Elite mathematicians are as creative as painters and entrepreneurs. Maybe more so.
It’s a small sample, but the brilliant people I know and have known share two underappreciated traits: a sense of humor and a quirky passion for following their curiosity, no matter what. These two qualities can get you into a lot of trouble. Continue reading “Claude Shannon plays games, searches for truth, invents Information Theory”
The term problem-solving assumes you are adopting someone else’s view of the world.
Despite its popularity, the current obsession with problem solving is way off the mark. Ditto finding out what your customers want and giving it to them. This is fine for fine tuning and tweaking what already works, but it’s not what changes the world. Not even close.
As Henry Ford reportedly said, “If I’d listened to my customers, I would have invented a faster horse.” Continue reading “Creating new worlds vs. the myth of problem solving”
Someone has to pay for those cheap Internet services. I guess it’s us.
Goods and services are getting cheaper. Many are free. Blame it on the Internet and globalization. The upside is that businesses can create new business models where costs are minimal, as Chris Anderson explains in Free: The Future of a Radical Price. The downside is that our brain chemistry is wired by evolution to love a deal. We love to consume, as Ellen Ruppel Shell writes in Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture.
In an age where we can go only a few minutes without staring at a computer screen (smartphones included), it is fair to ask what it is we are consuming. The answer is: Time and information.
Continue reading “The illusion of free”
The Innovators by Walter Isaacson shows just how unpredictable progress can be.
Many of the best non-fiction books are thick and filled with many stories, facts and chains of wisdom. Reading them front to back can be delicious but also off-putting. You can get bogged down, distracted, put a book down, perhaps forever. Opening a book randomly and reading a few pages can deliver little slices of insight.
Over the last few days I have been dipping into The Innovators by Walter Isaacson, who also wrote about Einstein and Steve Jobs. He has also been showing up on end of year news shows on TV. He always expands the context of the question the interviewer asks and tends to have a wonderfully quirky sense of whatever the interviewer thinks is important.
This book is about the creators of computers and the Internet–the quirky geniuses who worked in a universities, the private sector, government, bedrooms and garages. The big lesson: despite all their quirkiness, they collaborated. Environments that fostered creativity were a big help. This includes US government policy crafted over decades. Continue reading “Don’t just read front to back”
Don’t confuse strategy and execution.
Strategy and execution are at opposite poles of the spectrum. The former demands a broad view and some imagination – the ability to speculate and innovate. A light touch. Sometimes even a sense of humor.
Execution on the other hand demands a tight focus and the ability to follow the rules. An organization needs both. When it comes to productivity–something you can measure–we are usually talking about execution. This is good as far as it goes, but sometimes we take it too far. Continue reading “The productivity paradox: Lessons from the sugar camp”