Super Cities №40 — To Innovate, Mind Your Defaults

Brendan Hart

One Big Thing

Pick the Right Resolution

You’ll give yourself your best shot at success if you set a goal that’s doable — and meaningful too.


In 1726, at the age of 20, Benjamin Franklin listed thirteen virtues that would guide how he lived.

By listing these virtues, Franklin named what he wanted to be — not what he was — so that he could work toward those things every day. Said another way, over time, Franklin wanted those virtues to become his default virtues.

As I think about our innovation work in 2018, I think about my defaults — the things I do without thinking or planning; all the activities that I just do because I have done them before.

Every person (and by extension, every organization) has default behavior. Some defaults are good, and other defaults are bad. We can reinforce good defaults and change bad defaults. We should actively try to do this.

If your default is to spend fifteen minutes on Facebook first thing every morning, what would be a better use of your time? Instead of Facebook, you can change your default to reading a book, meditating, or spending more time with your family.

I think default behavior is powerful and often underestimated. For example, watch people on the subway. Everyone riding the subway has a ritual — a default — that may include listening to music, checking social media, or firing off emails.

Now think about all the other situations that are defined by defaults — your family, your work, your health, your diet, your faith, and so many others — and how they can be improved.

In the spirit of Franklin, here’s to improving our defaults in 2018.

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