“The Innovators”: Walter Isaascson

Source: S&S website, Oct 2014

The computer and the Internet are among the most important inventions of our era, …  most of the innovations of the digital age were done collaboratively. There were a lot of fascinating people involved, some ingenious and a few even geniuses. This is the story of these pioneers, hackers, inventors, and entrepreneurs—who they were, how their minds worked, and what made them so creative. It’s also a narrative of how they collaborated and why their ability to work as teams made them even more creative.

The tale of their teamwork is important because we don’t often focus on how central that skill is to innovation. … we have far fewer tales of collaborative creativity, which is actually more important in understanding how today’s technology revolution was fashioned. It can also be more interesting.

  • How did the most imaginative innovators of our time turn disruptive ideas into realities?
  • What ingredients produced their creative leaps?
  • What skills proved most useful? How did they lead and collaborate?
  • Why did some succeed and others fail?

I also explore the social and cultural forces that provide the atmosphere for innovation. For the birth of the digital age, this included a research ecosystem that was nurtured by government spending and managed by a military-industrial-academic collaboration. Intersecting with that was a loose alliance of community organizers, communal-minded hippies, do-it-yourself hobbyists, and homebrew hackers, most of whom were suspicious of centralized authority.

The collaboration that created the digital age was not just among peers but also between generations. Ideas were handed off from one cohort of innovators to the next.
Another theme that emerged from my research was that users repeatedly commandeered digital innovations to create communications and social networking tools. I also became interested in how the quest for artificial intelligence—machines that think on their own—has consistently proved less fruitful than creating ways to forge a partnership or symbiosis between people and machines. In other words, the collaborative creativity that marked the digital age included collaboration between humans and machines.

Finally, I was struck by how the truest creativity of the digital age came from those who were able to connect the arts and sciences. They believed that beauty mattered. “I always thought of myself as a humanities person as a kid, but I liked electronics,” Jobs told me when I embarked on his biography. “Then I read something that one of my heroes, Edwin Land of Polaroid, said about the importance of people who could stand at the intersection of humanities and sciences, and I decided that’s what I wanted to do.” The people who were comfortable at this humanities-technology intersection helped to create the human-machine symbiosis that is at the core of this story.

MIT Technology Review: What’s Your Problem?

Source: MIT Technology Review, Sep/Oct 2014

35 Innovators Under 35 who can help to Solve Your Problem

MIT Front Cover 2014 Sep Oct









Earning A Nobel Prize Requires Risk Taking

Source: NYTimes, Oct 2014

Martin Perl … was awarded the 1995 Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering a new subatomic particle, one of the building blocks of the universe, …

His colleagues urged caution, his son said, but eventually “he very consciously went out on a limb.”

In recent years, Mr. Perl said, his father traveled in India and Japan lecturing about creativity and his concern that science education was becoming too rigid. He urged students to keep a journal and write down crazy ideas.

“He decided it was better that he stand by what he thought he was seeing, even at the risk of being wrong, than to be afraid to take the leap,” his son said.

Take Our Civilization to the Next Level

Source: MIT Technology Review, Sep 2014

According to Thiel, developments in computers and the Internet haven’t significantly improved our quality of life.

In a new book, he warns entrepreneurs that conventional business wisdom is preventing them and society as a whole from making major advances in areas, such as energy or health, where technology could make the world a better place—though he doesn’t offer detailed answers about how we might unlock such breakthroughs.

Great companies had a fairly inspiring long-term vision at their core.

The question we don’t ask enough is, how do we develop the developed world? It’s through the push for technology.

Making Faster Decisions

Source: HBR blog, Sep 2014

a few key tenants <sic> that can apply to any company:

  • Offer a shared vision. Many companies relegate team members to perform specific tasks or only communicate certain components of information to various groups, without providing the big picture. This creates a very limiting, myopic view. SpaceX wanted to provide better communications with NASA so they brought them deeply into the process by sharing decisions as they were being made. By offering everyone on the team — even when it’s thousands of people across different companies – a shared vision, all stakeholders can be in synch and employees can deliver better results.
  • Encourage more problem solving. Managers should foster an environment where employees seek information to answer questions themselves, rather than sitting back waiting to be assigned their next task. Employees should communicate and collaborate freely with one another, locating experts in certain areas of focus so they can gain insights on their own. When a product designer at the semiconductor company had a question, for example, she knew exactly who was working on the related test case or software specification so she could get her questions answered immediately rather than waiting for information to be sent to her.
  • Make decisions in parallel. Decisions at organizations are typically made in a linear fashion, but it doesn’t have to be that way. When teams get stuck in the old way of doing things — Decision A first, then Decision B, then Decision C and so on — we create passive teams. In the case of developing and delivering semiconductors, the company enabled multiple teams to simultaneously make decisions related to a product, and insights from one team could help others make faster decisions.

Bill Gates’s Most Important Idea

Source: Harvard Gazette, Sep 2013

What Gates and Allen set out to do, during the Christmas break of 1974 and the subsequent January reading period when Gates was supposed to be studying for exams, was to create the software for personal computers. “When Paul showed me that magazine, there was no such thing as a software industry,” Gates recalled. “We had the insight that you could create one. And we did.” Years later, reflecting on his innovations, he said, “That was the most important idea that I ever had.”

Deeper Learning Benefits Students

Source: Mindshift, Oct 2014

New research conducted by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) has found that the deeper learning model does have positive learning outcomes for students, regardless of their background.

“Students attending Deeper Learning Network schools graduated on time, that is, in four years, at a 9 percent higher rate than their matched counterparts at the comparison school,” said Jennifer O’Day, co-principal investigator for AIR. Additionally, students at deeper learning schools were more likely to attend four-year colleges and often enrolled in more selective institutions.