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jerryking : cross-pollination   26

Da Vinci code: what the tech age can learn from Leonardo
April 26, 2019 | Financial Times | by Ian Goldin.

While Leonardo is recognised principally for his artistic genius, barely a dozen paintings can be unequivocally attributed to him. In life, he defined himself not as an artist but as an engineer and architect......History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes. The Renaissance catapulted Italy from the Medieval age to become the most advanced place on Earth. Then, as now, change brought immense riches to some and growing anxiety and disillusionment to others. We too live in an age of accelerating change, one that has provoked its own fierce backlash. What lessons can we draw from Leonardo and his time to ensure that we not only benefit from a new flourishing, but that progress will be sustained? When we think of the Renaissance, we think of Florence. Leonardo arrived in the city in the mid 1460s, and as a teenager was apprenticed to the painter Verrocchio. The city was already an incubator for ideas. At the centre of the European wool trade, by the late 14th century Florence had become the home of wealthy merchants including the Medicis, who were bankers to the Papal Court. The city’s rapid advances were associated with the information and ideas revolution that defines the Renaissance. Johann Gutenberg had used moveable type to publish his Bible in the early 1450s, and between the time of Leonardo’s birth in 1452 and his 20th birthday, some 15m books were printed, more than all the European scribes had produced over the previous 1,500 years.

..as Leonardo knew, and the Silicon Valley techno-evangelists too often neglect, information revolutions don’t only allow good ideas to flourish. They also provide a platform for dangerous ideas. The Zuckerberg information revolution can pose a similar threat to that of Gutenberg.

In the battle of ideas, populists are able to mobilise the disaffected more effectively than cerebral scientists, decently disciplined innovators and the moderate and often silent majority. For progress to prevail, evidence-based, innovative and reasoned thinking must triumph.
.....Genius thrived in the Renaissance because of the supportive ecosystem that aided the creation and dissemination of knowledge — which then was crushed by the fearful inquisitions. Today, tolerance and evidence-based argument are again under threat.
accelerated_lifecycles  architecture  broad-based_scientific_enquiry  capitalization  cross-disciplinary  cross-pollination  curiosity  dangerous_ideas  digital_economy  diversity  engineering  Florence  genius  globalization  human_potential  ideas  immigrants  Italy  industry_expertise  Johan_Gutenberg  lessons_learned  Leonardo_da_Vinci  Medicis  physical_place  polymaths  observations  Renaissance  Renaissance_Man  Silicon_Valley  silo_mentality  tolerance  unevenly_distributed  visionaries 
april 2019 by jerryking
Reading with intention can change your life — Quartz
WRITTEN BY
Jory Mackay
May 03, 2016

Often we're ok with the why of reading, but what about the how? Too often we get through a book, flip the last page, sit back, and think, “What the hell did I just read?” Reading and being able to use what you’ve read are completely different things......
Having a clear question in mind or a topic you’re focusing on can make all the difference in helping you to remember and recall information. While this can be as easy as defining a subject to look into beforehand, if time is no object here’s how to effectively “hack” your brain into being impressed with the subject matter:

Before reading
Ruin the ending. Read reviews and summaries of the work. You’re trying to learn why something happened, so the what is secondary. Frame your reading with knowledge around the subject and perspective of what’s being said and how it relates to the larger topic.

During reading
As you read, have a specific purpose in mind and stick to it. Don’t let your mind be the river that sweeps your thoughts away as you read. Be a ruthless notetaker. Your librarian might kill you for this, but using a technique such as marginalia (writing notes in the margin and marking up key patterns for follow ups), will make you a more active reader and help lock information in your memory.

After reading
Engage with the material. Write a summary or analysis of the main ideas you want to recall or use, research supporting topics and ideas noting how they connect with what you’ve read, and then present, discuss, or write about your final ideas.

Make associations with what you already know
Repeat, revisit, and re-engage
cross-pollination  deep_learning  hacks  high-impact  howto  intentionality  life-changing  note_taking  productivity  purpose  reading  tips 
may 2018 by jerryking
Biographer Walter Isaacson explains what made Leonardo da Vinci a genius - The Globe and Mail
RUSSELL SMITH
SPECIAL TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL
PUBLISHED DECEMBER 4, 2017

What we can learn from Leonardo constitutes the peculiar last chapter of this otherwise sober and cautious biography. At its end Isaacson moves from his role as historian into something closer to self-help guru. He lists a set of Leonardish attributes for us to emulate that sound a lot like advice to tech startups: "Retain a childlike sense of wonder… Think visually… Avoid silos… Collaborate…" Add this to repeated comparisons to Steve Jobs, a previous biographee of Isaacson's, and one is reminded that this is a very American biography (Isaacson was managing editor of Time magazine for years), one that sees "creativity" as primarily a corporate asset.
Russell_Smith  books  biographies  genius  Leonardo_da_Vinci  Walter_Isaacson  Steve_Jobs  polymaths  foxes  hedgehogs  renaissance  cross-disciplinary  cross-pollination  generalists  curiosity  creativity  collaboration  silo_mentality 
december 2017 by jerryking
Intellectual maestro craves connections as NACO’s music director - The Globe and Mail
ROBERT EVERETT-GREEN
The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Feb. 27 2015,

The energetic Englishman’s conversation, during a short visit to Toronto, is full of the language of linkage and cross-reference. Just about everything good can be made better, in his view, if the connections between things, people and ideas are stronger... if classical music isn’t reaching parts of the population, he says, it’s because those who perform aren’t doing enough to make links between the music, its history and the way we live today. “I only really connect to a piece of music when I read around it, I mean the broad social context.”

Connecting dots is a familiar theme in the arts and in arts promotion these days, but Shelley is quite willing to chase it into the corners, as they say in hockey. ....tell a compelling story which helps to solve a problem (Daniel Doctoroff--Bloomberg's guy)
music  Communicating_&_Connecting  Ottawa  cultural_institutions  connecting_the_dots  artists  orchestras_&_symphonies  classical_music  CEOs  sense-making  contextual  cross-pollination  interconnections 
march 2015 by jerryking
M.I.T.'s Alex Pentland: Measuring Idea Flows to Accelerate Innovation - NYTimes.com - NYTimes.com
April 15, 2014 | NYT | By STEVE LOHR.

Alex Pentland --“Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread — The Lesson From a New Science.”

Mr. Pentland has been identified with concepts — and terms he has coined — related to the collection and interpretation of all that data, like “honest signals” and “reality mining.” His descriptive phrases are intended to make his point that not all data in the big data world is equal....Reality mining, for example, examines the data about what people are actually doing rather than what they are looking for or saying. Tracking a person’s movements during the day via smartphone GPS signals and credit-card transactions, he argues, are far more significant than a person’s web-browsing habits or social media comments....Central to the concept of social physics is the ability to measure communication and transactions as never before. Then, that knowledge about the flow of ideas can be used to accelerate the pace of innovation.

The best decision-making environment, Mr. Pentland says, is one with high levels of both “engagement” and “exploration.” Engagement is a measure of how often people in a group communicate with each other, sharing social knowledge. Exploration is a measure of seeking out new ideas and new people.

A golden mean is the ideal....[traders] with a balance of diversity of ideas in their trading network — engagement and exploration — had returns that were 30 percent ahead of isolated traders and well ahead of the echo chamber traders, too....The new data and measurement tools, he writes, allow for a “God’s eye view” of human activity. And with that knowledge, he adds, comes the potential to engineer better decisions in a “data-driven society.”
Alex_Pentland  books  cross-pollination  curiosity  data_scientists  data_driven  decision_making  massive_data_sets  MIT  Mydata  sensors  social_physics  Steve_Lohr  idea_generation  heterogeneity  ideas  intellectual_diversity  traders  social_data  signals  echo_chambers 
april 2014 by jerryking
Why Imagination and Curiosity Matter More Than Ever - The CIO Report - WSJ
January 31, 2014 | WSJ | By Irving Wladawsky-Berger.

How can you foster imagination and curiosity? This was the subject of the 2011 book co-authored by JSB: A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. One of its key points is that learning has to evolve from something that only happens in the classroom to what that he calls connected learning, taking advantage of all the available resources, including tinkering with the system, playing games and perhaps most important, absorbing new ideas from your peers, from adjacent spaces and from other disciplines....How do you decide what problems to work on and try to solve? This second kind of innovation–which they call interpretation–is very different in nature from analysis. You are not solving a problem, but looking for a new insight about customers and the marketplace, a new idea for a product or a service, a new approach to producing and delivering them, a new business model. It requires the curiosity and imagination.
ideas  idea_generation  STEM  imagination  tacit_data  Roger_Martin  Rotman  critical_thinking  innovation  customer_insights  books  interpretation  curiosity  OPMA  organizational_culture  cross-pollination  second-order  new_businesses  learning  connected_learning  constant_change  Irving_Wladawsky-Berger  worthwhile_problems  new_products  mental_dexterity  tinkerers  adjacencies 
february 2014 by jerryking
Canada must refuel for cultural creativity - The Globe and Mail
EDGAR COWAN, JOHN HOBDAY and IAN WILSON

The Globe and Mail

Published Tuesday, Sep. 04 2012,

culture has since been relegated to “niche” status under successive governments, and the cultural sector as a whole has been relegated to the periphery of policy-making.

Now, as we face the challenges of a highly competitive global digital economy, Canada’s under-capitalized but lively and diverse cultural and creative resources could become important strategic innovation assets....Last October, Innovation Canada: A Call To Action, an influential report prepared under the chairmanship of OpenText’s Tom Jenkins, emphasized the centrality of innovation as “the ultimate source of the long-term competitiveness of businesses and the quality of life of Canadians.”

The mobile digital technology explosion has already transformed many aspects of our daily lives. It has dramatically changed our workplaces. Old business models and habits are being challenged, new forms of expression are emerging and our children, the digital natives, are functioning in new ways.

It has radically altered how we communicate with family and friends, and how we relate to our cultural assets: how we listen to music; how we create and read books; how we distribute and view films; how we find information; even how we experience theatre, opera and ballet.

In order to surf this digital tsunami, we need to understand the broad role of the creative sector in the innovation agenda, and consider how we manage the changes, challenges and opportunities that will be beneficial to us as Canadians....Canada needs a new innovative economic “road map,” firmly linking dynamic creative and cultural sectors with open and welcoming business and technology sectors. This collaboration is essential to our achieving the Canada we want to be. Our innovative arts, culture and heritage sector already generates more than $46-billion for the Canadian economy and employs more than 600,000 people. These figures alone suggest that governments and the business community should recognize the potential of this sector to be mobilized and to play an evolving role in pointing the way to a successful innovation strategy.

Canadians should be made more aware that there is a much broader creative constituency than just those in the traditional visual and performing arts. Creativity is nurtured within many professional sectors: architects, graphic artists, fashion and industrial designers, video game creators, journalists, broadcasters, research scientists of all kinds, health-care professionals, academics, teachers – and many others – particularly among those involved in our dynamic digital technology sector.

One can only begin to imagine the incredible economic benefits for Canada from a “coalition of creators,” encouraging the nimble minds from the vital cultural sector to collaborate with other creative design sectors, and the burgeoning digital technology sector
culture  digital_economy  collaboration  cross-pollination  Canada  creative_renewal  cross-disciplinary  creative_class  creativity  innovation  competitveness  roadmaps  arts  constituencies  cultural_creativity 
september 2012 by jerryking
Starting Up in High Gear
July-August 2000 | HBR |An Interview with Vinod Khosla by David Champion and Nicholas G. Carr.

To create the kind of new wealth you’re talking about, we’re going to have to see massive investments in information technology. Where’s the money going to come from?

It’s going to come out of corporate budgets. Companies invest wherever they’re going to get the biggest returns, and right now that’s IT. Look at the trend in capital expenditures. Twenty years ago, information technology accounted for about 10% of capital expenditures in the United States. ...
Today, if you have a plan for a new business, you circulate it in the venture community and you get funded in a week. What you don’t get is an honest, painstaking critique. What are the downsides in your plan? What are the shortcomings? What are the weak links? The strengths of your idea get a lot of attention, but the weaknesses get ignored—and ultimately it’s the weaknesses of your plan that will kill you. A start-up is only as strong as its weakest link....
The first thing we focused on was getting the right set of people for the company—the right gene pool. We started out on the technical end. Pradeep had helped architect the Ultrasparc processor at Sun, so he had strong skills in building technical architectures and could apply those skills to routers. But he needed somebody with experience in building and operating an IP network, and he needed somebody who’d done operating systems software for routers and somebody who’d done protocols for routers. So we drew out a map that said, “Here are the ten different areas of expertise we need.” Then we made a list of the companies doing the best work in each area, and we listed the five people in each company who would make good targets. We went after those people, and piece by piece we assembled a multidisciplinary team that could make Juniper a leader.
IT  interviews  HBR  Kleiner_Perkins  start_ups  large_companies  management_consulting  Vinod_Khosla  executive_search  shortcomings  weaknesses  new_businesses  CAPEX  weak_links  Nicholas_Carr  talent_acquisition  gene_pool  expertise  team_risk  wealth_creation  cross-pollination  interdisciplinary  teams  protocols 
june 2012 by jerryking
How outsiders solve problems that stump experts
May. 02, 2012 | The Globe and Mail| by ERIN MILLAR Special to Globe and Mail Update.

“Radical innovations often happen at the intersections of disciplines,” write Dr. Karim Lakhani and Dr. Lars Bo Jeppesen, of Harvard Business School and Copenhagen Business School respectively, in the Harvard Business Review. “The more diverse the problem-solving population, the more likely a problem is to be solved. People tend to link problems that are distant from their fields with solutions that they've encountered in their own work.”....“We assume that technical problems can be solved only by people with technical expertise,” writes Jonah Lehrer, who discusses InnoCentive in his new book Imagine: How Creativity Works. “But that assumption is wrong. The people deep inside a domain – the chemists trying to solve a chemistry problem – often suffer from a type of intellectual handicap. It's not until the challenge is shared with motivated outsiders that the solution can be found.
creativity  heterogeneity  innovation  polymaths  problem_solving  InnoCentive  books  Jonah_Lehrer  cross-pollination  interdisciplinary  outsiders  intellectual_diversity  moonshots  breakthroughs  industry_expertise 
may 2012 by jerryking
The Future of the Future
September 30, 2005 |Special to the Toronto Star | By Alan Webber.

From Toronto to Tokyo, from Copenhagen to Chicago, from San Paulo to San Francisco—in virtually every major city in every industrialized country in the world—leaders of business, government, and not-for-profits are preoccupied with the same fundamental question: What do we need to do to compete successfully in the economy of the future?...it’s not hard to locate the source of so much economic soul-searching spread over so many historically prosperous countries. Most observers could cull their list of explanations to two simple words: China, India.

there are four additional revolutions going on that all of us must attend to if we want to shape our future, and not simply watch it shape us.
Briefly, the four are:
􀂗 The convergence of politics, religion, and culture as a powerful force for national and international identity and change.
􀂗 The transformational power of technology, and in particular, bio-technology and the new sciences.
􀂗 The revolution in art and self-expression.
􀂗 The global search for personal meaning.

Some of the operating rules that we can apply as we participate in the creation of our own future.
(1) innovation and creativity are the coin of the realm; talent,
diversity, design, and leadership are the metals that make up that coin.
(2) If we want to see the future, we will have to ask the right questions about it...Leif Edvinsson, the world’s first professor of Intellectual Capital, is pioneering a new field: “quizzics”—the art of asking the right question, the right way, because in every field, the question we ask will determine the answer we get.
(3) The future will be created in the interplay of these five revolutions, and at the boundaries of discrete disciplines. Most of us are trained in one profession, one discipline, one career; most of us are rewarded for our expertise in that one area. And yet, increasingly, the future that is emerging requires cross-disciplinary thinking, the ability to work across categories and at the boundaries of expertise.
asking_the_right_questions  intellectual_capital  future  trends  China  India  rules_of_the_game  innovation  creativity  soul-searching  cross-pollination  interdisciplinary  cross-disciplinary  questions 
may 2012 by jerryking
Billy Bryans’ eclectic musical tastes took him far - The Globe and Mail
Billy Bryans of the Parachute Club

Billy Bryans’ eclectic musical tastes took him far
NICHOLAS JENNINGS
From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
Published Monday, Apr. 23, 2012 9:10
obituaries  Toronto  music  Queen_Street  diversity  cross-pollination  eclectic  trailblazers 
april 2012 by jerryking
Create the Medici Effect - HBS Working Knowledge
9/20/2004
A new book looks at creativity at the intersections of fields, disciplines, and cultures. An excerpt from The Medici Effect explores the far-flung food ideas of chef Marcus Samuelsson.
by Frans Johansson
innovation  creativity  Medici  cross-disciplinary  cross-pollination 
november 2011 by jerryking
"The bruises of the bandwagon: ENTREPRENEURSHIP: Reality television is revealing how desperately some people want to break into business. But many fail to analyse their ideas,
Apr. 25, 2005 | Financial Times pg 16.| by Paul Tyrrell

Everyone wants to run their own business. But many fail to prepare thoroughly before scrambling on to the bandwagon. Among the television hopefuls, the most widespread and humiliating trait is a failure to appreciate that an entrepreneur's personal qualities are just as important as their ideas.

It is a salutary warning. Venture capitalists and business angels have always been more inclined to back a great team with a mediocre idea than a mediocre team with a great idea. They attach a lot of importance to what they term "scar tissue" - evidence that the person has learned from experience.

"People who are enamoured of their own idea can be great, but only if they listen really hard,"... "Nothing goes to plan, so you're looking for people you can trust off-plan." ...Entrepreneurs are more likely to succeed if they can come up with an idea that exploits their experience. This is particularly clear in product development situations - for example, where an engineer takes the knowledge he gains at a large company and uses it to set up a rival.

Research suggests that "spin-outs have a survival edge in the market over other entrants as the result of a combination of entrepreneurial flexibility and inherited knowledge"....what distinguishes successful entrepreneurs is their ability to spot commercially exploitable patterns where others cannot. Herbert Simon, winner of the 1978 Nobel Prize in economic sciences, suggests this process is intuitive: a good business idea stems from the creative linking, or cross-association of two or more in-depth "chunks" of experience - know-how and contacts.
Infotrac_Newsstand  entrepreneurship  entrepreneur  pattern_recognition  personality_types/traits  television  spin-offs  entertainment  venture_capital  angels  cross-pollination  tacit_data  knowledge_intensive  scar_tissue  teams  team_risk  off-plan  Plan_B  tacit_knowledge  nimbleness  combinations 
november 2011 by jerryking
The Slow Hunch: How Innovation is Created Through Group Intelligence
By Dan Rowinski / June 9, 2011

Chance favors the connected mind. That is what author Steven B. Johnson says to those looking for the next big idea. Johnson is the author of "Where Ideas Come From" a book that looks at the macro trends on how innovation evolves.

Ideas are rarely created through a "eureka" moment....Johnson believes that ideas are born of a "slow hunch" that are made possible through periods of technological innovation and evolution. If you are creating a startup, where do you get your ideas from?

Innovation is often made possible by the evolution of networked possibilities....
The Hive Mind & Collective Intelligence

"It is just this idea that if you diversify and have an electric range of interests and you are constantly getting interesting stories about things that you do not know that much about or are adjacent to your particular field of expertise you are much more likely to come up with innovative ideas," Johnson told ReadWriteWeb.

The same approach would work well for developers and innovators working on the next technology breakthrough. Startup founders should take step back from their project and ask what type of similar projects have been undertaken in a completely different field and see if those lessons can be applied to their project.

"The trick is to look at something different and borrow ideas. It is like saying 'this worked for that field, if we put it here what would it do in this new context?'" Johnson said.

In today's world, the ability to branch out of your field of expertise has been made much easier through social media. You can follow what is happening in your niche through a specifically created Twitter list, but it is also beneficial to create lists of people working in different sectors as well.

"The important thing is that this is not some kind of hive-mind wisdom of the crowds, collective intelligence network smarts," Johnson said. "The unit is still the individual or the small group. There are some examples of group intelligence. This is an example instead of taking individuals in small groups and making them smarter by connecting them to a wider range of influences."
adjacencies  collective_intelligence  innovation  grouping  Steven_Johnson  start_ups  chance  probabilities  idea_generation  ideas  Communicating_&_Connecting  cross-pollination  cross-disciplinary  interconnections  learning_journeys  connected_learning  wisdom_of_crowds 
october 2011 by jerryking
What's The Big Idea?
Mar 12, 2011 | Financial Times. pg. 28 | by James Crabtree. Forward to R. Mayot re. IdeaCity

From Davos, to Long Beach, to north Wales, 'ideas conferences' are burgeoning. But, asks James Crabtree, are they really the new crucibles for creative thinking - or just exclusive talking shops?

Aficionados of cult television know Portmeirion simply as "the village". Here, in the 1960s show The Prisoner, Patrick McGoohan insists "I am not a number, I am a free man," and plots his escape from a mysterious captive community. But, last weekend, the town hosted a different sort of exclusive gathering - and one perhaps better known for those trying to get in, not out.

Against a backdrop of pastel-painted Italianate cliff-top villas, around 120 specially invited guests descended on the Welsh coastal village for what its organisers describe as a global "thought leadership symposium". Such self-selected elite groupings seem, at first glance, to be little more than a weekend break for an already-fortunate section of the chattering classes; what one Portmeirion participant dryly described as "a socially concerned Saga mini-break, dressed up as something more serious".

But such events are also part of a wider trend in the burgeoning market for "ideas conferences" - exclusive conflabs that bring together groups of leaders with the aim of sparking creative ideas, untethered from the niche subjects, academic specialisms or industry segments that have long dominated professional events.

Examples are not hard to find. The business summit in the secluded Swiss mountain resort of Davos is the most famous. But the first week of March also saw the latest TED conference, an exclusive annual USD7,500-a-ticket gathering in Long Beach, California, dedicated to "ideas worth spreading". Elsewhere Google runs an annual invite-only conference, known as Zeitgeist, while American internet evangelist Tim O'Reilly hosts excitable technology entrepreneurs at Foo Camp, which modestly stands for "Friends of O'Reilly".

Dozens of smaller meetings are popping up too, such as Portmeirion, now in its third year and with the FT as one of its sponsors. They represent a shift in the market for conferences, now forced to be more eye-catching to attract the attention of more demanding and distracted audiences. But their blossoming also illuminates a wider trend: the growing importance of unusual ideas and rich social networks, in an economy in which information is both increasingly valuable and confusingly abundant.

Those gathered at Portmeirion this year formed an eclectic group, ranging from polymathic finance expert Nassim Nicholas Taleb to actress Miriam Margolyes and rock concert promoter Harvey Goldsmith. Elsewhere the resort's narrow streets were thronged with a mixture of senior bankers, newspaper columnists, politicians, entrepreneurs, authors and think-tank boffins.

Portmeirion itself used to be something of a salon for London's recuperating elite, hosting guests such as Noel Coward and Bertrand Russell. The idea of hosting a contemporary event there stems from this: it is the brainchild of British public relations guru Julia Hobsbawm, whose father (the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm) brought their family to the town for summer holidays.

Top-level gatherings have long been a feature of politics and international affairs. Historian Simon Schama points to The Poker Club, a distinguished salon at the heart of the Scottish Enlightenment of the late 1700s, which counted David Hume and Adam Smith among its members.

Today's ideas conferences are less serious affairs than their antecedents, with agendas that go well beyond the straitjacketed worlds of politics, foreign affairs and business. Videos, jazzy graphics and blaring music between sessions all help keep participants engaged. Informal, unscripted agenda-less "unconferences", are also popular.

A defiantly cross-disciplinary ethic marks out this new class of events, whose programmes are seemingly incomplete without sculptors, comedians and bioethicists to balance out the economists and business gurus. Portmeirion's two most memorable sessions were its most eclectic: a plea to save the seas from oceanographer Sylvia Earle, and a moving film about Indian prostitution from filmmaker Beeban Kidron.

The flipside of this variety is a certain intellectual vagueness, as organisers try to hold together a programme full of clashing insights. The gnomic theme of the most recent TED, for instance, was "the rediscovery of wonder" - featuring a live talk from an astronaut in an orbiting space station, and a demonstration of a machine that "printed" human body parts. The theme of Portmeirion, meanwhile, was simply "community and values", into which one could read just about anything.

Certainly, it isn't always clear what these conferences are meant to be about. The ideal speaker, therefore, is someone able to cross many intellectual boundaries at once [jk: does this meet the definition of "transgressive"??] - as with Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan, who kicked off the Portmeirion gathering with a magisterial address on the topic of "anti-fragility" in complex social and economic systems. His remarks ranged from mathematics and economics to political theory and Greek history, leaving attendees at once stimulated and more than a little perplexed.

There is an underlying economic rationale too. Delegates often work in professions that place a premium on finding and exploiting the ideas central to processes of innovation in modern businesses. This makes the events business-friendly too - a fact compounded by their need to win extensive corporate sponsorship, which in turn pays for the meals and accommodation that non-paying guests and speakers enjoy.

Yet if the ideas are a little fuzzy, and the business jargon a little too prevalent, this is because, more than anything, these conferences are meant as a celebration, and a test, of the individuals picked to attend - those high-powered, busy, professionally successful types who make a living telling others what they should watch, read or buy.

RSA chief executive Matthew Taylor notes the importance of intellectual cross-dressing at such events: "They allow people to throw off their professional persona for 48 hours: journalists become social theorists, businesspeople become green warriors, and academics become showmen. But on Monday morning - perhaps to everyone's secret relief - it's back to work."

Although their easygoing participants would tend to deny this, these events are a new form of elitism: a novel way of marking out a social and professional hierarchy, in which sensibility and interestingness replaces class or creed. What follows is stimulating, but also reflects the similar outlooks of the media and intellectual elite in a post-ideological world: an ersatz form of intellectualism, which might have raised an eyebrow in Eric Hobsbawm's day.

Even so, such ideas events prosper because they solve a problem faced by many at the top of their professions. The much-discussed "death of distance" never happened; globalisation and the profusion of technology makes place more important. Similarly, a world of abundant, instantly accessible information seems to make personal connection more vital. This puts a premium on private events, which force their participants to spend time developing ideas without distraction. The ideas conference is here to stay.

The Polymath

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

As the guru credited with spotting the unexpected "black swan" events behind the global financial meltdown, Nassim Nicholas Taleb (illustration above) has a track record for spotting unusual ideas. He worries that we have still not learnt the lessons of the crisis, identifying ongoing major threats arising from "expert problems". The risk, he notes, is that "a pseudo-expert astrologist doesn't have many damaging side- effects, but a pseudo-expert economist certainly does".

Taleb is sceptical of some ideas gatherings. Davos is a particular bugbear; he turns down the annual invitation on the grounds that it is "too big, on the wrong topics, and with the wrong people". Other events have their problems too - in particular their tendency to turn "scientists into entertainers and circus performers".

Taleb is currently developing his thinking for a forthcoming book, which he describes as a deeper "volume two" of the themes he explored in The Black Swan. His new big idea is "anti-fragility", or the stability that comes from decentralised, complex systems - such as those found in nature (i.e. biomimicry), or artisan industries - which allow regular small acts of self-destruction, but adapt to keep the system as a whole stable. He contrasts this with fragile, centralised systems - such as the post-crisis banking industry - which prop up their failing parts.

The Agent

Caroline Michel

It is the books with the "big themes" that sell well nowadays, explains Caroline Michel (below), one of London's leading literary agents. Her job, she says, is one in which "amazing people come to me with brilliant ideas, and it is my job to work out what to do with them". In this role she styles herself as part of a new class of "professional mediators", a cadre of ideas professionals whose role it is to weed out "Pot-Noodle knowledge", and give the public new ways to find the valuable information they need.

Consequently, she is a confirmed ideas conference fan, citing book gatherings such as the annual Hay Festival as a source of inspiration. But when facing "an extraordinary spaghetti of knowledge and information", she says, even knowledge professionals find themselves struggling to "to pull through strands" they can understand. A world in which "we have access to this huge mass of information, and in which we are all instant doctors and instant reporters" therefore only increases the importance of those few "people you trust to show you the way through it" - and makes doubly important the chance to listen to them, and to interact with them, in person.

The Entrepreneur

Will … [more]
conferences  ideas  TED  ideaCity  Davos  cross-disciplinary  cross-pollination  antifragility  Nassim_Taleb  self-destructive  Tim_O'Reilly  David_Hume  fragility  Zeitgeist  thinking_big  invitation-only 
march 2011 by jerryking
The Crossroads Nation - NYTimes.com
Nov. 8, 2010 By DAVID BROOKS. What sort of country will
America be in 2030 or 2050? Nobody has defined America’s coming
economic identity. ....We’re living in an information age. Innovation
and creativity are the engines of economic growth. ...Creativity is not a
solitary process. It happens within netwks. It happens when talented
people get together, when idea systems and mentalities merge....."In
2009, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Dir. policy planning at the State Dept.,
wrote an essay , “America’s Edge.”" for Foreign Affairs in which she
laid out the logic of this new situation: “In a networked world, the
issue is no longer relative power, but centrality in an increasingly
dense global web.” the U.S. is well situated to be the crossroads
nation. It is well situated to be the center of global ntwks and to
nurture the right kinds of ntwks Building that US means doing everything
possible to thicken connections: finance research; improve
infrastructure; fix immigration; reform taxes;
R&D  infrastructure  immigration  creativity  future  David_Brooks  networks  soft_power  U.S.foreign_policy  synchronization  orchestration  centralization  Anne-Marie_Slaughter  cross-disciplinary  cross-pollination  network_density  network_power  op_ed 
november 2010 by jerryking
FT.com / Life & Arts - Lightning in a bottle
October 30 2010 | Financial Times | By Steven Johnson. The
physical density of the city also encourages innovation. Many start-ups,
both now and during the first, late-1990s internet boom, share offices.
This creates informal networks of influence, where ideas can pass from
one company to the other over casual conversation at the espresso
machine or water cooler....By crowding together, we increase the
likelihood of interesting ideas or talents crossing the companies’
borders. The proximity also helps to counter the natural volatility of
start-ups...Economists have a telling phrase for the kind of sharing
that happens in these densely populated environments: “information
spillover.” When you share a civic culture with millions of people, good
ideas have a tendency to flow from mind to mind, even when their
creators try to keep them secret....The musician and artist Brian Eno coined the odd but apt word “scenius” to describe the unusual pockets of group creativity and invention that emerge in certain intellectual or artistic scenes: philosophers in 18th-century Scotland; Parisian artists and intellectuals in the 1920s. In Eno’s words, scenius is “the communal form of the concept of the genius.” New York hasn’t yet reached those heights in terms of internet innovation, but clearly something powerful has happened. There is genuine digital-age scenius on its streets. This is good news for my city, of course, but it’s also an important case study for any city that wishes to encourage innovative business. How did New York pull it off?
ideas  creativity  innovation  cities  cross-pollination  urban  idea_generation  scenius  Steven_Johnson  proximity  information_spillover  unpredictability  serendipity  collaboration  densification  ideaviruses  volatility  network_density  start_ups 
october 2010 by jerryking
Globalization 2.0: emerging-market cross-pollination
Oct. 1, 2010 |G& M| Chrystia Freeland. Globalization 1.0:
2-way exchange between west & east or north & south: E.g.
Western companies setting up call centres in India or mfg. goods in
China, China investing in U.S. T-bills, . Globalization 2.0: the
biggest deals & most important capital flows will be between
emerging mkts., without stopping over at Heathrow or JFK. ..Stephen
Jennings of Renaissance Group, a Moscow-based I-bank with ambitions to
be the premier provider for intra-emerging-mkt. capital flows. “MNCs’
advantages (know-how & capital) have been neutralized by an
inability or reluctance to grow explosively in complex, foreign
environments,” “In many emerging mkts. and in an incr. # of industries,
the mkt. leaders have local roots: metals ( Indian), aluminum (Russian),
fastest-growing & largest banks in China, Russia & Nigeria are
domestic.” Yet Western MNCs (e..g GE, Coca-Cola & HSBC) understand
the opportunity in emerging mkts.& agile in adapting to local
conditions.
Chrystia_Freeland  globalization  emerging_markets  BRIC  capital_flows  Fareed_Zakaria  Renaissance_Capital  South-South  cross-pollination  frontier_markets 
october 2010 by jerryking
Preoccupations - The Urban Lands of Opportunity
June 25, 2010 | NYTimes.com |By RICHARD FLORIDA. Over the past
20 yrs., a new way of working and a new kind of workplace have evolved.
Increasingly, places (e.g. the Starbucks where we drink coffee &
send e-mail; the hotel lobby where we take a meeting; or the local
library where we write,edit & revise documents) are supplanting
plants — corporate HQ and factories — as the principal social and
economic organizing units of our time...Especially in tough times, it
makes more sense to choose a big city, with its thick labor markets and
greater economic opportunities, over a single company...The metabolic
rate of living organisms tends to slow as they increase in size. But
cities can achieve a faster rate of “urban metabolism” as they grow,
leading to more innovation, economic growth and improved living
standards. When cross-pollinated in the urban jungle, people come up
with more and better ideas and produce more results from those ideas by
finding more collaborators as well as critics.
Rotman  Richard_Florida  urban  cities  workplaces  coffeehouses  work_life_balance  cross-pollination  information_spillover  third_spaces  hard_times 
june 2010 by jerryking
Bridging the public service-private sector divide - The Globe and Mail
Apr. 26, 2010 | Globe & Mail | Gordon Pitts. Former clerk
of the Privy Council Kevin Lynch – who just moved into an executive post
at Bank of Montreal – says more cross-fertilization is needed if Canada
is going to deal with the big issues ahead
Gordon_Pitts  cross-pollination  public_sector  private_sector  Kevin_Lynch 
april 2010 by jerryking
(F)Innovation in Helsinki
May 12, 2009 | SEEDMAGAZINE.COM | by Jussi Rosendahl. The
Finnish government will merge three top universities in three diverse
fields: Helsinki University of Technology, Helsinki School of Economics,
and the University of Arts and Design in Helsinki. At first called
Innovation University—sparking some debate about its relationship to the
industrial sector—the new institution has been named Aalto University,
after the legendary Finnish architect and designer, Alvar Aalto. The
goal is for Aalto to join the exclusive ranks of top universities around
the world that approach innovation with a multidisciplinary tack:
Stanford University’s D.School, an institute that assembles experts
across the campus, integrating human, business, and technical approaches
with “design thinking,” has led the way. Design London was established
by the Imperial College of London and Royal College of Arts in 2007, and
smaller-scale projects have appeared in Germany and the Netherlands.
Finland  innovation  cross-pollination  design  Colleges_&_Universities  Finnish 
july 2009 by jerryking
Technology Review: Whither the Renaissance Man?
May 2005 | Technology Review | By Michael Hawley

We need to save the diversity of the individual. The irony is that
renaissance men and women are in short supply. Such an intense global
mix of cultures, ideas, and innovations, all apparently a mouse click
away, would seem to demand broad educational perspectives. Yet most
schools persist in turning out laser-focused young professionals. To
make a dent in a particular field, a person has to devote a good chunk
of his or her lifetime just to getting to the starting line. This
doesn't favor the jack-of-all-trades.
Benjamin_Franklin  cross-disciplinary  cross-pollination  curriculum  education  foxes  generalists  hedgehogs  life_long_learning  polymaths  renaissance  Renaissance_Man 
may 2009 by jerryking
Practically Speaking - Creative People Say Inspiration Isn’t All Luck - NYTimes.com
Published: October 22, 2008 | New York Times | By MICKEY MEECE

Serendipity often plays a role in generating big ideas...inspiration,
but equally as important is having an open mind — especially in
tumultuous times like these. Big and small ideas are out there--if you
are looking for them.

2008 IdeaFestival was created by Kris Kimel whose own “Aha!” moment
occurred after attending the Sundance Film Festival and wondering about
hosting a diverse festival that celebrates ideas. In 2000, he helped
create the IdeaFestival, which brings together creative thinkers from
different disciplines to connect ideas in science, the arts, design,
business, film, technology and education. The goal is to promote
“out-of-the-box thinking and cross-fertilization as a means toward the
development of innovative ideas, products and creative endeavors.”
Aha!_moments  chance  conferences  contingency  creativity  creative_types  cross-pollination  entrepreneurship  ideas  idea_generation  ideacity  inspiration  luck  Mickey_Meece  open_mind  out-of-the-box  science_&_technology  serendipity  small_business  TED  thinking_big 
april 2009 by jerryking
Psychology Today: The Laws of Urban Energy
July/August 2007| Psychology Today | Anya Kamenetz
The world is flatter than ever. But while technology may give us each
the tools of creativity, it takes urban proximity and unpredictability
to sharpen them. One's mental garden buds, blooms, and proliferates when
cross-pollinated with the many other flowers and fruits crowding the
urban jungle. People come up with more and better ideas and produce more
results from those ideas by finding more collaborators as well as
critics.

By: Anya Kamenetz
cities  creativity  economics  urban  community  idea_flows  idea_generation  inspiration  cross-pollination  Anya_Kamenetz  playing_in_traffic  prolificacy  proximity  psychology  unpredictability  serendipity  collaboration  information_spillover  densification 
april 2009 by jerryking
The Boom Is Over. Long Live the Art! - NYTimes.com
February 12, 2009 NYT article By HOLLAND COTTER. The economic
downturn will force a new mindset on the art industry. Make art schools
interdisciplinary, complete with work terms in unorthodox locales (e.g.
prisons, hospitals, etc.). The 21st century will almost certainly see
consciousness-altering changes in digital access to knowledge and in the
shaping of visual culture. What will artists do with this?
artists  artisan_hobbies_&_crafts  innovation  creativity  visual_culture  markets  rethinking  reinvention  fine_arts  interdisciplinary  unconventional_thinking  creative_renewal  21st._century  mindsets  unorthodox  cross-disciplinary  cross-pollination  workplaces 
february 2009 by jerryking

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