I'm in the midst of reading Steven Johnson's book "Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation", and I came across this TED video which summarizes some of the highlight ideas. Well worth watching.
Mend the roof while the weather is fine, dig the well before you're thirsty. Some old wisdom to live by.
The parable of the blind men and the elephant originated in ancient India, and is a part of the Jain, Buddhist, Hindu and Sufi teachings. While this analogy is now in relatively common usage, Henry Mintzberg et.al. in Strategy Safari pointed out that not many have actually read John Godfrey Saxe's poem from the 1870s that popularized the story in the English language:
It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.
The First approach'd the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
"God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!"
The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, -"Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!"
The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a snake!"
The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," quoth he,
"'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"
The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!"
The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a rope!"
And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!
So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!
Came across an older article I'd read a couple years ago on "Elegance By Design: The Art of Less" by Matthew May, the author of In Pursuit of Elegance. Almost two years later, its ideas still ring fresh and relevant, arguing that "there is an art to the management of ideas and the people who create them, and thus a role for elegance." Here's a key passage:
The goal of elegance is to maximize effect with minimum means. It’s an elusive target. Scientists, mathematicians, and engineers search for theories that explain highly complex phenomena in simple ways. Artists use white, or “negative,” space to convey visual power. Musicians and composers use silence to create dramatic tension. Physicians try to find a single diagnosis to explain all of a patient’s symptoms, shaving the analysis down to the simplest explanation.
For today’s manager, the key to understanding its relevance lies in realizing that value, for customers and employees alike, may best be added, paradoxically, through a primarily subtractive process. As Jim Collins wrote in 2003, “A great piece of art is composed not just of what is in the final piece, but equally what is not. It is the discipline to discard what does not fit—to cut out what might have already cost days or even years of effort—that distinguishes the truly exceptional artist and marks the ideal piece of work, be it a symphony, a novel, a painting, a company, or most important of all, a life.”
Three key ideas:
- Symmetry: simple rules create effective order
- Seduction: limiting information creates intrigue
- Subtraction: restraint and removal creates value
- Elegance By Design: The Art of Less (MIT Sloan Management Review)
While this TED Talk by Daniel Pink, the author of "A Whole New Mind" and "Drive", dates from 2009, it has been getting a new burst of interest lately. In it Pink makes a case for the importance of intrinsic motivation over the extrinsic "sticks and carrots" approach. Food for thought.