so it's about taking a pause when we're having a very emotional reaction and and reappraising from a more centered place. It is very much about negative emotions in the sense that we want to use those and receive them, but not be overwhelmed with them. I also like to speak about the positive side of emotional regulation, which is that we can take positive emotions and amplify those and savor those. Right. And so we know there's so much data about performance and well-being and life long lifespan. If we have more positive emotion, less negative emotion, emotional regulation can help us with both of those things. And then the last one is self-compassion, which is this idea that we are deserving of the grace that we give others in moments of difficulty. And when a close friend, for example, is going through something really tough, the way we see her or him in that environment is very different than the way we feel about ourselves in that same situation. So we we have access to this beautiful playbook that says things like and that's okay, Everyone knows that you are, you know, that's not really who you are. Or in the grand scheme of things, that's really nothing. It helps us put things in perspective, not be overwhelmed by failure. So how do we direct that? Get better at directing that play back toward ourselves?
Steven Parton [00:20:40] Yeah. Would you say it's fair to call resilience the the aspect of stress management, so to speak? Do you think a big part of this is really just trying to keep yourself from going into that, you know, flight or freeze response, basically as it's been deemed these days and preventing yourself from dropping? Like System one Daniel Kahneman style thinking where you lose access to that cognitive appraisal ability, you lose access to the ability to stay optimistic. Is that really at the heart here? And are there some ways that maybe you can suggest we. You know, navigate that stress.
Gabriella Rosen Kellerman [00:21:16] Yeah. So absolutely. I think that on the low end of resilience, that's what it looks like When we have low resilience, we and we are overly harmed or overly broken by difficult circumstances. And at the high end of resilience, by the way, is the opposite, where we can grow stronger through these challenges. And so that is really the goal is the state of what Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls anti fragility. That's extreme resilience. That's where the challenges we face make us stronger. And you can see how in the white water one an advantage if every rapid you faced is making you stronger, like you're basically a superhuman. By the time you get to that to the end of the year, you know that that river. And so in terms of strategies to build resilience, each of these five, you can tackle them independently, you can tackle them in groups and clusters. And it's good to start with just a self-evaluation. So there are scales for each of those five I went through. But we also have a decent amount of intuition and insight into where we are. We think we're as good as others, if not better, and where we have room. And so let's say, for example, that optimism is a strength of mine, and self-compassion is an area that I think I'm not as good at. So optimism is something going to lean into? You know, when I find myself feeling overwhelmed by a challenge to say, okay, now I know that I can think optimistically and that's going to help me here. What is an optimistic outcome? And by the way, that the way optimism works is it keeps us motivated. So it keeps us working, doing the things we actually need to do to get out of a tough situation. Whether or not we get to that optimistic outcome, the outcome is going to be way better if we're trying and motivated than if we're not trying. And pessimism leads us to just stop trying. And that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. And on the flip side, so if self-compassion is an area that I think I can grow in when things are calmer, when I have time to invest in my own resilience building, that's something I would work on. And the ways we talk about in the book, different ways to work on on each of these. And, and and so, you know, there are exercises that you can do. You can work with a coach, you can find a buddy at work who's really good at these things. So a fun exercise to do with a large group at work is have people self-identify which of these are their strengths and, and then you know, who's kind of got that superpower that you can lean on. Usually self-compassion is low on the group at that. There's one or two kind of gurus in their room who will volunteer to to be a shoulder to lean on in a tough moment and help you learn their secrets of self-compassion. I will also say on self-compassion in particular that Kristin Neff is sort of the academic and the leading academic thinker about self-compassion. Her website. Kristin Neff, Any f f has tons of exercises on how to build self-compassion, since that's one that a lot of people need help with.
Steven Parton [00:24:26] Yeah, well, you're touching on something here that I think is a nice segway, which I know one of the best ways to deal with stress is the stress buffering hypothesis. The idea that social connections and social support are really great ways to ameliorate the impacts of stress. So one of our other traits that you mentioned in the subtitle of the book is Connection. Can you kind of talk about how maybe that can play into this? And you already kind of alluded to it a little bit there with work. We're coming together as a group, but maybe we could expand.
Gabriella Rosen Kellerman [00:24:55] On totally so so that we go through five scales in the book. Resilience is one, social connection is another. And in between those two is something called mattering, which is the need to feel that our our efforts are serving some purpose and some, you know, there's some reason to do. It's kind of a very minimal level of meaning and purpose. Those three we think of as the core of just even just surviving at work rate, we need all of those things in order to be well at work. The last two, which is perspective and innovation, is more of the super powers we can develop on that foundation of well-being. So I say that because conceptually, you know, we're embedding social connection in the sort of like must have skills and we know that social connections are essential for our well-being. We know that without it, we we suffer physically, we suffer psychologically. And in the workplace. There are two ways in which connection is essential to our performance. The first is that almost all work today happens in collaboration in some fashion. Certainly all innovation happens collaboratively, and so we need to be able to trust. Others need to be able to bridge differences because you cannot actually innovate while with others without some foundational level of trust and common language and the other dimension of connection that matters that work is with our customers. And as we think about all of the ways that technology is is providing customer service instead of humans, what that means in part, in addition to all of the the other discussions that are happening about that, the time that is left where a human is serving another human, the expectations are much higher for what's going to get delivered in that moment. There's a reason a human is being chosen instead of a chat bot to serve that person. And it's not just the complexity of the need, right? It also is about then my expectations of how you're going to treat me as a customer, what it's going to feel like to talk to you. You know, that's why there's a million surveys every time you get on a call with somebody, because companies know that those moments are matters so much for the experience of a business. So that customer delight element also really requires an ability to connect quickly with people across difference, establish a feeling of connection. And so on the one hand, it's really essential for our well-being. It's also really essential for our performance. And yet in some ways, it's harder than ever to connect with people because we are physically distributed. We're not co-located, right? We don't have a lot of time. We feel too busy to take the time and sit down with people. And increasingly we're working with people who are very different from us and in both, you know, demographic ways, functional ways, but also just this biologic sense that our brains process others, us, us or them us really means it used to mean the 50 people in our tribe that we grew up with, and the tribe next door was them as much as the tribe that was a thousand miles away. Right. So in some ways, everyone we work with is a them and we need to reprocess them to and us in order to get to that really sweet spot of collaborative flow and collaboration that's going to yield those great results for her organization.
Steven Parton [00:28:35] Yeah. Do you have any thoughts on how we can navigate that? Because I think. Touched on two things there that I think are really important and interesting. The fact that we are doing remote work does open the door for us to potentially take walks with our partners or to see friends during the day. Maybe if we like have flexible schedules or to do things that maybe do give us some sense of connection. But they really do also disconnect us from our coworkers who are arguably, you know, as the cliche goes, a bigger part of our family in some ways than our family are because we're spending so much time with them. And then on the flip side. I know a lot of people who are terrified of being seen authentically at work. They do not want to let part of who they really are off screen or away from work come through because they're afraid that if that's seen, it'll be a threat to their ability to survive. You know, they don't want to get fired for not being liked. They don't want to not get a promotion because they have a hobby that's not well looked upon. So how do we I mean, do you have any thoughts on how we kind of navigate this, this desire to be ourselves and socially and act in a world that doesn't really seem to promote it?
Gabriella Rosen Kellerman [00:29:44] Yeah. I mean, I think that challenge around authenticity speaks to a fundamental lack of trust for for those individuals. And and especially when we join a new business when we haven't established strong connections there. That's very natural. And that's a huge part of when companies think about onboarding, quote unquote, which is such a corporate term. But it's really like how do you quickly get people to feel comfortable and that they can trust the environment around them and be themselves at the individual level? So there's there's a couple of things I would I would say, and it's it's really good for us to have at least one, if not a couple of good friends at work and you don't have to feel super connected to the entire organization, but it's going to serve your well-being really well to have a couple of people. And so then the question might be, how do I build how they go about building that trust with those one or two people to start? And in our studies, we've looked at how do you overcome those three barriers that ask them barrier, the time barrier and that geographic distribution. So I'll give a couple of tips from that. On the geographic distribution side, we did a study we published recently in the journal Emotion that looked at when you do acts that are intended to connect you with people, either social acts or pro-social acts, which are slightly different forms of connecting with people. And what matters most about those acts in terms of establishing a depth of connection and authenticity of connection. What the researcher Bob Fredrickson, calls positivity resonance and and what mattered most of all of the dimensions we looked at including is it something you a gift? Is that a message? What type of message it was? Is that act done in shared time, so shared time by phone, shared time by video, or shared time in person all led to a stronger sense of connection than anything done asynchronously. So that that's one tip that if you have 5 minutes to do something kind or to try to feel connected to someone, get on the phone or get on a zoom to do it rather than send even send an email. The other piece that I think is important, and this was not our research that comes from a set of studies, in particular a study called Giving Time gives you Time by a trio of professors out of Wharton, Harvard and Yale, I believe. And what they looked at is, is to the extent that people feel they don't have enough time in the day, what actually helps them feel they have more time and they study different interventions because there are people who have exactly the same schedule and one of them is running around feeling stressed about time, and the other one's like, Oh yeah, now I'm going to go do this, and then I'll, you know, go do that. And, and it's only that latter person who's going can actually take the time to stop and connect with people and see opportunities and not feel stressed by the pressure of how do I close out this conversation succinctly so I can get on to my next task? So they looked at how do we shift people from what's called a time famine mindset to a time abundance mindset? And the only intervention that worked was, somewhat counterintuitively, giving time to other people. So if I have an extra 15 minutes in my day, what do I do with it to help me get out of this sense of time? Famine? I actually should figure out a way to do something nice for another individual. And what happens, you know, theoretically anyway, is that when we're doing that, we're using a different part of our brain. We're using a part of our brain that's more empathetic, it's more other focused, it's more connected. And that's the part of our brain where we connect better. It's also the part of our brain where time slows down. And so we we by shifting into that mode, we help ourselves connect with that sense of time abundance, which then makes us more likely to take more time to connect with people.
Steven Parton [00:33:49] Yeah, let's let's shift over to creativity now, if we can. I want to dig into that a little bit. What is it that creativity can do for us in this in this paradigm? Because it feels like in a lot of ways this could be one of the most important ones. I mean, I think they're all very important, obviously. But as the world changes very quickly and you get. Novel problems. And as you said before, very complex problems. It feels like kind of associative lateral thinking. And the ability to come up with interesting solutions is really key to navigating the problems. So how can we use creativity and the future of work?
Gabriella Rosen Kellerman [00:34:27] Yeah, I mean, I think you just you just said it really well and, you know, we need it. It's an imperative. We need it to respond to these challenges around us. And that's in stark contrast to the industrial era. So we had a whole period of our history where we built these machines and it took a lot of creativity build those machines. But then once they were built, as we say in our book, essentially only Homo sapiens could have built these machines, but a Neanderthal probably could have operated them. There's no creativity needed or even that's beneficial in sort of moving something down an assembly line. And that is a legacy that we need to sort of shrug off now, because that trained us to think of creativity as a specialized domain when in fact the way we evolved, again, as hunter gatherer, as everyone was creative, that was something we all got access to. It meant we, you know, is a source of joy and we have those capabilities still natively and but we need to culturally reconnect with this idea that we are all creative. There's still a lot of people out there and maybe people listening who don't think of themselves as creative, even though they have those same parts of the brain that everyone else does. And and part of the journey is simply understanding what creativity is and really understanding it's not about being Mozart. It's about coming up with ideas that are surprising, that are novel and that are useful. That's the psychological definition of of creativity and most creativity researchers use that. We are coming up with those ideas all the time. And so to understand that, to celebrate that, to nurture it, is actually part of the journey of becoming more creative. That identity as a creative is creative self efficacy. It's a version of the self efficacy we talked about earlier that's specific to creativity. And the higher our creative self-efficacy, our confidence in our own creative capabilities, the higher the quality of our creative output.
Steven Parton [00:36:36] What's let's talk about how we can hinder or amplify that then, too, because you mentioned before ideas and other not here in this conversation, but I've noticed you talk about creativity, hygiene and the idea of like non-conscious influences and, you know, the environmental impacts on how our brain functions are severe. So yeah, what's happening there? How can we kind of shape our world to help us?
Gabriella Rosen Kellerman [00:37:05] Yeah. Okay. So let me explain where this term creativity, hygiene came from. And I'll first say that my coauthor, Marty, really does not like the term creativity hygiene because it makes them think of, like dental floss. And I totally understand that. The analogy is more to sleep hygiene, which is a a set of practices that people who are having trouble sleeping can undertake and it helps them fall asleep. And it's things like avoiding screens at night, not drinking caffeine too late in the day. Like creativity. Sleep is an activity that requires non-conscious functioning, right? So we can't just tell ourselves to go to sleep. Although my grandfather swore that he could do that any more than we can just tell ourselves to be creative. There are parts of our brain that we don't have fully conscious control over that we need access to. And so what we've learned with sleep hygiene is you can orient these sets of conscious behaviors around a lifestyle that facilitates the activity of those non-conscious parts of the brain when you want them to be active. And we take a similar approach with creativity in creativity, there are three brain networks that are really essential to creative output. There's the executive control network, the salience network, and the Default Mood Network and the executive control network. We have a lot of conscious control over the salience network somewhat, and then the default mode network, very little. That's where our daydreaming happens. That's where associative thinking happens. And so the goal of this, what we call creativity hygiene, is how do you arrange your life in a way to facilitate really rich inputs to that default mood network and rich associative activity for the default mode network? As an example, we know that creativity happens in incubator free periods. So we're working on a creative problem. Let's say. Let's say, you know, you and I get together, Stephen, and we are at a whiteboard and we're thinking what our problem, whatever the problem is, we're thinking about it. And then we say, okay, you know, it was a good day's work. Let's go home. Maybe it's the weekend. We'll get back together on Monday and think about it some more. Well, over the weekend, whether or not we're trying to we're both incubating that problem. And the best incubation happens when we are not doing something, a task that's really heavy also when we're not doing nothing. So you don't want to be sitting around doing like multivariable calculus. You also don't want to be lying in bed doing nothing. You want to be doing what we called just little enough, sort of like takes the edge off of that executive control function, something like bicycling or weeding or some other form of exercise. It could be it could be something like taking a hike. People often find they have great ideas in the shower because in the shower you are doing conscious activity, you're active, but it's something you can kind of do on autopilot that is really good for incubation. So to facilitate, you can we can't control what the default in network is doing, but we can put it we can optimize its output by getting into those one of those just little enough modes of activity when we're incubating. That's one example of this set of practices we have around creativity, hygiene.
Steven Parton [00:40:30] Yeah, Well, okay, so you've articulated a lot of wonderful ideas here and you've made a really great argument about how accessible this is, but I'm going to put a question to you that you might get, but pretty often. But does this feel like a luck set of luxurious ideas? Right? There's the idea that David Graeber put forth bullshit jobs, right? And a lot of us work bullshit jobs. There really is not room to be creative. There is not room to be autonomous. It's a bullshit job. How do you reconcile the ability to tap into these more luxurious, maybe aspects of self with the fact there is socioeconomic pressures that are hard to get out of?
Gabriella Rosen Kellerman [00:41:13] Yeah, and so it's a really important question. I would extend it also to, you know, those bullshit jobs are so largely focused on Western society. There's, you know, lots of places where you cannot choose your job. You are just going to be laboring in the fields. You have no other option and. And and there's a really healthy and important debate in different aspects of this work. You know, people study different dimensions of all of this. And to say, is this purely a Western construct? Is this something universal that we have a right everyone in every culture has a right to expect from their work? Here's what I will say on the bullshit jobs front. And we have a whole chapter devoted to this idea of mattering, and we actually talk about that bullshit jobs book in that in that chapter. And there's there's a, a larger conversation about meaning and purpose at work. And we have published around meaning and purpose at work, and we talk about that too. But part of the reason we've gravitated toward this idea of mattering is because it's like this very minimal level of what every human being we believe, every human being has a right to expect of their work. And whether you're a laborer in a field or you're answering phones for a call center in somewhere in India, you know, you should believe that there's a purpose to your work. And if there is really no purpose to that labor, it's not serving anyone. It's not producing any any kind of value, then that is inherently a bullshit job. And it is it's really hard to thrive in that kind of an environment. It's also hard to understand why someone would pay you to do it. And so it's you know, that then is a question about some broader system around you that just wants to keep you busy. And that's like a whole other field. Yeah. So we won't we won't veer there. But I think that this idea of mattering as a very basic requirement of what we can expect from a work, and then also something that we can draw meaning from in whatever sense that work matters. I do I do believe that that is universal. And the creativity side, you know, our we're really talking about jobs and trends that are most impacting the Western world. However, because we are an increasingly global world, they're coming faster to every region. And to that extent, people in all regions will increasingly be needing to reinvent themselves, to change careers, to acquire new skills. And so I do think that the the areas that are not yet impacted by this is that they will it will soon be coming to all of those places. And I hope that this work will make it to them in time.
Steven Parton [00:44:07] Yeah, as we kind of get close to our time here, I want to this is one question I like to kind of end with when we're having these big conversations is the magic wand question, so to speak. If you could wave a magic wand and kind of change some of the the modus operandi of the average business in the world, if you could change how they function, the way that maybe are is doing things, maybe some legislation, policies that could help economically. Are there things that you would do if given the power that you think would just quickly elevate people's potential to thrive and just feel better as individuals?
Gabriella Rosen Kellerman [00:44:47] Yes. My magic wand, the target of magic wand would actually be elementary, middle and high schools and the mandated curriculum in those schools. So at some point we decided there should be something called physical education and have kids run around because it's good for their physical well-being. And I believe that we should have mandated education around our psychological well-being and teaching kids age appropriate skills to build up resilience from a younger age. And I think, you know, it would not necessarily solve but really make a huge dent in the workplace problems that we see. It would also make a huge dent in this epidemic of teen mental illness that we're seeing right now. And in addition to teaching those skills, I would embed in the curriculum what I think of as psychological literacy curriculum, because this field is still young, it's still changing, and we want people to get access to the latest science while they're in high school, let's say, but also be literate in how to keep up with the science as that changes so that they can benefit from future generations of science and revisit some of what they were taught when it gets debunked or improved upon ten years later.
Steven Parton [00:46:05] I want to add a little addendum to that then. What do you think about the role of technology on that age group? You know, I think I've recently had a lot of these conversations with like Jonathan, Hi and Gene 20, and we're talking about, you know, how social media in particular is affecting young women in particular. Is there something you would do to navigate that relationship of technology that the developing mind that you think would be a part of that?
Gabriella Rosen Kellerman [00:46:31] Yeah, I mean, I think that that. They those two individuals you mentioned are doing a tremendous job of exposing the level of epidemic we're facing. And I think there is some good thinking happening about how do we need to contain exposure to these technologies. And we have analogies for this all over the place, right? We we don't let kids below a certain age buy alcohol. We have movies that are rated R and we don't like kids. And so we have a societal paradigm for understanding. This is bad for little people. And I think that we need to develop those restrictions accordingly. And we're in a a level of infancy still in terms of understanding what those how those things work and how they're bad for us and deciding what are the right level of safeguards to put in place. And I will also say at the same time that I think that there are and this is part of why I work in the field that I work in, I think that there is potential for technology to help us solve a lot of these issues to obviously very different types of technologies would do that. But I think we don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater here because to reach people at scale the size of our population, you know, and in a in a world where people are increasingly online all the time and we want to intervene with people in the moments where they need it, I think we need to be embracing the potential of technology and figuring out how to use it for good.
Steven Parton [00:48:02] Yeah, one for Gabriella. Thank you so much for your time. This has been a very rich conversation. I mean, you've offered so many wonderful things here. And with that in mind, though, any closing thoughts that you'd like to leave us with? Anything you'd like to talk about, promote the book studies you're working on. Anything you'd like to point people to at all?
Gabriella Rosen Kellerman [00:48:20] Yeah. Thanks so much for asking. I would just say I the books Tamara my and available at any any major bookseller am I I do post sometimes on both LinkedIn and Instagram can find my my account's there and have a website. Gabriela is in Kellerman dot com.