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A Whole New Mind, and me. December 9, 2009

Posted by Tony Mignot in A Whole New Mind.
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The world has gone through different phases: agricultural, industrial, and information, where we are now. But this current phase is threatened by three factors: abundance (now, people want more than quality at a cheap price, they want beauty), Asia (more and more jobs can be outsourced), and automation (more and more jobs can be executed by computers as long as they can be distilled into a set of rules). These factors will force us into a new phase, which Daniel Pink calls: the conceptual age.

In order to be successful in the conceptual age, we will have to not only excel at left-brain skills (analysis, linear thinking), but also at right-brain skills (synthesis, simultaneous thinking), much needed by MBA students. This combination of complementary skills is described as a whole new mind.

Left-brain thinkers dominate the information age. To help us develop right-brain skills, Daniel Pink identifies six aptitudes: design (create something that is also beautiful), story (sell benefits, not features), symphony (combine seemingly unrelated ideas into something new), empathy (forge relationships), play (increase productivity), and meaning (add purpose).

Just for fun, here’s a video shown by our corporate finance (the archetype of a left-brain directed discipline) professor, about the power of good story:

When I read this book, I realized that many guest speakers and professors must have read it too. They often mentioned examples and exercises that come directly from this book in their presentations. I was happy to finally get this message straight from the horse’s mouth.

A whole new mind allowed me to take a step back. All these years, I’ve been studying engineering, and working in software development. Two years ago, I decided to go back to school to study business. Without being aware of it, I was forcing myself into a left-directed mindset. After all, when I was about 12 years old, a vocational advisor recommended that I study art. I went for mathematics because I couldn’t envision what kind of job I would have access to if I studied art.

According to Daniel Pink, the challenge for me now, is to finally muscle up my right brain and get it back in shape.

Next stop: go from design thinking to design doing.


Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell November 23, 2009

Posted by Tony Mignot in Outliers.
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Outliers in a nutshell:

  • Context is key: to really understand a situation, you need to dig deep. Malcolm Gladwell did just that to understand why are successful people successful. He found out that success is not just a matter of being smart. Success is about having opportunities and seizing them (by working hard enough to really develop some expertise – something like 10,000 hours, says he). Sure, a high IQ helps (that’s an innate opportunity). But only to a certain point. Beyond that point (meaning you’re smart enough), other things matter, like creativity and practical intelligence (that’s an acquired opportunity, which allows you to know what to say to whom, when to say it, and how to say it for maximum effect).
  • Systems may be flawed (success to the successful): to give more opportunities to more people, some systems need to be redesigned.

Sketching user experiences October 1, 2009

Posted by Tony Mignot in Sketching User Experiences.
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Leading through innovation September 27, 2009

Posted by Tony Mignot in Design Thinking.
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Most companies or business schools these days, claim to differentiate from competition through innovation. Leading through innovation is at the heart of the Haas School of Business. But what does it mean exactly? Sara Beckman and Michael Barry have figured that out.

The innovation process is broken down into four steps: observation, framework, Imperatives, and solutions. The observation phase aims at identifying the true needs of users, while the framework phase’s goal is to come up with a new way of solving the problem that users face. In the imperative phase, the innovation team converges to decide on the most important goals that the solution needs to accomplish. Finally, the solution appears and is evaluated through prototyping.

Each of these four steps requires different mindsets. Four learning styles have been identified as the most suited for each step: diverging, assimilating, converging, and accommodating respectively.

Therefore, leading through innovation requires first assembling the right mix of people, and then leveraging the diversity of the team to execute the above-mentioned process.

But the Haas School of Business doesn’t stop there. It offers opportunities to students to put that theory into practice through what it calls “experiential learning”.

During my first year at Haas as an MBA student, I was lucky enough to be involved in Haas@Work with the Clorox company. We put the innovation process to work to come up with a set of recommendations to solve a problem that Clorox was facing. I was impressed by the results we came up with in a very short amount of time. Worth mentioning is the role of the facilitator who helped us transition from one phase to the other. Over the summer, I was one of the few students who actually implemented a subset of those recommendations, by working even closer with Clorox.

At Haas, we don’t just talk about innovation. We are actually offered various opportunities to put innovation to work. Haas@Work being only one option.

“Don’t explain why it can’t be done. Discover how it can be done”. Wait a minute. Should it be done at all? September 27, 2009

Posted by Tony Mignot in As The Future Catches You.
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“The future is catching us”, is a very worthy piece of reading. Its author Juan Enriquez has done an amazing work gathering data that stretches across millennia and presenting it in a pleasant non intimidating manner, using creative fonts and layouts to educate the reader and support his view.

The world is changing tremendously, whether we like it or not. We now live in a knowledge-based world dominated by digital information and genomics. According to the author, if you don’t export knowledge, you don’t get rich. Therefore, the ability to innovate is the most valuable asset and education is the key to success.

J.Enriquez makes a good case convincing the reader that genomics is the way to go. Technically, manipulating genes is nothing more than decoding/encoding information. Millions of people are already doing this everyday when they send an email or download a file over the internet. We should all embrace genomics as the next “big thing”. It’s not a matter of whether it can be done, but how it can be done. Hence the need for more educated people.

The author envisions genetically modified food that will serve as drugs, or mosquitoes turned into flying needles that will inoculate people against diseases. He claims that doctors will as a consequence focus much more on prevention in the future, just like dentists do today.

For the faint hearted that is reluctant playing sorcerer’s apprentice, he argues that we’ve always been “domesticating” nature in a way or another – natural dogs are wolves after all.

But J.Enriquez also admits being concerned about the case of Europe where genetically modified organisms are prohibited. To him, Europeans are missing the obvious. They will eventually be forced to either close their borders and will end up being isolated from the rest of the world, or to change their point of view. According to his reasoning, more education should help Europeans toe the line.

But wait a minute. People are pretty well educated in Europe. J.Enriquez must be missing something…

I personally would argue that because they are educated, Europeans know enough to know that they don’t know enough about GMOs. It seems to me that what Enriquez is missing is the precautionary principle, that is a compulsory principle of law in Europe. Avoiding a problem is better than trying to fix it. Sounds familiar? Think about your dentist again.

Enriquez goes into details explaining that genomics can be done, how it can be done, and what it would enable. However, he never questions whether or not it should be done at all.

We may be facing one of the most dramatic revolutions in human history. It will be our responsibility and that of our children to shape the world we want to live in. While the book serves well as an introduction to the biotech industry, it shouldn’t be considered a panacea. More debate is needed to question the ethical issues related to genomics.