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Is it possible to change the way you think? December 6, 2009

Posted by Alison Zander in The Art of Possibility.
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I was drawn to reading The Art of Possibility due to the last name of the authors (unfortunately no relation).  This was a great book that highlighted how positive thinking can impact how we approach our daily lives.  Benjamin Zander, one of the authors, is a composer in real life.  The book contained many stories at of how to practice the principles they outlined within the context of music.  I found this very easy to relate to.  I am from a musical family, and spent much of my youth at a piano or sitting behind a music stand trying my hardest to keep my first chair.  This book teaches that you have to practice in order to get better at something – which I totally agree with, but never thought about in the context of how I am framing my life.

Although some of the ideas in the book are a bit lofty in terms of viewing the world in a true glass half full mentality, it did make me think about if I was putting a positive framework to my life.  I have always said that I want a career I can be passionate about, but I have struggled to know how to define my passions.  I think this book outlined that if you don’t practice being positive, it is difficult to realize the full potential of each day.  Again a bit soft for my liking (I usually use an analytical approach), but I think this book will be one that I revisit when I need encouragement if I am having a bad day or difficulty in my professional life.  Maybe this class is changing the way I think (for the better!)….

How do we Sway Irrational Actions with Rational Frameworks? December 6, 2009

Posted by Alison Zander in Sway: Pull of Irrational Behavior.
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Sway was an interesting book about leadership and change.  It is a good book to pick up at the airport.  It was full of fun stories, many of which were based in research.  The examples used ranged from huge life or death situations to smaller grocery shopping decisions.  I think the book did a good job at showing the large impact irrational decisions can have while also giving examples of relatable situations.  It was very interesting to hear about the irrational decisions that are made every day.  It also highlighted that anyone can act irrationally.  It doesn’t matter what level of the organization you are at or what level of expertise you have, we are all susceptible to making irrational choices.  I wish the book would have done a better job of outlining how to overcome these irrational tendencies, but now that I am more aware of this type of behavior I will be able to recognize it in the future. 

I encourage people to experiment with calling out when they are seeing irrational behavior.  Many times we don’t realize when we, ourselves are being irrational.  Awareness might help all of us be less irrational, or it may just end in conflict – it is tough to tell.  This book made me think about the times when I myself have acted irrationally.  As MBAs we try to see the world in a rational manner and are taught to make choices within this framework.  I wonder if we assumed people were swayed to be irrational if we would come up with different conclusions…

Can the future be caught? September 30, 2009

Posted by Alison Zander in As The Future Catches You.
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The concept of a knowledge economy was new to me.  I have come from the perspective that natural resources provide a position of strength.  This book pointed out that natural resources can actually be a disadvantage since may people will exploit these natural resources first, then accumulate capital, and lastly educate their people.  Since building knowledge is the way we will grow and accumulate wealth in the future, I would agree that natural resources can prove to be a disadvantage.

 The book was also eye opening in terms of how much progress is being made in the scientific world and how important scientific knowledge is to the future of society.  I was surprised to hear that the government has allowed entire animals to be patented and that in the future pharmaceuticals may become niche products that target specific genomes.  There has been so much progress made in such a short time period that soon we may see medicine become more preventative than treatment based, but I also find that encouraging.  I was also intrigued by the topic of Achaea and that it accounts for 1/5 of the biomass on the earth.  It will be interesting to see if in the future if there are in fact find living things on other planets.

The biggest paradigm shift I had while reading this book is that the new dominant language is genetics.  This area of science is new to me, but the benefits it can provide in treating and preventing disease are very exciting.  I will be interested to see if in another 10 years we will have exponentially more progress made in the field of genomics.

Human Centered Discovery September 30, 2009

Posted by Alison Zander in Design Thinking.
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Innovations that are found using design thinking can be small innovations, but can have a large impact.  I think this shows that design thinking isn’t just for large innovations, but more focused on human-centered discovery.  This can result in varying sizes of innovation, but the impacts can be meaningful.  It was also interesting to think about the design process as a system of spaces.  Many times we approach problems or innovation in a systematic way where one step follows the next.  Although I would find the space approach frustrating at first, the results that can be achieved outweighs that frustration.

I think this article also spoke about the importance of getting outside perspective.  The way we approach problems and innovation is shaped by the information we have and our perspective on the situation.  Understanding that this is a constraint on innovation and being open to the design thinking approach can foster successful innovation that may not have otherwise been achieved.

Napkins – are they recycled? September 23, 2009

Posted by Alison Zander in Back of the Napkin, [Books] Visualization & Presentation.
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Dan Roam’s book, The Back of the Napkin addresses how to solve problems and sell ideas with pictures. I am a quantitative thinker and I do not instinctively draw pictures to convey my ideas visually. This book definitely encouraged me to draw ideas out. I’ve experimented with drawing, and I now know that I can draw well enough to convey my ideas to others and that in some settings drawings can be more impactful. I don’t know if I will ever be the “black pen” person that can’t wait to get in front of a whiteboard with a marker, but the book has encouraged me pick up the marker and draw.

This book also described frameworks to use when approaching visual thinking. Although the frameworks offered were great thought starters, the images the book used as examples are already used in business to communicate ideas. I think the book brought to light a fresh approach to problem solve and sell ideas through free-hand drawings, but the way that it was presented gave me the impression that I was going to learn some break through ways to be more effective. I think this book will help me draw ideas rather than listing them especially in brainstorming sessions, but I didn’t really get a new perspective from this book and I found myself wishing I had picked something else.