Tag: Tim Brown

10 Books Bill and Melinda Gates Recommended to the TED Audience This Year

The organizers of TED asked Bill and Melinda Gates to suggest some books that attendees might enjoy. Bill picked 5 and Melinda picked five and their choices couldn’t be more different or interesting. Gates even picked one from his favourite living author.

This isn’t the first time I’ve cherry picked book ideas from Gates. I ordered a few of his 7 best books of 2013 and 2012. The diversity of what he reads is mind-boggling. And, largely because of Gates, I’ve started reading Vaclav Smil.

Bill Recommends

“Each of the books on my list,” Gates said, “had a big impact on my thinking and really informed my work. Four of them are quite optimistic about our ability to make the world a better place. The Vaclav Smil book makes clear that if we hope to address climate change, we’ll have to transform our energy infrastructure—and that will be harder than most of us might realize.”

The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker

Steven Pinker’s carefully researched study stands out as one of the most important books I’ve ever read. Pinker paints a remarkable picture showing that the world has evolved over time to be a far less violent place than before. It offers a fresh perspective on how to achieve positive outcomes in the world. A thoroughly worthwhile read.

Getting Better by Charles Kenny

I know from personal experience that stepping into the public square to announce that foreign aid is important and effective can be lonely work. Charles Kenny’s elegant book on the impact of aid carefully documents how the quality of life—even in the world’s poorest countries—has improved dramatically over the past several decades. With reams of solid data to support his case, he argues that governments and aid agencies have played an important role in this progress.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

Katherine Boo spent three years getting to know the people of Annawadi, a slum of about 3,000 people on the edge of a sewage-filled lake in India’s largest city. Her book is a poignant reminder of how much more work needs to be done to address the inequities in the world. But it’s also an uplifting story of people striving to make a life for themselves, sacrificing for their families, and in their own way, being innovative and entrepreneurial in creating a vibrant local economy.

The Man Who Fed the World by Leon Hesser

Norm Borlaug is one of my heroes—and Leon Hesser’s biography is a fascinating account of Borlaug’s life and accomplishments. This is a story of genius, self-sacrifice, and determination. Borlaug was a remarkable scientist and humanitarian whose work in agriculture is rightfully credited with saving the lives of over a billion people.

Energy Myths and Realities by Vaclav Smil

Vaclav Smil is probably my favorite living author. If you care about energy issues, I recommend this volume, though its unvarnished look at the realities of energy use and infrastructure may be disconcerting to anyone who thinks solving our energy problems will be easy. Smil provides a rational framework for evaluating energy promises and important lessons to keep in mind if we’re to avert the looming climate crisis.

Melinda Recommends

The note Melinda sent to TED along with her selections read: “Those of us interested in development spend a lot of time thinking about what it takes to translate a great idea into results on the ground. Each of these books has helped deepen my understanding of how the global development community can drive and sustain meaningful change, even in the face of difficult circumstances. Together, they paint a portrait of a world where progress is achievable if we work together and learn from each other.”

The Last Hunger Season by Roger Thurow

Roger Thurow movingly chronicles the lives of four Kenyan farmers as they struggle to support their families through the wanjala, Swahili for “hunger season.” This book is both about the importance of investing in Africa’s smallholder farmers and a compelling blueprint for doing it effectively. Thurow shows how, together, we can make this wanjala the last one.

However Long the Night by Aimee Molloy

This is the story of an extraordinary woman: Molly Melching. For more than 40 years, Molly has worked in Senegalese communities to help improve lives for some of the country’s poorest people. Her success is based on her insistence on working in close partnership with local communities. That way, change is always driven from the center out, not the top down. This book reinforced my own belief that developing communities already have the potential and desire to spark the change that will lead to better lives for themselves and their families.

In the Company of the Poor by Paul Farmer and Gustavo Gutierrez

Paul Farmer is longtime friend of mine, and through these pages, you can hear his voice and feel his deep personal connection to improving lives for people who are too often ignored. You also get a sense of his (and Father Gutierrez’s) intellectual commitment to changing the systems that lead to poverty, so that their work has a permanent impact.

Change by Design by Tim Brown

Design thinking is a model of problem solving that could have huge implications for global health and development. It’s an approach that recognizes that the people facing challenges have the best understanding of what solutions will really work for them—so we need to invite them to participate in the design process as well. So many of the women and families I meet already have the potential to lift themselves out of poverty. Design thinking reminds us that to unlock this opportunity, we have to first enlist their help.

Mighty Be Our Powers by Leymah Gbowee

In 2011, Leymah Gbowee became a global figure when she won a Nobel Prize for launching a grassroots women’s movement that led to peace in Liberia. This is an amazing tale of a group of women coming together to change the course of a country’s history—and it’s also the inspiring story of how Leymah overcame her own doubts and fears and found the courage to lead them.

How do you build a culture of innovation?

How does a successful company maintain a climate in which new ideas and risk-taking are encouraged?

In this interview, Tim Brown, CEO and president of the design consultancy IDEO, describes how he thinks about innovation and why empathy is an important part of the equation.

Organizations are well intentioned. They put people in charge of innovation. They hold meetings on innovation. They mandate innovation. Yet, despite all of these words and actions, to no one’s surprise, they largely fail to innovate. That’s because innovation is cultural.

A 2009 study in the Journal of Marketing set out to identify the factors that predicated whether a firm would innovate or not. While there are a lot of variables at play, the study found, the most important driver of innovation was internal corporate culture.

An article in Sloan MIT Management Review identifies a series of “building blocks” for an innovative culture, including hard-to-measure characteristics such as values, behavior, and climate. “An innovative climate,” the authors write, “cultivates engagement and enthusiasm, challenges people to take risks within a safe environment, fosters learning, and encourages independent thinking.”

Here’s the transcript of the Interview with Tim Brown.

Q: What do organizations need in order to innovate?

Tim Brown: Any organization that wants to innovate, wants to be prepared to innovate, I think, has to have a few things in place. One is-and perhaps the most important thing is-methods for having an open mind. A sense of inquiry, of curiosity is essential for innovation. And the quickest way for removing curiosity in my opinion is to have organizations that are too inward-facing, that don’t spend enough time out in the world, particularly with their customers or the people they would like to have as customers or the parts of the world that they would like to have customers in. But a sense of curiosity, an openness, a sense of empathy for the world, for people whose problems they might be trying to solve-that’s essential.

A second thing that’s important is an ability to create spaces where trust can happen, where risks can get taken. We tend in our operationally minded view of the world to try and mitigate and design out as much risk as we can, but if you want to innovate, you have to take risks. And to take risks you have to some level of trust within the organization, because if people get penalized for failure, particularly the kind of failure that’s most useful which is where you learn a lot, then they’re not going to do it, in which case you’re not going to get any innovation.

Q: What expertise does IDEO have internally? Are there advantages to not have expertise?

Brown: We do have a very broad range of sectors and industries and design problems and innovation problems that we try and take on, and the way we like to think about it is we come with a deep expertise in how to innovate, and we partner with our clients, who come with an expertise about their industry. And we come with what we might call a beginner’s mind. We come with an open mind to what the possibilities might be, and that can be quite useful. Now it’s not always useful, and sometimes it’s useful to have expertise as well, and there are certainly some industries, like healthcare for instance-financial services is another one-that we’ve done a lot of work in and where we’ve built up some reasonable expertise over the years. And we certainly try and move the knowledge around our organization as best we can, but we do rely somewhat on the value of having an open mind when we approach a new question. I think that’s perhaps the reason that we succeed in working across a lot of different industries.

We’re also insatiable in terms of looking for new problems to tackle. And we have, like many creative organizations, sort of severe attention deficit disorder, so we like to work on different things. We like to tackle new challenges. So that drives us a little bit as well.

Q: How do you think about the roles of intuition and analysis in the creative process?

Brown: The creative process is not what many people think it is, which is all intuitive. The intuition is a result of large amounts of input, right? And that input, if it’s gonna be useful, there’s some level of pattern recognition going on, which means it’s some level of analysis. It isn’t necessarily sort of analysis in a numerical sense, but we go look at a lot of people, we do a lot of ethnographic research, for instance, a lot of anthropology. That’s not numeric analysis, but it’s a lot of information. And it’s that information that then comes together to actually inform the intuition of a creative team.

And what I believe that as human beings we’re still relatively uniquely able to do-in other words the machines have not caught up yet-is that we’re able to synthesize large amounts of information and make what we think of as intuitive creative leaps. What we’re actually doing is we’re just synthesizing lots of data and we’re coming to a point of view about that. And that’s where the creative leap happens, and ultimately that’s the payoff of the creative process. But if you don’t feed it with lots of data, if you don’t feed it with lots of information, then it’s rare in my view that you get the interesting creative leap.

Q: As CEO, how do you keep your own organization innovating?

Brown: I have quite a lot of empathy for our clients, because I found running our own organizations, it’s actually really hard to keep innovating all the time around everything. Now we do have an extremely emergent culture at IDEO, where people are coming up with new ideas all the time. We’re definitely more of a 1,000 flowers blooming kind of organization than we are a driven from the top, we’re gonna innovate here, and then we’re gonna innovate there. My job is is to try and help and encourage us to do some pattern recognition across all of that stuff and try and imagine where the places where we might focus more of our resources.

But I suppose the thing that I most try and do is to encourage people to remember to ask all the same creative questions about our own process as we do about our clients-easily said, not always easy to do. And you have to give some time for that. You have to remember that like any organization, if you get into an operational mindset where we we’re just doing the job, then it’s easy to forget about innovation. So, you know, constantly we’re putting resources aside for teams to go and work on things just because we’re interested in learning about them, not necessarily because a client’s paying for them. So doing your own R&D, even in an innovation organization, is really important.

(source http://qn.som.yale.edu/content/how-do-you-build-culture-innovation)

An Introduction to Creativity

Professor Sanjay Bakshi teaches MBA students “Behavioral Finance & Business Valuation (BFBV)” and “Financial Shenanigans & Governance” at MDI, Gurgaon. He was kind enough to put together a list of reference material for Farnam Street readers (books/videos) that he uses on the subject of creativity.

Creative Whack Pack (see some hand-picked examples)

An illustrated deck of 64 creative thinking strategies that will whack you out of habitual thought patterns and enable you to look at your life and actions in a fresh way. Use the cards alone or with others to seek innovative solutions to issues.

Innovative Whack Pack (see some hand-picked examples)

Each card in the deck packs a two-sided creative punch. One side has a provocative insight about innovation from Heraclitus, the world’s first creativity teacher. These 2,500 year old ideas – such as “You can’t step into the same river twice,” “Everything flows,” “That which opposes produces a benefit,” and “Dogs bark at what they don’t understand” -will give you a fresh perspective. The other side contains a creativity strategy inspired by each insight.

Books:
Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation

The printing press, the pencil, the flush toilet, the battery—these are all great ideas. But where do they come from? What kind of environment breeds them? What sparks the flash of brilliance? How do we generate the groundbreaking ideas that push forward our lives, our society, our culture? Steven Johnson’s answers are revelatory as he identifies the seven key patterns behind genuine innovation, and traces them across time and disciplines. From Darwin and Freud to the halls of Google and Apple, Johnson investigates the innovation hubs throughout modern time and pulls out applicable approaches and commonalities that seem to appear at moments of originality. What he finds gives us both an important new understanding of the roots of innovation and a set of useful strategies for cultivating our own creative breakthroughs.

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future

The future belongs to a different kind of person with a different kind of mind: artists, inventors, storytellers-creative and holistic “right-brain” thinkers whose abilities mark the fault line between who gets ahead and who doesn’t.

Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity

Linkner distills his years of experience in business and jazz — as well as hundreds of interviews with CEOs, entrepreneurs, and artists — into a 5-step process that will make creativity easy for you and your organization. The methodology is simple, backed by proven results.

I Never Metaphor I Didn’t Like: A Comprehensive Compilation of History’s Greatest Analogies, Metaphors, and Similes

Describing something by relating it to another thing is the essence of metaphorical thought. It is one of the oldest activities of humankind—and one of the most impressive when done skillfully. Throughout history, many masters of metaphor have crafted observations that are so spectacular they have taken up a permanent residence in our minds.

Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently

Though indispensable, true iconoclasts are few and far between. In Iconoclast, neuroscientist Gregory Berns explains why. He explores the constraints the human brain places on innovative thinking, including fear of failure, the urge to conform, and the tendency to interpret sensory information in familiar ways.

Steve Jobs

At a time when America is seeking ways to sustain its innovative edge, and when societies around the world are trying to build digital-age economies, Jobs stands as the ultimate icon of inventiveness and applied imagination. He knew that the best way to create value in the twenty-first century was to connect creativity with technology. He built a company where leaps of the imagination were combined with remarkable feats of engineering.

Einstein: His Life and Universe (by Walter Isaacson)

How did his mind work? What made him a genius? Isaacson’s biography shows how his scientific imagination sprang from the rebellious nature of his personality. His fascinating story is a testament to the connection between creativity and freedom.

Presentations:

Ted talks by Hans Rosling

Stats that reshape your worldview (2006)
New insights on poverty(2007)
New facts and stunning data visuals (2009)
Let my dataset change your mindset (2009)
Asia’s rise — how and when (2009)
Global population growth, box by box (2010)
The good news of the decade? (2010)
The magic washing machine (2011)
Religions and babies (2012)

Steve Jobs Presentations (some examples below)

Apple Keynote — The “1984” Ad Introduction (1983)
Stanford Commencement Speech (2005)
iPhone Presentation (2007)
iPad Presentation (2010)
Steve Jobs Presents to the Cupertino City Council (2011)

Steven Johnson’s Ted Talk

People often credit their ideas to individual “Eureka!” moments. But Steven Johnson shows how history tells a different story. His fascinating tour takes us from the “liquid networks” of London’s coffee houses to Charles Darwin’s long, slow hunch to today’s high-velocity web.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s Ted talk on “A Different Way to Think About Creative Genius”

The author of Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses — and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person “being” a genius, all of us “have” a genius. It’s a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.

Tim Brown’s Ted talk on “The powerful link between creativity and play”

Tim Brown is the CEO of the “innovation and design” firm IDEO — taking an approach to design that digs deeper than the surface.

TEDTalks : Creativity, fulfillment and flow – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (2004)

Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi asks, “What makes a life worth living?” Noting that money cannot make us happy, he looks to those who find pleasure and lasting satisfaction in activities that bring about a state of “flow.”

Ken Robinson’s TED talks

Creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson challenges the way we’re educating our children. He champions a radical rethink of our school systems, to cultivate creativity and acknowledge multiple types of intelligence.
schools kill creativity (2006)
Bring on the learning revolution! (2010)
Changing education paradigms 2010