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Revenge of the Right (not that Right) December 1, 2009

Posted by milimittal in A Whole New Mind.
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Daniel Pink writes music to my ear.  As an R-directed thinker, I have forced myself to the confines of the L-directed corporate world for a few years, and came to the most R-inspiring MBA program I could find.  Pink tells me that my time has come to rule the world!  Finally.  (kidding; I don’t want to rule the world – that would take way too much time).

In all seriousness, A Whole New Mind is a well packaged version of many of the things we’ve learned in Design Thinking.  Pink makes the case that three global trends (abundance, Asia, and automation) have converged to make R-directed thinking more critical to our society. As left-brain work becomes outsourced and automated, and people focus more on meaning than on utility, the need for Rs in our businesses, government, and lives becomes urgent.

Pink goes on to discuss what he dubs ‘the six senses,’ which, in some way, echo the tools and themes we’ve learned practiced in this course: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, Meaning.

Design – well, we’ve clearly explored design thinking, presentation design, and design work in our journals.  Story – we’ve seen and practiced in our improvisation session and in our ethnographic work.  Symphony (aka, the ability to synthesize rather than analyze) – this we have seen in systems thinking and also have practiced in our synthensizing post-it exercises.  Empathy – this we also practiced in our improvisation (“Yes, and”) and in our ethnographic work.  Play  –  this is the spirit of the class.  Meaning – the whole basis of this class is to think about something that has meaning – the ways we think, self-awareness and outer-awareness of the world.

I’ve gone over the ‘short blog-post rule’ so I end here.  I highly recommend this book – it’s a nicely packaged version much of what we’ve learned/explored.

Celebrating 100(and some) Years of Creative Destruction November 22, 2009

Posted by milimittal in Prophet of Innovation.
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Many of us in the U.S. do not know who Joseph Schumpeter was (I didn’t, anyway). And yet, so many of us (especially here at Haas) are indebted to the man’s life work. I might go so far as to  say that we could call Schumpeter the father of the “Berkeley Difference.”  As an aspiring entrepreneur, I feel a personal sense of gratitude to this man, who, born 100 years before me, put the concept of entrepreneurship (derived from the German word for undertaker) on the map.

Joseph Schumpeter was many things in his life ~ a lover, an economist, an adventurer, a professor, a banker, a minister of finance, a widower, a womanizer, an arrogant bon vivant, and much more. Perhaps his most recognized contribution was his observation that entrepreneurial spirit and drive are the anchors of innovation, which he believed in turn was the anchor of capitalism. Though this theory of creative destruction is now common parlance at Haas and across the business world, it took him a lifetime to discover. Schumpeter describes the spirit of entrepreneurs:

Then there is the will to conquer: the impulse to fight, to prove oneself superior to others, to succeed for the sake, not of the fruits of success, but of success itself… Finally…the joy of creating…or simply of exercising one’s energy and ingenuity.

He goes on to posit that:

Almost all businesses…ultimately fail- almost always because they failed to innovate.

Heard that before, Haasies?  Yes, it’s very often said in the halls of Haas. To me, this is the very core of the Berkeley Difference, this idea of creative destruction and innovation as the center of the business and capitalist world. Thank you, Jo.

Feeling Sure about Uncertainty September 23, 2009

Posted by milimittal in Design Thinking.
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I am in a rut. I don’t quite know where I am in the design process (am I even in the design process?!) with our start-up, MyChef. It feels like we are in the design process because we’ve gone from problem-selection to ideation, then to observation, then back to problem-selection, ideation, frameworks, imperatives and back again – but I don’t feel all that comfortable in the absence of linearity, so I am unclear as to how close we are to implementation. Though I am a creative person who loves to characterize myself an ‘outside the box thinker,’ loves to paint, draw, dance and sing, I can’t get outside the trap of linearity. It takes me a lot of effort to be comfortable in a world without clear direction.

What strikes me most about this week’s readings is the simple notion that if you spend time with your customers- observing them, talking to them, you have a much higher chance of a) finding a problem that actually exists, b) innovating and creating a solution that works and c) selling the thing – you’ve already got a set of customers ready and waiting that you have talked to! It seems very simple and yet is overlooked by some of the biggest companies day in and day out.

The MyChef team recognized that this past summer (after having defined a problem and solution that we knew very little about) and conducted several focus groups and interviews with people we envision as our future customers. The readings (and Sara) emphasize the importance of observation over interviewing due to the customers’ own lack of awareness, and I completely buy-in to that concept. I struggle, however, with how to actually observe our customers’ thought processes and planning decisions. Perhaps I need to think more creatively on this one.

Have a Little Faith September 23, 2009

Posted by milimittal in As The Future Catches You.
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The idea that wealth is increasingly created by one person (or a small group of people/empire) that are selling ideas rather than exploiting natural resources really strikes me (read: bothers me). It is inspiring in a way, as I try to start my own business, but also defeating in that its natural conclusion is that humans are less and less dependent on one another for success. As technology advances and we map genomes, we watch ourselves shrink further and further from human interdependence.

I struggle with the implications of technology on our interconnectedness: on one hand it brings us closer (in a minute I can pull-up a live on-screen video chat with dear friends in Columbia, Japan, Scotland), and on the other it distances us (I ride the BART with an ipod plugged into my ears, completely numb to the people on my train). But to claim that those who create and legitimize this technology are those that create all the world’s wealth and knowledge is insulting and unfair to the majority of the people on the planet. There are armies of people (teachers, non-profit workers, farmers, merchants, laborers), who may not be on the cutting edge of technology but whom we are without a doubt dependent upon – even those clever and privileged few who keep pace with cutting edge science and technology.

What Enriquez fails to recognize are the cycles of history and human patterns: yes, the agricultural revolution brought tools to automate and scale farming, created wealth, and launched us into the modern age. Today, however, the most educated of our society are turning not to genetically modified tomatoes, but to the good old-fashioned tomatoes they are growing in their own backyards.

While Enriquez paints the picture that technological advancement is a series of events that build upon one another and continually move us forward, I would argue that it is in fact a series of actions and reactions, a pulse; and that we as humans cannot depend solely on the latest technological or scientific advancement for our success as a species. We must depend a little more on our own humanity – and I believe we will.

Maybe we should just use napkins for eating September 23, 2009

Posted by milimittal in Back of the Napkin, [Books] Visualization & Presentation.
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Back of the Napkin ~ a classic case of choosing a book by its cover. When I picked this up I was super excited: the book claimed it would teach me to use visualization to communicate and potentially to solve any problem I ever faced. Sounds great. Roam took me on a journey through ‘looking,’ ’seeing,’ ‘imagining,’ ’showing,’ on another path through the ‘who/what, how much, when, where, why, and how’ of visualization, and down a few other paths with a few other tools, but at the end of it all, I can’t say that I discovered how to see or show any better than I did before. For example, when Roam asked me to close my eyes and imagine a dog, bird, a couple with a baby carriage, and so on, to prove that my brain has the ability to see and differentiate between the ‘who/what, how much, when, where, how and why’ of a scene, I felt I was supposed to be blown away. I wasn’t. At numerous points after Roam introduced his tools I felt the same way: underwhelmed. So, at the end of book 1, I am wishing I had chosen by something other than the cover. Hopefully books 2 and 3 will do more for me.