(1) a procedure for solving a mathematical problem in a finite number of steps that frequently involves repetition of an operation.
(2) broadly: a step-by-step procedure for solving a problem or accomplishing some end (source)
Due to the outsized influence that technology has come to hold over our lives, nowadays, we tend to associate an algorithm with search engines and social networks. But, an algorithm is simply a procedure for problem-solving.
With or without the internet, we have problems to solve.
So, my fellow aspiring superhumans, let’s examine where else we might want to consider using algorithms.
The human brain is the most complex computing device we know of. The problem is that not much of the code is open source. So, we’re often left guessing about how it works the way it does, or falsely assuming we have an airtight theory of mind.
If you were to spend any considerable time going down the rabbit hole of neurodivergent content on TikTok — typically ADHD and Autism — you would quickly learn that not all human beings think the same way. What I’m about to share with you may seem counter to the way your brain works, or it may seem completely obvious to think this way.
Many people on the spectrum of neurodivergence are wired to more easily see patterns. At the same time, many people on the spectrum may struggle with certain aspects of social interactions such as picking up social cues or understanding the impact of body language. As a result, the way many people on the spectrum have learned to fit in or work in neurotypical environments is to mask their difficulties by looking for specific behavior patterns in others and then executing a process for delivering appropriate responses and behaviors.
This is an algorithm. It is the methodical assessment of a situation, followed by a process for arriving at a solution. We all do this, whether you are neurotypical or neurodivergent. It happens consciously and unconsciously all of the time from knowing when it is safe to cross the street to understanding the range of appropriate responses when someone mentions a death in the family.
One immediate way to grow, in virtually any area of your life is to write and install new algorithms in your personal operating system.
I’m going to give you three examples of algorithms that I use regularly.
Leadership and Culture Algorithm
Let’s say you want to understand how to be a better leader and build a better culture.
Throughout the process of writing The Lovable Leader, I kept looking for an underlying through-line. I wanted something that would tie it all together; a simple formula that could be used to explain all of the complexities of great leadership. After all of the smoke cleared from everything I’d written during the draft phase, I noticed three foundational elements that everything else rested upon.
The three things are care, trust, and ensuring safety along the way toward a goal. Now, no matter the leadership challenge, I have an algorithm to run.
- Is there enough care?
- Is there enough trust?
- Are the goals clear?
- Is it safe to pursue those goals?
Answering these four questions, in any order, will reveal where the leadership challenge is. It is an immediate way to diagnose any leadership challenge. It is my leadership algorithm and while it looks like magic from the outside, my ability to quickly diagnose leadership challenges and design solutions is nothing more than a formula.
To expand this conversation from leadership to culture is simply a matter of making sure that everyone on the team installs this same algorithm. When everyone on the team is committed to care, building trust, and ensuring mutual safety on the way toward shared goals, culture will thrive. When any of those are missing, diagnosing the problem becomes much easier.
I follow this process to solve a problem.
I’ve been a writer for most of my life and communication is something I’ve always enjoying learning about. As a result, I’ve picked up a number of different frameworks that I use in my communication algorithm.
If I need to write an outline for an email, keynote talk, or a blog post, I use the 3×3 framework.
Look. back through my back catalog of posts, and you’ll see it show up more often than not. I follow this process to solve a problem.
If I need to fix a mistake of any kind, I use the 3 A’s method. Acknowledge, Apologize, Act (I’ve also added Ask). I do this to make sure I’ve covered all of the important parts of fixing a mistake and communicating with those affected. I follow this process to solve a problem.
If I need to quickly pitch an idea, I use the ABC method. Because stories are such an effective way to convey information, I use a story that begins with the problem (A: Awful), what an improved situation would look like (B: Better), and then how we can go from the problem state to the solution state (C: Connector). Watch me do it here and here. I follow this process to solve a problem.
Personal Growth Algorithm
I’m obsessive about personal growth and expanding my potential. I’m not sure I can tell you exactly why. That said, I’m always on the lookout for tips on how it works so I can learn it and share it with others. It’s also why this blog and podcast are called Becoming Superhuman.
I wanted to understand how geniuses and polymaths removed barriers from their path to grow without limitation. What I discovered by looking at various theories and practices was a set of core elements that I fused into my own framework that I call The Superhuman Framework.
I follow this process to solve a problem.
When I want to learn something new or grow in a certain area, I go through this algorithm. I start with learning and thinking about something. Next, I move into communication as an extension of the learning and thinking process. This begins the process of getting out there as a leader which is further solidified and improved by way of taking action. This resets the process as I learn and think about it further. This is the cycle of growth leading the acquisition of new superpowers and ultimately becoming superhuman.
The Opportunity for Algorithms
These are just some of mine. They might be useful for you, they might not. The point is to illustrate the creation and installation of a new program you can use to solve a problem. You are not a computer, but you are already running programs. The question is whether or not you’re due for an upgrade?
Look at the areas of your life where you feel challenged. Search for where you feel yourself confined to a state of reaction rather than conscious, deliberate action. Identify the opportunities for you to approach and solve problems. Then, write the algorithm for how you will approach the problem in the future. Write down the steps. Practice until it becomes second nature.
We are who we perceive ourselves to be blended with how we occur to others. We are our habits and behaviors. We are not fixed in stone, unchangeable, trapped in a state of stasis.
We can change our algorithms, if we want to.
PS. It’s my birthday today so do me a favor. If you like my work, please do one or both of the following as a birthday present:
- Buy my book, The Lovable Leader (and drop me an honest review), or get a signed copy here.
- Donate to Pathways to Housing PA, and help us end homelessness (since Elon is too busy buying Twitter)