Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Perplexing Problem? Borrow Some Brains

[16 August 2004 - HBS Working Knowledge] You’re smart ­but not that smart! Teams often defer to their best decision maker, but more is better than less when it comes to brain power. More

Natural born learners

[2004 - Learning Lab (Denmark)] For years, psychologists have attempted to describe all learning as a function of external reward and punishment. But their models fail to properly take into account play, which clearly is a natural way for humans and animals to obtain vital learning. GOOD LEARNING MUST, IN THE NATURE OF THINGS, STEM FROM INTERNAL MOTIVATION, AS MOTIVATION IS THE ONLY THING THAT WILL MAKE YOU VOLUNTARILY SPEND A LONG TIME MASTERING A GIVEN ACTIVITY. IT IS VITAL TO SUPPORT CHILDREN IN LEARNING TO CONTROL THIS INTERNAL MOTIVATION. More

U.S. lacked imagination in predicting terror attacks

[15 August 2004 - Post-Gazette] WASHINGTON -- It may be one of the most unusual job descriptions ever devised: "Wanted: people with creative minds to sit in a U.S. government office, day after day, and use their imaginations to help keep the nation safe.'' Yet that's one of the main anti-terrorism proposals recently outlined by the bipartisan 9/11 Commission. As they investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed more than 2,900 people, the commissioners became convinced that "the most important failure was one of imagination." More

The Best Ideas in Business -- Revealed!

[23 August 2004 - Resilience Report - Booz Allen Hamilton] More than 8,000 people visited the strategy+business/Booz Allen Hamilton Leading Innovations Web site to vote on the best of a dozen fresh ideas for organization, innovation, branding, transformation, and more. Rating the 12 candidates in three areas -- originality, value, and impact -- voters picked "Org DNA: Building the Four Bases of an Execution Culture" as the top entry of the six winners. More

Monday, August 23, 2004

What Toyota can teach the 9/11 commission about intelligence gathering

[5 August 2004 - Slate] The most publicized recommendation of the 9/11 commission—and one President Bush and Sen. John Kerry have raced to endorse—is that the United States create a national director of intelligence. Centralizing is an understandable response to the pre-9/11 intelligence fiasco. But as organizational science and history show, it's also a misguided one. When organizations fail, our first reaction is typically to fall into "control mode": One person, or at most a small, coherent group of people, should decide what the current goals of the organization are, and everyone else should then efficiently and effectively execute those goals. Intuitively, control mode sounds like nothing so much as common sense. It fits perfectly with our deeply rooted notions of cause and effect ("I order, you deliver"), so it feels good philosophically. It also satisfies our desire to have someone made accountable for everything that happens, so it feels good morally as well. But when a failure is one of imagination, creativity, or coordination—all major shortcomings of the various intelligence branches in recent years—introducing additional control, whether by tightening protocols or adding new layers of oversight, can serve only to make the problem worse. More

Good attitude adds years

[20 August 2004 - Detroit Free Press] ... A study at Miami University by Dr. Suzanne Kunkel of the Scripps Gerontology Center suggests that the most important factor could be our attitude toward aging. The major finding: A positive attitude about aging can extend life by 7 1/2 years. That's longer than gains made by exercising and not smoking. It's doctor's orders: Don't worry, be happy. More

Holding ground means losing ground when it comes to policing

[23 August 2004 - Business Day (South Africa)] High-density crackdown operations might make the news but they could be getting in the way of the improvement of local crime-prevention services. On a sweltering summer afternoon in early 1999, Meyer Kahn, about to complete a thankless two-year stint as police CEO, paced about his office, shaking his head and lamenting his lot. "How do you repair a machine and keep it running at the same time?" he asked. ... At the end of last year, police headquarters issued a directive that police stations across the country should begin to implement "sector policing", which entails dividing police station jurisdictions into geographical sectors, each staffed by a dedicated team. The idea is that grassroots cops will begin to understand microlevel crime patterns and tackle them with creative problem-solving techniques; this will draw police into constant communication with their constituents and help them understand the public as clients and themselves as service providers. The aim is to improve neighbourhood policing, which the police have been struggling to accomplish for the past decade. Will it work? Many doubt it. More

Teamwork, creative problem solving are keys to career success

[23 August 2004 - Design News] Great minds think alike, or at least great engineering minds do. Asked what advice they'd offer to engineers just entering the profession, two Design News award winners stressed the importance of interdisciplinary work. "There are still some 'spec book' engineering schools, but most engineering programs today are focused on creative problem solving and interdisciplinary research," says Design News' 2004 Special Achievement Award winner Tony DiGioia. ... "The most important skills you can learn in an undergraduate engineering program are creative problem solving, and the discipline of lifelong learning," DiGioia adds. Those two will allow you to go into any area, whether medicine - like I did - or business or engineering." More

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Imagination Takes Kids' Mind Off Pain

[12 August 2004 - Reuters] Guided imagery, along with medication, can reduce post-operative pain and anxiety in children, new study findings suggest. "The need for interventions that reduce children's acute pain on a short-term basis is growing," Dr. Myra Martz Huth, at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Ohio, and colleagues point out in their report, published in the medical journal Pain. Hospitals stays being shortened, and dealing with kids' pain at home is difficult. Their study was designed to test the effectiveness of a professionally developed program, "To Tame the Hurting Thing," comprised of booklets, videotapes and audiotapes. More

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Jobs linked to Alzheimer's risk

[10 August 2004 - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel] People who developed Alzheimer's disease tended to hold jobs with lower mental demands during their 30s, 40s and 50s than people who did not get the disease, according to new research. The study is the latest in a growing body of research suggesting that higher levels of education as well as mentally stimulating activities may offer some protection against a disorder that now affects 4.5 million Americans, a number that is expected to grow dramatically in the coming decades. ... "Not everybody can be an astrophysicist," said lead author Kathleen Smyth, a researcher at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. "(But) you want to keep your mind active. Some people call it novelty seeking . . . things that get you thinking in a different way." More

Monday, August 09, 2004

Innovation: A Diagnostic for Disruptive Innovation

[9 August 2004 - HBS Working Knowledge] You have three potential innovations, but resources to develop just one. Here are diagnostics to help you make the best decision. More

Diverse, Not Divided

[9 August 2004 - BusinessWeek] The workplace has become America's melting pot, and the resulting exposure to difference and the tolerance is a powerful economic force. ... Economists have documented how creativity has become increasingly important in our economy, especially with the spread of manufacturing techniques and service occupations to the developing world. The market value of creative people in everything from high-tech computer science to machine-tool assembly to devising financial plans for an aging baby boomer has gone up in recent decades. More and more companies are eager to employ well-educated, inventive workers. In The Rise of the Creative Class, Carnegie Mellon economist Professor Richard Florida makes a convincing case that creative occupations are growing and to successfully compete, companies and regions need to embrace diversity -- immigrants, gays, bohemians, and other minorities. The social philosopher Jane Jacobs observed that great cities thrived because they were places that welcomed ambitious, bright people from all walks of life and backgrounds and allowed them to turn their energy and insights into new products and services. Similarly, social scientists from a number of disciplines have documented that creative people prefer working in an environment that celebrates difference and risk-taking. A diverse workforce increases the odds of employees coming up with innovative ideas that are commercially profitable. The payoff: better jobs and sustained economic growth. More

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Programmers Devise New Ways to Make the Pieces Work Together

[8 August 2004 - New York Times] It's software time again. Four months ago, I wrote in this space about the growing variety of programs that in one way or another could be considered tools for thinking. Some of them enhanced the part of thought that involves factual recall by making it easier to retrieve information from the recesses of your computer's hard drive. Others allowed you to put existing information together in ways that might stimulate new perceptions and ideas. More

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Talent, technology, tolerance drive creativity and growth

[6 August 2004 - National Business Review (New Zealand)] The Media Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a hotbed of creativity and innovation. Barry Vercoe, a founding member and speaking on National Radio this week, is convinced that what he describes as 'the clash between disciplines' results in innovation. More


CURIOUS MINDS: HOW A CHILD BECOMES A SCIENTIST (Edited, with an introduction, by John Brockman; Pantheon, August 2004; available at Amazon)
[5 August 2004 - EDGE 144] A fascinating original collection of essays from twenty-seven of theworld's most interesting scientists about the moments and events in theirchildhoods that set them on the paths that would define their lives.What makes a child decide to become a scientist?.....

  • For Robert Sapolsky-Stanford professor of biology - it was an argumentwith a rabbi over a passage in the Bible.
  • Physicist Lee Smolin traces his inspiration to the volume of Einstein'swork he picked up as a diversion from heartbreak.
  • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychologist and the author of Flow, foundhis calling through Descartes.
  • Mary Catherine Bateson - author of Composing a Life - discovered thatshe wanted to be an anthropologist while studying Hebrew.
  • Janna Levin-author of How the Universe Got Its Spots -f elt impelled bythe work of Carl Sagan to know more.

Murray Gell-Mann, Nicholas Humphrey, Freeman Dyson, Daniel C. Dennett,Lynn Margulis, V. S. Ramachandran, Howard Gardner, Richard Dawkins, andmore than a dozen others tell their own entertaining and often inspiringstories of the deciding moment. Illuminating memoir meets superb sciencewriting in essays that invite us to consider what it is-and isn't-thatsets the scientific mind apart and into action.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Spiritual Capital: Wealth We Can Live By (Book)

[2 August 2004 - HBS Working Knowledge: Organizations] If you think financial capital is all you need for happiness, think again. According to Danah Zohar, a physicist, philosopher, and management thinker, and Ian Marshall, a Jungian-oriented psychiatrist, capitalist culture and the global business that extends from it are not sustainable. Zohar and Marshall call for leaders to use their “spiritual intelligence” to create spiritual capital. They define spiritual intelligence as the core sense of meaning, values, and purpose by which we live, and they recommend this intelligence be used to build wealth—thus generating spiritual capital. More

Making Tea: Iterative Design through Analogy

[2004 - University of Southampton - ECS] The success of translating an analog or manual practice into a digital interactive system may depend on how well that translation captures not only the functional what and how aspects of the practice, but the why of the process as well. Addressing these attributes is particularly challenging when there is a gap in expertise between the design team and the domain to be modeled. In this paper, we describe Making Tea, a design method foregrounding the use of analogy to bridge the gap between design team knowledge and domain expertise. Making Tea complements more traditional user-centered design approaches such as ethnography and task analysis. In this paper, we situate our work with respect to other related design methods such as Cultural Probes and Artifact Walkthroughs. We describe the process by which we develop, validate and use analogy in order to maximize expert contact time in observation, interviews, design reviews and evaluation. We contextualize the method in a discussion of its use in a project we ran to replace a paper-based analytical chemistry lab book with an interactive system for use in a pervasive lab environment. More

Schools failing on imaginations

[1 August 2004 - Sun-Sentinel] Considering the fact that the 9-11 commission has determined that the tragedies of 9-11 were caused by 'above all, a failure of imagination,' and considering that participation in high quality arts programs -- including educational ones -- is probably the best way to develop imagination, what image could be more powerful to bring this message home than a picture of the destroyed World Trade Center with the 9-11 commission's assessment: 'Above all, a failure of imagination'? More

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Mind games: Play them now, build brain power for later

[3 August 2004 - Miami Herald] OK, we're getting our bodies in shape. Now, it's time to do a boot camp for your brain. A growing body of research has concluded that by keeping your mind active, you may stave off the memory loss and diminished brain functions associated with aging. Physical exercise and a healthy diet can boost the brain, too. ''If you start in your 30s or 40s, you have four or five decades to control these factors that come into operation that can have a very dramatic effect,'' says Dr. Ranjan Duara, medical director of the Wien Center for Alzheimer's Disease and Memory Disorders at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach. More

Creativity, problem-solving skills vital for architects

[3 August 2004 - Kansas City Star] About 50 years ago, they kept construction crews busy building schoolhouses. Now, they're doing it again. Baby boomers are making their needs felt in the construction industry. But today, the building boom involves senior housing and health care facilities. That's good news for architects. Architects are artists who design buildings. Their structures must do more than please the eye, however. A building must be safe, functional, affordable and serve a purpose — whether the occupants are senior citizens in retirement apartments, patients in a hospital, shoppers in a retail store, dogs and cats in an animal shelter, families in houses, spectators in a stadium or prisoners in a correctional facility. “Architects solve problems through the design or renovation of a structure,” said Mark Spurgeon, president of Williams Spurgeon Kuhl & Freshnock Architects Inc. in North Kansas City. The firm specializes in retail, health care, hospitality, senior living and education designs. More