Posts Tagged ‘steven johnson ’

Summer Reading

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Two conversation-shaping books

Here are my Summer Reading picks for those who go for both engaging narrative and penetrating insight. I’m recommending two distinctly different books by writers who don’t want to merely inform their readers; they want to shape the conversation. Both authors accomplished what they set out to do.

Tim Harford | Adapt – Why Success Always Starts with Failure

“Today’s challenges simply cannot be tackled with ready-made solutions and expert opinions; the world has become far too unpredictable and profoundly complex. Instead, we must adapt—improvise rather than plan, work from the bottom up rather than the top down, and take baby steps rather than great leaps forward.” ~Tim Harford

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The Generative Conversation

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

In his insightful book, Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson tells the story of Kevin Dunbar, a McGill University social psychologist, who sought to figure out in the early ’90s how research scientists generate breakthrough ideas. Dunbar videotaped and interviewed researchers working in a variety of settings.

In tracking the activities and relative successes of his subjects, Dunbar found that the greatest number of breakthroughs occurred not when scientists were peering into their microscopes, as one might suspect, but when they were talking with one another at meetings.

Why? When chatting with their colleagues who worked on other projects, the researchers tended to re-conceptualize their own work to be understood. In doing so, new ideas emerged and, occasionally, some were fruitful.

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