46 episodes

Boiling the Ocean is an expression in management consulting circles for over-analyzing a problem. In this irreverent yet informative new podcast series, two friends and seasoned management consultants apply their analytical skills and the thinking tools of their profession to everyday problems.

Boiling the Ocean BTO

    • Careers

Boiling the Ocean is an expression in management consulting circles for over-analyzing a problem. In this irreverent yet informative new podcast series, two friends and seasoned management consultants apply their analytical skills and the thinking tools of their profession to everyday problems.

    Sleep as the ultimate life hack and why we need rest to be our best

    Sleep as the ultimate life hack and why we need rest to be our best

    It can often feel as though there is no escape from being constantly “switched on” in our hyperconnected world. Our cellphones render us reachable at all times, and we feel the pressure to make every moment a productive one. But is constant activity good for our productivity? The short answer is a resounding no. Peak performers practice something that most of us don't: they regularly rest and recover in order to do their best work.

    So how can we establish a healthy rhythm to our working lives to create the conditions for our best work?
    Today’s episode is all about that topic, and our starting point is probably the least practiced but most useful "life hack" out there: getting a good night's sleep. We dig into its role in our productivity as cognitive athletes, and how to get enough of it. Using this as a starting point, we also discuss:

    - How much sleep do you really need? Separating fact from fiction
    - Different phases of sleep and the danger of waking up too early
    - The restorative power of nature
    - Giving yourself permission to invest in yourself and why working out or spending time with friends should be viewed as an investment, not an indulgence

    We finish by talking about the paradigm shift required to support our peak performance over the long term. Simply put, we need to rethink what we value. The most important "asset classes" going forward won't be property or 401ks but rather things like physical and cognitive health, friends and professional networks, as well as restorative places and practices that allow us to sustain and maintain a high operational tempo.

    Join us as we give serious thought to the process of restoring ourselves, both creatively and physically, to take on the rigors of keeping up with the accelerated pace of modern life.

    • 24 min
    Consultants don't always give advice; often, they provide permission, too

    Consultants don't always give advice; often, they provide permission, too

    What is one of the least understood roles of a consultant or advisor? Believe it or not, it's giving permission.

    Now before you jump to conclusions, let's be clear here that we're not talking about permission in the literal sense. But it's nonetheless true that companies and individuals often hire consultants to confirm, validate and sometimes even provide external justification for a decision that they have already made.

    Today’s episode of BTO is all about the process of making decisions and the role consultants play in that process. Using this as a starting point, we discuss:
    - External validation and the impact of confirmation bias: What kind of advice are people really looking for, and what are the contexts that can prompt them to seek a seal of approval?
    - This behavior on both an individual and institutional level: are companies – and some consulting firms – any different than individuals in this regard?
    - What to do if someone comes to you to validate a decision and what to do if you think it’s the wrong one
    - What constitutes a “wrong” decision, and is that really an objective assessment or a subjective one?
    - How to provide opinions and advice with tact and diplomacy

    We finish by talking about how to help people shift how they feel about their decisions. The process of making good choices is a complex one, and this episode is all about the persuasion piece that is often overlooked when we build fact-based cases for a certain option. If you want to take your decision-making to the next level, join us for this lively conversation on the power of permission.

    • 26 min
    Work and Life Equations

    Work and Life Equations

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could reduce life to a simple set of equations? Well, if that idea is appealing you just might be in luck.
    Today’s episode of BTO is all about work and life equations. The conversation was prompted by a provocative post that Mike made recently about his formula for knowing when to leave a job. It was expressed, rather elegantly, as:
    Current job (joy - pain) potential job (excitement - fear)
    There was more to it than that, but that notion - of reducing complicated considerations into symbolic equations - caught people’s imagination, and it prompted us to do a whole program about our favorite such algorithms.
    Here are just some of the ones we discuss on the show:
    - Happiness = pleasure + purpose over time (h/t to Paul Dolan)
    - Life Design Principles = Authenticity + Agency
    - “Happiness is wanting what you have, not getting what you want” (singer - and philosopher! - Sheryl Crow)
    We also break down why these simplifications are so appealing to us today. We all want formulas and algorithms to make sense of our world, but also to help us navigate it. As thinking tools are influenced by pop culture and the zeitgeist, the ubiquity of the PC and now the mobile phone has made us all a bit more inclined to think like a computer, we argue.
    Finally, we’ll tackle their limits. Equations are seductive thinking tools, but they can be dangerously reductionist. While it’s tantalizing to believe that we can “rationalize” emotions and transform them into algorithms, the truth of the matter is that life is not that black and white. There’s a lot of grey in those equals (=) deductions/minuses (-) and multiplications (x), so we need to be careful in applying - and relying - on these mental shortcuts.
    Here's one final equation:
    Listening to this episode = learning cool new algorithms for work + life!

    • 22 min
    Ego is the Enemy

    Ego is the Enemy

    People have egos, but organizations appear to have them, too. How else can you explain Blockbuster's hubris in shrugging off the offer by a then-fledgling company called Netflix to join forces, the disastrous decision by Borders to outsource their e-commerce business to Amazon or the infamous 1962 decision by a Decca recording executive to pass on signing an unknown, 4-person Liverpudlian band “because guitar bands are on their way out”?
    As author Ryan Holiday put it well, “ego is the enemy” - of everything from sound business strategies to talent spotting and even, as we'll explore in this show, of being a good consultant.
    In today’s episode, we tackle the issue of overconfidence and how people and organizations fall prey to it at their peril. As the country song goes, it’s hard to humble … but it pays to keep your ego in check, to be “professionally paranoid”, and to not be afraid to be the dumbest person in the room.

    • 23 min
    Prof. Corey Phelps and Problem-Solving as a Super Power

    Prof. Corey Phelps and Problem-Solving as a Super Power

    What’s the most useful skill you can have in your utility belt these days? For many people - including McGill Desautels Faculty of Management Strategy Prof Corey Phelps - that superpower is problem-solving.
    As we have pivoted from a manufacturing-based economy to a services and knowledge-based one, our work “product” has shifted from the physical to the increasingly intangible - from making widgets to “building” presentations and spreadsheets. At the core of these new activities, however, is the attempt - and hopefully, ability - to solve a thorny problem that’s plaguing our company or client.
    In a special episode of “Boiling the Ocean”, we sit down with Professor Phelps to discuss his new book, “Cracked it!: How to solve big problems and sell solutions like top strategy consultants”. In a wide-ranging chat, we discuss:

    • The differences between problem-solving and making sound decisions (hint: it’s more subtle than it seems)
    • His 4 S Framework (of course there is a framework! We’re consultants after all …)
    • The one problem-solving step you probably aren’t consistently thinking about
    • The two reasons why this is a critical skill set for everyone - not just strategy consultants or those who aspire to be one
    • How you can apply this thinking to your everyday problems
    • … and who authored the better aphorism on the power of preparation - Albert Einstein or Abraham Lincoln?
    Dive into this episode to learn how to quickly build up one of the critical skills of the 21st century - and join the conversation about whether or not we all have to become professional problem solvers …

    • 37 min
    Specialists v Generalists and the Future of Work

    Specialists v Generalists and the Future of Work

    For years, we’ve been given the message that the working world no longer has a place for generalists and that we all have to become “experts”. Is that actually true? And perhaps more crucially, will that remain true in the coming decades, as companies and organizations are buffeted by the changes wrought by artificial intelligence and automation?
    In this week’s show, we tackle the “Specialists v Generalists” debate head-on. What we uncover is that while society undervalues generalists, it does so at its peril. Contrary to conventional wisdom, people who cultivate broad interests and pursue eclectic career paths are going to be rewarded in a world where AI and algorithms increasingly take over “expertise”.
    This episode covers everything from Isaiah Berlin’s famous “the fox versus the hedgehog” framework, how we should regard curiosity as a 21st-century superpower, and why generalists, rather than specialists, are better at making predictions.
    As always, we’ll explore what this all means “at the unit of one” - in other words, how this is news you can use for your own company or career.

    • 22 min

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