Some Interesting Reading

I tend to share things of interest mostly on twitter (@brewerma) and not on the blog. However, I thought today I’d share a few interesting readings of late.

The High Cost of Fitting In by the founder of Puppet Luke Kanies.  We shouldn’t be trying to fit in.

The formula for winning at life is actually incredibly simple which includes several pearls like ‘write it down’ and ‘realize you are responsible for this.’ The article was written by Mark Manson.

Stop asking for easy on the besomebody.com site. Worth the watch and following along.

And an interesting article about Occam’s Razor at a wonderful site that has lots of interesting material. Follow them too.

And How to Overcome Your Fear and Get What You Want on Medium by Josh Spector. The point about ‘the alternative is scarier’ is one of my favorites. We can’t be comfortable with the status quo and we’ve got to try new things.

 

 

 

The Dance of the Possible

I’ve read a few books over the years about creativity and innovation and it is part of numerous posts on this site. Scott Berkun just released his latest book entitled, The Dance of the Possible: the mostly honest completely irreverent guide to creativity which I just bought and read today.

This is probably best, fast, focused book on the ideas around creativity that I’ve read:

We spend so much time trying to be efficient that doing anything interesting feels like a waste of time. And in this tendency is another misconception: creativity is rarely efficient. It always involves taking chances and trying things that might work but might not.

and

To create means to make something new, at least for you, and to do something new is like going off of the map, or more precisely, deliberately choosing to go to a part of the map that is unknown.

I especially liked the idea of writing down your ideas. I remember one of Tom Clancy’s books, I think it was Executive Orders, where there was the repeated line that ‘if you don’t write it down, it never happens’ and then that becomes a key part of the story development. Loved it. I write a lot and take notes as much as possible and I save lots and lots of notes, clippings, articles, etc. for future reference. Love this.

But I know that if I don’t write it down, I’ll never get a second chance to evaluate it again. Despite my convenient hope that I’ll remember it later without writing it down, I know, scientifically, that I’ll likely forget it, and forget that I forgot it.

and finally, this comment about just doing the work required to get it done.

The simplest habit is to work on your project every day.

If you are looking for a fast refresher on creativity and how to think about creativity, this is a great place to take a look. Recommended.

 

 

 

Connected All The Time

So there is a story on Mashable called The Latest Tool in Medicine? The iPhone which highlights some studies where iPhones are being used to collect data as part of medical studies.

Yes, carrying around a powerful compute device, that you can interface with, that is connected to the mother ship for two way communications might result in some powerful new medical studies, advances, options and ideas. Duh.

It is not really the iPhone, it is the mobile, connected, compute device that people have with them all the time (and won’t leave behind) that is the key here. I love my iPhone, but that is not the advance, it is the connected device connecting to the patient/subject.

There will be huge things coming from this as has been written about elsewhere. Immediate detection of crisis events, more frequent sampling of data in studies, ability to trigger something to happen to the patient (administer something), etc. etc. Lots of things can come from this.

Diversity Wins

pablo

I’ve written a bit before about diversity and how it fits into getting better results and how it is a key part of collaboration success. I’ve recently finished the book Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age by Steven Johnson. As mentioned before, I’m a huge fan of his material which I’ve referenced here and here.  He writes:

When groups are exposed to a more diverse range of perspectives, when their values are forced to confront different viewpoints, they are likely to approach the world in a more nuanced way, and avoid falling prey to crude extremism.

and a key thought:

Diversity does not just expand the common ground of consensus. It also increases the larger group’s ability to solve problems. The pioneer in this line of research is the University of Michigan professor Scott E. Page. He has spent the past twenty years building a convincing case for what he calls the “Diversity trumps ability” theory, demonstrating the phenomenon in sociological studies and mathematical models. Take two groups of individuals and assign to each one some kind of problem to solve. One group has a higher average IQ than the other, and is more homogeneous in its composition. One group, say, is all doctors with IQs above 130; the second group doesn’t perform as well on the IQ tests, but includes a wide range of professions. What Page found, paradoxically, was that the diverse group was ultimately smarter than the smart group. The individuals in the high-IQ group might have scored better individually on intelligence tests, but when it came to solving problems as a group, diversity matters more than individual brainpower.

and in summary
We want diversity for another reason as well: because we are smarter as a society—more innovative and flexible in our thinking—when diverse perspectives collaborate.
In a corporate setting, it means our teams needs to contain diverse backgrounds and experiences with some new ideas and some older experiences mixed together.
And as a leader, it means I need to really be dialed into listening to opinions of people who differ from me because they might have a perspective that I can’t see. I once told one of my staff that I was blind to something that she felt passionate about and she later told me that meant a lot to her to hear me say that to the group.
Diversity wins.

Haves and Have Nots

Last week I had a chance to spend time with a group of CIOs hosted by a well known information technology company. During the course of the 2.5 day session, the host company took some time to tell us about their IT operations and strategy.

The differences between what they are doing and what I see others doing was dramatic as the difference between black and white. Most of us, in the meeting could probably barely, barely, not at all, relate to this IT shop.

I see the same when I see the average IT spend as a % of revenue between different industries with some industries spending perhaps 15% or more of their revenue on information technology where manufacturing companies might be spending less than 2%. That difference is just staggeringly huge and it manifests itself across the whole spectrum of IT investments between those industries.

The haves and have-nots I think.

It might be that the incumbents in industries, those who have been around for a long time with embedded bases and IT foundations that just work, are going to slip behind and perhaps not be able to catch up? Start-ups who don’t have that base in place are free to startup on the newest, the latest, the cloud, the simpler, etc.

If a company is in the former situation, they need to double down on prioritzation, careful investment decisions and very strategic thinking about their IT infrastructure and operations. It is not easy.

 

Cross Disciplinary

When I was in graduate school, I remember sitting in a vector calculus class and realizing how the thoughts in this class were beginning to merge together with an earlier electromagnetic fields class and my current complex analysis class. The thoughts and ideas were overlapping and merging together. It was a moment of clarity for me as I saw how these different disciplines began to fit together.

This draws me back to Steven Johnson’s book Where Good Ideas Come From which I’ve talked about before here and where he writes about exaptation and liquid networks and how ideas can blend together, cross over, and become something new. He uses the phrase ‘idea sex’ where ideas blend together to become something new and perhaps amazing.

I just finished reading one of James Altucher’s books, The Choose Yourself Guide To Wealth after following him online for a long time. In the book, he talks about reading all the time and in several places about tying different things/thoughts/disciplines together. He, like Johnson, use the phrase ‘idea sex’ where you combine two ideas into a new better idea.

This is not just taking a good idea and applying it to your problem or space. It is about blending ideas together in a new fashion. One day at work years ago, we had a network cut that isolated one of our key sites off our corporate network and to make matters worse, the tool we used to communicate bulletins about outages was hosted at the site cutoff. We lost the channel we used for corporate communications with this outage. In thinking about this, I realized we should have an off-network communication channel and at once, we realized that Twitter could be that channel. We could create a private account on Twitter and only allow approved people to see the tweets of that handle. Then we’d have a communication channel for broadcasts 100% off our network. We used a social networking platform in a new way to solve a problem and it cost us nothing.

I see this all the time. When I read the book Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder (Incerto) I could see how that applies to several problems in a University setting and I shared it with friends there and I also had work related applications in mind.

Tying all this back together, I think we need to

  • Be reading all the time and reading across disciplines. Don’t just read in your area of expertise, but read across lots of areas and include fiction in your reading too.
  • Connect people together and have more meaningful conversations and not just about the weather and the score of the game. Talk about politics, about what you are reading, about what struck you on a blog post or in a twitter feed, talk about ideas.
  • Share great ideas and nuggets of information with others that might help them in their endeavors with no expectation of anything in return. Become known for sharing ideas with others.
  • Listen deeply to what others are saying and perhaps what they are not saying.
  • Become a person who facilitates the success of others. Countless leadership books talk about this.

Altucher’s book is about a lot of these ideas and he even suggests we should host dinners with interesting people. Just bring good people together to meet, share and connect. Perhaps, one of your guests might solve a big problem that another one of your guests is struggling to solve.

There was a wonderful post in the NY Times the other day called The Moral Bucket List which starts by saying:

ABOUT once a month I run across a person who radiates an inner light. These people can be in any walk of life. They seem deeply good. They listen well. They make you feel funny and valued. You often catch them looking after other people and as they do so their laugh is musical and their manner is infused with gratitude. They are not thinking about what wonderful work they are doing. They are not thinking about themselves at all.

When I meet such a person it brightens my whole day.

Be that kind of person. Be someone connecting dots and people.

Invest in Infrastructure

I’ve been reading for over a year every article I can find about electric vehicles.  I have several friends who have Tesla vehicles and have had the chance to talk with them and ride in their cars. Nissan has the Leaf, we are hearing that Apple is getting into the act, Tesla and Chevrolet are already there.

This plus the expectation that self-driving cars, and more importantly trucks are going to result in massive changes. Industries will be impacted. Startups are looking at how to retrofit existing trucks. Our cities might look different. And trucking itself is a massive employer in many regions. The article that got me first looking into this is here.  Tesla hints at how this world will work.

The issue of jobs and impact and change are real and they are coming. Quite probably, the benefits of such far outweigh the negatives but it will be disruptive. Most technical and society shifts results in those who benefit and those who are disrupted. Uber and similar is another dynamic here too.

I’m particularly interested in the infrastructure to recharge electric vehicles. All of them have you install a recharging station in your garage or wherever you park your car at night. But they ALL need a nationwide infrastructure where you can recharge your vehicle away from home. It doesn’t take a real leap in thinking to realize that the right answer is a common recharging platform and infrastructure on a national scale. We don’t need BetaMax versus VHS again.

This brings in the Seth Godin’s article of last year where he says, “infrastructure investments are most effective when they are centralized and consistent.” Federal governments, in all countries, can do some of their best work for the future when they bring people together, set some standards, and then facilitate investment in these infrastructure platforms. The Interstate highway system in the US is an example of this working well, but the US has also failed in things like a national high-speed rail system.

These companies need to work together and agree on standards. Governments should facilitate this. The leverage would be huge.