It’s Not Always What You See

Came across this picture on Facebook today and loved it. The first of the 19 things your suburban millionaire neighbor won’t tell youOver the long run, you’re better off if you strive to be anonymously rich rather than deceptively poor.

Think that fancyass dude with the flashy sports cars, the country club memberships, and the expensive clothes must be helluva rich? Maybe… or maybe not. Paradoxically, a dude with a multimillion dollar income could be way poorer than you. Just ask the 60% of all NBA players who go broke 5 years after retirement. The mansions, the cars, the private jets – the owners had them all, yet couldn’t avoid bankruptcy.

Your millionaire neighbor? Probably drives a 9-year old car, lives in a modest house, spends less than what he earns, and pays off his credit cards in full every month. Warren Buffett, the world’s greatest investor, drove a humble 2001 Lincoln Town car with a license plate that read “THRIFTY”. He auctioned it in 2006 on eBay for charity, and subsequently bought the most expensive car he ever owned: a $55,000 Cadillac – probably cheaper than most cars in Singapore.

So screw jealousy. You can’t tell how rich people are just by looking at their flashy possessions.  Chances are, you just might be richer than them already. 🙂

Car (That Costs A) Bomb

I’m just gonna say it publicly – I think our public transportation system is awesome.

Okay – I can almost hear the chorus of angry, dissatisfied Singaporean voices rising up to rebuke me: But they JUST raised the taxi fares! And the MRT is totally packed with foreigners/immigrants/maids/peasants/smelly people in general! And the Circle Line broke down AGAIN. THE CEO OF SMRT MUST RESIGN!!! Oh wait she already did. THE STAND-IN CEO MUST RESIGN!! Bring out the torches and pitchforks!! Die, you richest 1% of the population! – love, the 99%.

You know what? I’ve taken the New York Metro and the London Underground on a daily basis. Breakdowns, delays, line closures, stations smelling like urine, smelly weirdos walking up and down the cars asking for cash are everyday occurrences. And then there’s rush hour. I don’t really care how much the CEO of SMRT / SBS / whatever gets paid – to have 95% of the trains and buses running on schedule, clean, and with those awesome plastic seats you can fall asleep on without contracting some strange disease – is pretty damn awesome to me.

You know what’s even more awesome than those blinking lights on the MRT map that tell you which station you’re at? The fact that taking public transport is SO MUCH CHEAPER than owning a car. No, seriously. Someone once told me that even if you took cabs everywhere you went, it would still cost less than owning a car. I kinda sorta believed that, but I didn’t bother looking at the numbers because that was just way too much work. And then I came across a great article from on the real costs of car ownership in Singapore, which shows that it costs a whopping $1,855 a month just to own a car here.

Seriously, that’s crazy. That’s even more than what I spend on everything else. You know what you could do with $1,855 a month? You could pay for university. You could eat at Ippudo (which is only like the awesomest ramen restaurant in Singapore) every single day. You could buy a Macbook Pro every month and still have change left over. You could invest it at 5% per annum (a pretty conservative estimate since the stock market has historically averaged around 8%) and end up with $281,254 after 10 years. You could…. okay you get the idea.

It baffles me why anyone who isn’t ridiculously wealthy and rolling in tha ca$h moneyyy would ever get a car in Singapore. It baffles me even more why anyone would take a friggin loan to buy a car in Singapore. Ladies and gentlemen, let it be clear that you should not be paying interest on a liability. What’s a liability? It’s something that sucks your money away, without the slightest chance of you getting it back (kind of like… children. Or your wife who spends all your money on gym memberships. Yeah, you can tell that I’m an awesome family man). Okay, if you earn a comfortable salary, and you bought your car without the help of a loan, and your monthly auto expenditure is 10% or less of your income, then you should totally get a car because you’ve earned it. But if you’re a young, just-started-working, clueless dude who just wants to get the chicks, then there are better ways to get laid (ever tried something called “talking to girls”? It’s been proven to work sometimes, and it definitely doesn’t cost $1.8 grand a month!).

“But Lionel… ” I hear you say, “It’s way more convenient. And I don’t have to wait for cabs in the rain.” Whine whine whine. I spend like $100 a month on public transport, which saves me $1,755 a month for just not owning a car. And I think I’ve only been stuck without a cab like one time for the whole of last year. Is $1,755 a month really worth that rare occasion when you couldn’t find a cab? Please – if you’re sensible, you’d save your money, plough it into investments, and earn a healthy return in the long run. Then you’d be able to afford as many cars as you want. That’s a much better choice than being in debt over a money-sucking liability.

Besides, not having a car is pretty awesome. I get to read during my morning commute. And meet random interesting people on the train. And not have to worry about parking. Or traffic jams. And predict with (almost) clockwork certainty what time I’m gonna get to my destination. And just lean back, put my iPod on, and enjoy the awesomeness that is the Singapore public transportation system.

I may not have a car, but I feel rich already 🙂

Jobs and Salaries – How the Pros Negotiate

Received an amazing and detailed article on salary negotiation by Kalzumeus  today (hat tip @ramit), complete with step-by-step instructions, scripts, and the psychology behind some of these  tactics. Love it. Some gems:

On searching for jobs

“Many people think job searches go something like this:

  1. See ad for job on
  2. Send in a resume.
  3. Get an interview.
  4. Get asked for salary requirements.
  5. Get offered your salary requirement plus 5%.
  6. Try to negotiate that offer, if you can bring yourself to.

This is an effective strategy for job searching if you enjoy alternating bouts of being unemployed, being poorly compensated, and then treated like a disposable peon.

You will have much, much better results if your job search looks something more like:

  1. (Optional but recommended) Establish a reputation in your field as someone who delivers measurable results vis-a-vis improving revenue or reducing costs.
  2. Have a hiring manager talk with you, specifically, about an opening that they want you, specifically, to fill.
  3. Talk informally (and then possibly formally) and come to the conclusion that this would be a great thing if both sides could come to a mutually fulfilling offer.
  4. Let them take a stab at what that mutually fulfilling offer would look like.
  5. Suggest ways that they could improve it such that the path is cleared for you doing that voodoo that you do so well to improve their revenue and/or reduce their costs.
  6. (Optional) Give the guy hiring you a resume to send to HR, for their records.  Nobody will read it, because resumes are an institution created to mean that no one has to read resumes.  Since no one will read it, we put it in the process where it literally doesn’t matter whether it happens or not, because if you had your job offer contingent on a document that everyone knows no one reads, that would be pretty effing stupid now wouldn’t it.”
On not offering a number before they do
“Every handbook on negotiation and every blog post will tell you not to give a number first.  This advice is almost always right.  It is so right, you have to construct crazy hypotheticals to find edge cases where it would not be right.”
“This vaguely disreputable abuse of history is what every employer asking for salary history, salary range, or desired salary is doing.  They are all using your previous anomalously low salary — a salary which did not reflect your true market worth, because you were young or inexperienced or unskilled at negotiation or working at a different firm or in another line of work entirely — to justify paying you an anomalously low salary in the future. Never give a number.”

I love this article. It’s not every day you get to read something that’s so much more than a superficial “Top 10 ways to get hired!” article. If every blogger/journalist/author got into this level of analysis, we’d have less of an info overload problem.

Some Good Investment Research… and Terrible Advice

I didn’t want to blog about investing till much later, but the Straits Times had an interesting article yesterday titled Stocks v Property. It deals with the issue of “Where the hell should I put my money?!” when it comes to investments. Everyone talks about investments, like: “yeaaahhhh I should really save up for a house… but it’s really expensive…” or “yeaaaahhh I’ve been meaning to invest for awhile now, but I don’t think I have enough time/money/interest…whine whine whine”. But very few people actually get off their ass and actually do some real research on what they should be investing in, so they either 1) don’t invest altogether, or 2) make some stupid investment decisions.

So an article like this gets some of that research done for you, which is awesome. I loved the first part of the article, which used numbers and statistics to back a case and destroy some common assumptions that we all have. The article should’ve just stopped right there, but part 2 of it gave some absolutely terrible investment advice, and I just had to say something about it, in a minute.

Some good investment research

From the ST article: “Retail investors, especially those in Singapore, tend to think of stocks as a short- to medium-term investment. When seeking a long-term investment, most Singaporean investors think of property first. 

But a recent comparison done by the Singapore Exchange (SGX) has shown that, in fact, local stocks have outperformed private residential property over the long run. In the 10 years from 2001 to 2010, the benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) gave an annualised return on investment of 4.9 per cent. Meanwhile, if you had bought property in 2001 and sold it in 2010, you would have made an annualised return on investment of 3.9 per cent over the period.”

Sure, the study excluded returns from dividends and rents, but add those into the mix and stocks have still historically outperformed real estate over the long run. And while 10 years is hardly considered to be the “long run”, other studies have shown that stocks have outperformed real estate over longer time periods (see this New York Times article).

Some terrible investment advice (esp if you’re young):

So the Straits Times article would have been awesome if it had presented the statistics, drawn a conclusion, and stopped there. But page 2 of the article had some terrible investment advice:

Mr Vasu Menon, OCBC Bank’s head of content and research, noted that such wild swings in the stock market are even more prevalent today. As a result, he said, holding on to stocks for the long term is no longer a relevant strategy in this day and age.” (emphasis added).

“So even if stocks had outperformed property between 2001 and 2010, he said, there is no guarantee that they will do the same over the next decade. His advice: Set a target for your stock investments and have the discipline to stick to it. Say, for example, that you hope to make a 30 per cent return on a certain stock within three years. If the stock somehow reaches that 30 per cent target within six months, just sell, Mr Menon said.”

Hello?! Stocks are “no longer a relevant strategy in this day and age” just because the market has been volatile and uncertain? Mr Menon obviously needs a lesson in economic history: volatility and uncertainty are NOTHING NEW to the stock market. They’ve always been there – the Great Depression from 1929, the 1940s when stocks pretty much didn’t go anywhere, the “Black Monday” of 1987, the dot-com bubble of 2000, the collapse of Lehman in 2008…  and yet the US market has averaged a whopping 9.96% annually from 1920 to 2010. Volatility and uncertainty aren’t “unusual”, they’ve been characteristic of the stock market for the past 200 years. And anyone hoping to benefit from the long-run return of the stock market would have to learn to deal with these characteristics.

Next – Mr Menon is advocating that you cut your gains short by selling as soon as your stocks make a certain amount of profit. Sure, that might prevent your portfolio from turning into a loss, but it also prevents you from ever getting rich if the stock market does take off, leaving you sitting by the sidelines and whining like a baby. If you’re a young investor with a steady income and many years of investing ahead, then Mr Menon’s advice is absolutely terrible for you. He’s right that there is no guarantee stock prices will rise over the next decade – there are no guarantees when it comes to investments (unless you consider Ponzi schemes to be “investments”) – but over a long enough time period, there’s a pretty damn high likelihood that the stock market will come out on top.

So what the hell should you do?

Let’s be clear – your job isn’t to make sure that your portfolio makes money over the next 6 months, 1 year, or 3 years. Your job right now is to ACCUMULATE as many assets as you can. Since we know that stocks are ultimately likely to give you the best return over the long run, your job is to make sure that you have as many of those assets as possible, so that your returns will be multiplied across all those assets after a long, healthy period of investing! We’re talking 10, 20, 30 years here. Who cares if volatility wrecks havoc to your portfolio over the short run – it doesn’t make a difference because you’re not thinking of selling within the next couple of years anyway. Ignore the day-to-day fluctuations, ignore the uncertainty and fear that pervade the news, and ignore the stupid, complicated investment advice out there. Investing can be simple, straightforward, and best of all, automated (I’ll be blogging about that in time to come). Stick to your guns and accumulate as many stocks as possible, and you’ll be rewarded in the end.

To me, the answer is pretty clear: multiple studies, research and 200 years of stock market history have shown that the stock market is more likely to give you a better return over the long-term. Do I think that property is a bad investment? Of course not. The best portfolio would consist of both stocks AND real estate, among other asset classes. There’s way too much to say on this topic, so I’ll be blogging more about it as we go along. But I thought I’d start us off with a little taste of it here. 🙂

How to To Save Free Money

Happy Chinese New Year! It’s that time of the year when the malls play annoying “dong-dong-dong-dong-chiaaanngggg” music, when Singapore gets a 2-day holiday (and China gets like 14), and we get to stuff our faces with pineapple tarts and abalone and those awesome prawn rolls. Oh, and single people get to receive some FREE cash money, handed to us in red packets (Singaporeans call those ‘ang pao’) by nice relatives, accompanied with the inevitable question “So… when are you getting married?” Oh, Asian relatives. Gotta love ’em. That awkward question aside, it’s helluva awesome to be getting free cash just for not being married.

Funny thing about free money – there’s been research in behavioral economics showing that people have a tendency to do something called “mental accounting” – meaning we tend to be less cautious with our winnings than we would with our earnings. That’s also the reason why lottery winners tend to end up bankrupt. Couple that with the tradition of 2 to 3 days of partying and informal gambling (Some explanation here – Chinese New Year turns the most frugal Singaporeans into hardcore highrollers, yelling ‘HUAT AH!!!’ while playing blackjack with their ang pao cash) and it’s no wonder that your newfound wealth disappears faster than a delicious plate of bak kwa. In fact, there was one year I found myself poorer than what I’d started out with, even though I’d been sitting on my ass receiving money all day. How the hell did that happen?

It’s simple – easily accessible money is easily spent. Transfer cash from your red packets to your wallet, and it’s gone. Think about another similar scenario: You’re out with your friends at dinner and it’s time to split the bill. You realize you don’t have any cash on you, so you card it and have everyone else pay you back in cash. You leave the restaurant with $200 bucks in your pocket… and promptly spend it all within the next 3 days. Sound familiar?

Easily accessible money is easily spent. Which is why I always advocate transferring your savings into a separate bank account so you can’t touch them. This year, don’t take the money out of your red packets. In fact, shove all your red packets into some deep dark corner (just make sure you can find them later). Keep ’em in there till the end of Chinese New Year, and chances are you’ll be helluva surprised at how much you managed to accumulate. Then take your newfound wealth to the bank and deposit it that same day. Think about it – it’s the perfect chance to boost your savings or use it as an initial investment into your stock portfolio (more on that later).

If you’re going to gamble, decide beforehand how much you’d be comfortable losing, draw it from an ATM, and go wild with it – but no more than that amount. Just like what you would do in a regular casino. That practice also gives you an unintended psychological advantage – Drawing your gambling funds from your bank account forces you to acknowledge that every bet affects your net worth, thereby making you less reckless, and more strategic (definitely a good thing for poker). Conversely, gambling with the ang pao money that literally fell into your lap makes you value it less, and hence more likely to lose it. (Again, notice that I’m not saying you should NEVER gamble. Part of being rich means that you can kick back, have fun, and blow some cash if you want to. Just be smart about it :)).

Sound like common sense? Of course. Everyone knows what they should be doing, but surprisingly few people actually go and do it. If you want to achieve anything great, like building up your hugeass bank account, start with the baby steps first. Once you get the small habits down, it becomes way easier to manage the larger sums of money that’ll be coming your way. Here’s wishing you an awesome (and wealthy) Year of the Dragon. HUAT AHHHH!!

Expose Your Expenses

Ever found yourself at the end of the month, checking your bank balance, and going “WHERE THE HELL DID ALL MY MONEY GO???!!” No, seriously. It’s happened to me. After some careful research, I’ve found that there are two explanations for this phenomenon: 1) You donated all your money to a “Nigerian prince”, or 2) You suck at keeping track of your expenses. Since I totally support donations to the Nigerian royal family, let’s focus on number 2: knowing where the hell your money goes to.

Why even bother?

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: “Zomg another moron telling me to ‘keep a budget’, so that I can ‘live within my means’ and ‘save for a rainy day’. ” Hear me out – it ain’t what it seems. First of all, I’m not asking you to “keep a budget” or save the receipts from every $2 cup of coffee you buy – knowing what you spend on doesn’t have to be painful.

Why bother to keep track of your expenses? Because if you want to figure out how much you wanna SAVE, how much you wanna INVEST, and how much you have left to SPEND ON BOTTLES AND MODELS (I mean, spend on things you love), then first you have to figure out how much you’re spending every month. This has two advantages:

1. You know exactly how much it costs for you to live your life – and this is a surprisingly enlightening piece of information to know. By figuring out what your “compulsory” expenses are, you’ll know that even if you earn just $1 more than that amount, you’ll never starve, or be homeless, or have to beg. If you’re a young, carefree, sexy dude like me, with no mortgage, no car, and few worries in the world, that amount is surprisingly small. Think about it – it’s a helluva refreshing feeling to know that you always have the option to switch to a happier, lower paying job if you wanted to, because to live your life, you only have to make enough to cover your low, low, low expenses. Here, I’m only talking about the essential, “compulsory” expenses: rent, food, transport, insurance, fuel, etc etc (Hint: if it’s boring, it’s probably an essential expense).

2. By knowing what you spend on, you can quickly identify all the useless fat in your life, the ones that are silently sucking your money away without you even noticing, and DESTROY them. There was a time when I didn’t check my bank statement for like, 2 years, because I didn’t want to think about money (oh, I was young and naive), but when I finally did, I realized I was paying like $10 bucks a month for some magazine subscription that I wasn’t even reading anymore. That shizz was outta there faster than you could say “Readers Digest is lame!”

So how do I do this painlessly?

Most personal finance advisors will always start with the same old tired piece of advice: Keep a budget and save your receipts to track your spending. Or input your expenses into your phone’s budgeting app. This sounds nice and sensible, but there’s just one problem: IT DOESN’T WORK. I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to spend 15 minutes every night collating my receipts and figuring out what I spent on. Or remembering to whip my phone out to punch in my expenses when I purchase a $0.60 pack of sweets. All these actions require “effort”, which I’m really not a big fan of. Instead, I’ll tell you how you can track your expenses in 3 steps:

1. Charge everything to your credit card and let it track your spending for you. If you’re awesome, you’d be charging everything you can to your credit card. I would literally charge a can of Coke to my credit card if I could, except that the cashier would give me such a dirty look that I might die from it. Still though, aside from the obvious benefits of earning rewards/cashback (more on that in another post), the big advantage of credit cards is that they consolidate all your expenses into one single bill. If you succeed in charging EVERYTHING to your credit card, congratulations, you no longer have to touch the germs that come with money (eww), and by glancing at your credit card statement at the end of the month, you’ll know how much your expenses are, without ever having to keep a “budget”.

2. There may be some things that you can’t pay by credit card. For example, if you rent an apartment, some landlords may want you to write them a monthly cheque. Or if you live in Singapore, some telcos will only allow you to use certain credit cards for automatic bill payments, so if you don’t have that particular card, you’ll have to pay using GIRO or some other means (I’m calling you out, Singtel!) In that case, collate all your bills from that month and add up the monthly figures. This will literally take you 10 minutes if you keep your bills in the same place. If not, start collecting them from this month.

3. There are other things, like meals, or snacks, or coffee that can’t be paid by credit cards and won’t issue you with a bill/receipt. (Try asking the dude at the hawker centre for a receipt. He’ll probably cut you up and turn you into char kway diao.) For those, take a random arbitrary number per day, and multiply it by the number of days that month. For example, you may cater for about $15 a day for meals, snacks, coffee, etc etc during a regular working day (excluding those nights when you go out for fancy dinners and drinks). It may be more or less on any particular day, but it should average out to that figure on the whole. Don’t bust your balls too much trying to figure this one out – just observe how much you spend on “normal” stuff for one day, and that should be a pretty good estimate.

That’s it, add 1. + 2. + 3. and you’ve got your magical figure for HOW MUCH IT COSTS TO LIVE YOUR LIFE. No keeping a “budget”, no fumbling with receipts, no interrupting a lunch conversation to punch the cost of your meal into your phone, nothing. Just a once-a-month exercise and you’re going to be able to painlessly track how much you’re spending regularly. Once that’s out of the way, we can then focus on how to optimize what’s left over from it… but we’ll leave that for later 🙂

Collaboration – How to Do It Right

The New York Times had an excellent article entitled “The Rise of the New Groupthink” a couple of days ago, which pretty much slammed the idea of physical collaboration – or rather, an over-emphasis on it in our offices, our schools, our working spaces, and our friggin’ lives.

I think they’re on to something here. Do you remember the last time you stepped into one of those ridiculous “brainstorming” sessions where you’re stuck in a room with people throwing out unimaginative ideas, rehashing old ones, and managers criticizing every aspect of them? Or worse, one of those “collaborative” meetings that turn into 50 people deciding which words should go into a stupid document? It’s enough to make me wanna stand on the conference table, and pee on everyone’s notebooks. Most collaborative sessions at the workplace are total bullshit sessions, where no one takes ownership of the ideas brought up, and everyone’s perspectives get polarized towards the most vocal person’s (usually the manager) opinion. Need further proof? Name one game-changing invention/idea that was a result of a “brainstorming” session. That’s right.. there are none.

It’s clear that putting everyone into a room and forcing them to innovate is a terrible idea. People have different styles of working – what’s the off-chance that the 30 people in the room all decide to become creative at the same time? It’s just not gonna happen.

The Wisdom of Crowds

Yet… there is hope for true collaborative work. James Surowiecki wrote an awesome book titled The Wisdom of Crowds with the following hypothesis: That large, diverse groups of people are infinitely smarter than any singular person in the group. One example: In 1968, the US submarine Scorpion disappeared somewhere in the North Atlantic. No one knew what happened to it, or how far it had traveled since it last made radio contact. A particular naval officer assembled a team of men with a wide range of knowledge: mathematicians, submarine specialists, salvage men, etc. Instead of asking them to consult each other and “brainstorm”, he asked each one to offer his best guess about what had happened to the submarine. Using a formula called Bayes’s Theorem, the officer found a collective estimate of where the group thought the submarine was. Five months later, a navy ship found the Scorpion – 220 yards from where the group had said it would be.

The internet has brought the effectiveness of collaboration into new levels – there are now fake “stock exchanges” where you can bet on which Hollywood star will win an Academy Award. The market sentiment site Piqqem lets traders vote on which stocks are likely to rise, giving you the opinions of “the crowd” on thousands of stocks. These, and other “crowdsourcing” sites, have proven to be deadly accurate. Open-source software like Linux can rival, or sometimes beat, traditional operating systems. Collaboration works, but it’s got to fulfill two criteria: diversity and independence. The internet automatically fulfills these two criteria – a diverse group of people, shielded by their computer screens, independently volunteering their own ideas to the whole. Contrast this with the practice of putting a bunch of people who’ve been brainwashed by the same departmental mindsets in the same room. Or putting a bunch of passive executives with no opinions of their own together with an overbearing manager who’s going to control the decisions made.

Some people may be skeptical of my recommendation of doing one thing at a time, with no distractions, no sourcing for opinions, no asking for permission, nothing. My view is that this is actually the BEST way of getting your share of the work done. Sure, you could talk to people to get their ideas and criticisms, but in terms of doing actual, real work, and actually creating something, I believe that people perform their best when they’re left alone. Once you’ve done your part, if a collaborative decision is required to improve it, submit it using one of the many collaboration tools like BaseCamp to get feedback and buy-in. Or schedule a meeting with a definite, fixed agenda, no longer than an hour, to say: “Okay, this is the idea, tell me what’s awesome about it, and what sucks.” (so much better than “ummmm okay.. so we have this problem… what shall we do about it?) I think that if we actually operate this way, things would get done so much faster, and we’d be able to generate way better results.

Collaborative Ideas

Since we’re on this topic – excuse me for writing a particularly long post but I might as well slip this one in – do the companies you work for have one of those lame “submit an idea” schemes where anyone is allowed to submit an idea, any idea, and it goes through a series of facilitators and evaluators who decide if it’s a stupid idea or something that warrants a reward? Personally, I think it’s a terrible scheme. Let me tell you what most evaluators will think once they read the first sentence of the submitted idea: “OMG NOT ANOTHER ONE OF THESE MORONS. I’ve received 10,000 of these ideas this month already, and I have to clear my already full inbox. REJECT” No one looks at the idea, no one considers it, and no one has any incentive to give good quality ideas. And yet, companies reward the submission of these dumb ideas as “yay! People are submitting ideas! We’re an innovative company! Lovepeacehugzandkisses”

Instead of it being purely a numbers game, why not make it a stock market? Have people submit their ideas as “stocks”. Everyone then has a certain amount of “cash” that they can bet on a particular idea. Once an idea stock gets enough cash votes, it rises. And companies just have to pick the top 5 (or 10 or 20) ideas to implement every quarter. And then you reward the people who voted for the winning ideas. And I’ll bet that if you let people independently vote on these ideas, the top 5 are going to be of awesome quality. Having just 5 high-quality ideas per quarter is way better than having 1,000 dumb-ass ideas. Again, collaboration works, it’s just a matter of how we do it.

Okay, so unless you’re in charge of your company’s innovation policy, you’re unlikely to be able to do anything much here. Except maybe annoy your bosses with this idea, as I have. But you can choose to reject going to dumb brainstorming sessions. If a meeting ends up becoming one where you’re all crafting a document together, you can excuse yourself from it. Then disappear to somewhere quiet, get some real work done, and then come back and do collaboration right.

Here’s to creating innovation at our workplaces, and eliminating one useless brainstorming session at a time!