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Books that have shaped our thinking – Nava PBC
"Recommended reads related to civic tech, health, government, behavioral science, design and engineering

At Nava we have a living Google Doc where we link to books that help us understand the systems and architecture we use. The intention of this document is to form a baseline of readings that new employees will need and to share with other employees good resources for being productive.

Below are some of our favorites from that list:

Sorting Things Out: Classification and its Consequences
by Susan Leigh Star and Geoffrey C. Bowker
This covers, in great detail, the astounding ways that the models we make for the world end up influencing how we interact with it. This is incredibly relevant to our work: the data models we define and the way we classify and interpret data have profound and often invisible impacts on large populations. — Sha Hwang, Co-founder and Head of Creative

Decoded
by Jay Z
Decoded is Jay Z’s autobiography and describes his experience as a black man growing up in an impoverished neighborhood in NYC. In particular, there is a passage about poor people’s relationship to the government that changed the way I think about the perception of those government services that I work to improve. This book showed me that the folks we usually want to serve most well in government, are the ones who are most likely to have had profoundly negative experiences with government. It taught me that, when I work on government services, I am rebuilding a relationship, not starting a new one. Context is so important. It’s a fun, fast read and I used to ask that our Apprentices read at least that passage, if not the whole book, before starting with our team at the NYC Mayor’s Office. — Genevieve Gaudet, Designer

Seeing like a State
by James C. Scott
A reminder that the governance of people at scale can have unintended consequences when removed from people’s daily lives and needs. You won’t think of the grid, property lines, and last names the same way again.— Shelly Ni, Designer

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
by Susan Cain
Cain uses data and real world examples of how and why introverts are overlooked in American culture and then discusses how both introverts and extroverts can play a role in ensuring introverts get a seat at the table and a word in the conversation. — Aimee Barciauskas, Software Engineer

Capital in the Twenty-First Century
by Thomas Piketty
This book analyzes the long-term fluctuations in wealth inequality across the globe, from the eighteenth century to present. He exposes an incredibly important issue in a compelling way, using references not just to data, but to history and literature to prove his point. — Mari Miyachi, Software Engineer

Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson III
by Robert A. Caro
Our most underhanded president also brought us Medicaid, Medicare, and civil rights. Was Machiavelli so bad after all? — Alex Prokop, Software Engineer

Praying for Sheetrock
by Melissa Fay Greene
A true, close-up story of McIntosh County, Georgia, a place left behind by the greater Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. This is a story about the civil rights movement that shakes up the community in the 1970s, and this is also a story about burnout, and organizing, and intergenerational trauma. — Shelly Ni, Designer

The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care
by T. R. Reid
Reid explores different models for healthcare in nations across the globe. He’s searching for an understanding of why America’s system is comparatively so expensive and unsuccessful, leaving so many uninsured and unhealthy. There is a great chapter on Ayurvedic medicine which (spoiler alert) seemed to work for the author when he was suffering from a shoulder injury! — Aimee Barciauskas, Software Engineer

Creativity, Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration
by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace
A very enjoyable and inspirational read about the history of Pixar from founder Ed Catmull himself. It delves into what sets a creative company apart and teaches lessons like “people are more important than ideas” and “simple answers are seductive” without reading like a typical business book.— Lauren Peterson, Product Manager

Thinking, Fast and Slow
by Daniel Kahneman
The magnum opus of Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman. Kahneman is a psychologist but his Nobel is in Economics, and unlike other winners in this category, his win stands the test of time. You will be a much better decision maker after reading this book and understanding the two modes our brains work in: System 1 intuitive “fast” thinking and System 2 deliberate “slow” thinking. It is a beast of a book, but unlike the vast majority of (pop) psychology books, this book distills decades of groundbreaking research and is the basis for so many other psychology books and research that if you read this book carefully, you won’t have to read those other books. There are so many topics in this book, I’ll just link to the Wikipedia page to give you a flavor.— Alicia Liu, Software Engineer

Nudge
by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein
This covers how sensible “choice architecture” can improve the decisions and behavior of people. Much of what’s covered comes from decades of research in behavioral science and economics, and has a wide range of applications — from design, user research, and policy to business and everyday life. — Sawyer Hollenshead, Designer

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right
by Atul Gawande
This book is about how checklists can help even experts avoid mistakes. Experience isn’t enough. I try to apply the lessons of this book to the processes we use to operate our software.—Evan Kroske, Software Engineer

The Soul of a New Machine
by Tracy Kidder
This book details the work of a computer engineering team racing to design a computer. While the pace of work for the team is certainly unsustainable and perhaps even unhealthy at times, the highs and lows they go through as they debug their new minicomputer will be familiar to engineers and members of tight-knit groups of all varieties. The rush to finish their project, which was thought to be a dark horse at the beginning of the book, is enthralling and will keep you engaged with this book late into the night. — Samuel Keller, Software Engineer

Release It!: Design and Deploy Production-Ready Software
by Michael T. Nygard
One of the best, most practical books I’ve ever read about creating resilient software on “modern” web architectures. While it may not be the most relevant with regards to cloud-based infrastructure, the patterns and processes described within are still very applicable. This is one of the few technical books I have read cover-to-cover. — Scott Smith, Software Engineer

Design for Democracy
by Marcia Lausen
From an AIGA project to improve the design of ballots— both paper and electronic— following the “hanging chad” drama of the 2000 election, comes this review of best practices for designers, election officials, and anyone interested in the intersection of design and voting.—Shelly Ni, Designer

The Design of Everyday Things
by Donald A. Norman
This is a classic for learning about design and its sometimes unintended consequences. I read it years ago and I still think about it every time I’m in an elevator. It’s a great introduction to a designer’s responsibility and designing in the real world for actual humans, who can make mistakes and surprising choices about how to use the designs you create. — Genevieve Gaudet, Designer

More recommendations from the team
• The Unexotic Underclass
• Open Government: Collaboration, Transparency, and Participation in Practice
• Everybody Hurts: Content for Kindness
• Poverty Interrupted: Applying Behavioral Science to the Context of Chronic Scarcity [PDF]
• Designing for Social Change: Strategies for Community-Based Graphic Design
• Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels
• The New New Journalism: Conversations with America’s Best Nonfiction Writers on their Craft
• The Furious Improvisation: How the WPA and a Cast of Thousands Made High Art out of Desperate Times
• The Effective Engineer: How to Leverage Your Efforts In Software Engineering to Make a Disproportionate and Meaningful Impact
• Effective DevOps: Building a Culture of Collaboration, Affinity, and Tooling at Scale"
nava  books  booklists  design  education  health  healthcare  sawyerhollenshed  jayz  susanleighstar  shahwang  geoffreybowker  decoded  jamescscott  seeinglikeastate  susancain  introverts  quiet  thomaspiketty  economics  melissafaygreene  civilrrights  socialjustice  creativity  edcatmull  amyallace  pixar  teams  readinglists  toread  howwethink  thinking  danielkahneman  government  richardthaler  casssunstein  atulgawande  tracykidder  medicine  checklists  process  michaelnygard  software  ui  ux  democracy  donalnorman  devops  improvisation  collaboration  sfsh  journalism  kindness  socialchange  transparency  participation  participatory  opengovernment  open 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Not Leadership Material? Good. The World Needs Followers. - The New York Times
"The glorification of leadership skills, especially in college admissions, has emptied leadership of its meaning."



"In 1934, a young woman named Sara Pollard applied to Vassar College. In those days, parents were asked to fill out a questionnaire, and Sara’s father described her, truthfully, as “more a follower type than a leader.”

The school accepted Sara, explaining that it had enough leaders.

It’s hard to imagine this happening today. No father in his right mind (if the admissions office happened to ask him!) would admit that his child was a natural follower; few colleges would welcome one with open arms. Today we prize leadership skills above all, and nowhere more than in college admissions. As Penny Bach Evins, the head of St. Paul’s School for Girls, an independent school in Maryland, told me, “It seems as if higher ed is looking for alphas, but the doers and thinkers in our schools are not always in front leading.”

Harvard’s application informs students that its mission is “to educate our students to be citizens and citizen-leaders for society.” Yale’s website advises applicants that it seeks “the leaders of their generation”; on Princeton’s site, “leadership activities” are first among equals on a list of characteristics for would-be students to showcase. Even Wesleyan, known for its artistic culture, was found by one study to evaluate applicants based on leadership potential.

If college admissions offices show us whom and what we value, then we seem to think that the ideal society is composed of Type A’s. This is perhaps unsurprising, even if these examples come from highly competitive institutions. It’s part of the American DNA to celebrate those who rise above the crowd. And in recent decades, the meteoric path to leadership of youthful garage- and dorm-dwellers, from Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg, has made king of the hill status seem possible for every 19-year-old. So now we have high school students vying to be president of as many clubs as they can. It’s no longer enough to be a member of the student council; now you have to run the school.

Yet a well-functioning student body — not to mention polity — also needs followers. It needs team players. And it needs those who go their own way.

It needs leaders who are called to service rather than to status.

Admissions officers will tell you that their quest for tomorrow’s leaders is based on a desire for positive impact, to make the world a better place. I think they mean what they say.

But many students I’ve spoken with read “leadership skills” as a code for authority and dominance and define leaders as those who “can order other people around.” And according to one prominent Ivy League professor, those students aren’t wrong; leadership, as defined by the admissions process, too often “seems to be restricted to political or business power.” She says admissions officers fail to define leadership as “making advances in solving mathematical problems” or “being the best poet of the century.”

Whatever the colleges’ intentions, the pressure to lead now defines and constricts our children’s adolescence. One young woman told me about her childhood as a happy and enthusiastic reader, student and cellist — until freshman year of high school, when “college applications loomed on the horizon, and suddenly, my every activity was held up against the holy grail of ‘leadership,’ ” she recalled. “And everyone knew,” she added, “that it was not the smart people, not the creative people, not the thoughtful people or decent human beings that scored the application letters and the scholarships, but the leaders. It seemed no activity or accomplishment meant squat unless it was somehow connected to leadership.”

This young woman tried to overhaul her personality so she would be selected for a prestigious leadership role as a “freshman mentor.” She made the cut, but was later kicked out of the program because she wasn’t outgoing enough. At the time, she was devastated. But it turned out that she’d been set free to discover her true calling, science. She started working after school with her genetics teacher, another behind-the-scenes soul. She published her first scientific paper when she was 18, and won the highest scholarship her university has to offer, majoring in biomedical engineering and cello.

Our elite schools overemphasize leadership partly because they’re preparing students for the corporate world, and they assume that this is what businesses need. But a discipline in organizational psychology, called “followership,” is gaining in popularity. Robert Kelley, a professor of management and organizational behavior, defined the term in a 1988 Harvard Business Review article, in which he listed the qualities of a good follower, including being committed to “a purpose, principle or person outside themselves” and being “courageous, honest and credible.” It’s an idea that the military has long taught.

Recently, other business thinkers have taken up this mantle. Some focus on the “romance of leadership” theory, which causes us to inaccurately attribute all of an organization’s success and failure to its leader, ignoring its legions of followers. Adam Grant, who has written several books on what drives people to succeed, says that the most frequent question he gets from readers is how to contribute when they’re not in charge but have a suggestion and want to be heard. “These are not questions asked by leaders,” he told me. “They’re fundamental questions of followership.”

Team players are also crucial. My sons are avid soccer players, so I spend a lot of time watching the “beautiful game.” The thing that makes it beautiful is not leadership, though an excellent coach is essential. Nor is it the swoosh of the ball in the goal, though winning is noisily celebrated. It is instead the intricate ballet of patterns and passes, of each player anticipating the other’s strengths and needs, each shining for the brief instant that he has the ball before passing it to a teammate or losing it to an opponent.

We also rely as a society, much more deeply than we realize, on the soloists who forge their own paths. We see those figures in all kinds of pursuits: in the sciences; in sports like tennis, track and figure skating; and in the arts. Art and science are about many things that make life worth living, but they are not, at their core, about leadership. Helen Vendler, a professor of English at Harvard, published an essay in which she encouraged the university to attract more artists and not expect them “to become leaders.” Some of those students will become leaders in the arts, she wrote — conducting an orchestra, working to reinstate the arts in schools — “but one can’t quite picture Baudelaire pursuing public service.”

Perhaps the biggest disservice done by the outsize glorification of “leadership skills” is to the practice of leadership itself — it hollows it out, it empties it of meaning. It attracts those who are motivated by the spotlight rather than by the ideas and people they serve. It teaches students to be a leader for the sake of being in charge, rather than in the name of a cause or idea they care about deeply. The difference between the two states of mind is profound. The latter belongs to transformative leaders like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi; the former to — well, we’ve all seen examples of this kind of leadership lately.

If this seems idealistic, consider the status quo: students jockeying for leadership positions as résumé padders. “They all want to be president of 50 clubs,” a faculty adviser at a New Jersey school told me. “They don’t even know what they’re running for.”

It doesn’t have to be this way.

What if we said to college applicants that the qualities we’re looking for are not leadership skills, but excellence, passion and a desire to contribute beyond the self? This framework would encompass exceptional team captains and class presidents. But it wouldn’t make leadership the be-all and end-all.

What if we said to our would-be leaders, “Take this role only if you care desperately about the issue at hand”?

And what if we were honest with ourselves about what we value? If we’re looking for the students and citizens most likely to attain wealth and power, let’s admit it. Then we can have a frank debate about whether that is a good idea.

But if instead we seek a society of caring, creative and committed people, and leaders who feel called to service rather than to stature, then we need to do a better job of making that clear."
susancain  leadership  leaders  sfsh  followers  community  courage  honesty  purpose  2017  colleges  universities  admissions  canon  small  slow  helenvendler  arts  art  artists  followership  soccer  football  us  values  credibility  military  authority  power  dominance  ivyleague  admission  capitalism  politics  elitism  adamgrant  introverts  extroverts  allsorts  attention  edg  srg  care  caring  maintenance  futbol  sports 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Quiet Schools Network - Quiet Revolution
"Our mission is to create Quiet Schools, which are characterized by an inclusive culture in which everyone is recognized for their potential to learn and lead in authentic ways.

We partner with schools to train Quiet Ambassadors to serve as experts in introversion/extroversion and work with their colleagues to:

• Enhance engagement, creativity and kindness.
• Foster the ability to communicate with presence and compassion.
• Tap into the power of quiet leadership."



"Quiet Ambassador Program
Our yearlong comprehensive training and support of one or more Quiet Ambassadors from your school includes in-person and online workshops, individual and team coaching sessions, and a treasure trove of online resources for the entire community.

Susan Cain, whose work has been deemed by educators as “salient, timely, and crucial,” will kick off the Quiet Summer Institute with a keynote about the Quiet Revolution in education, which will be followed by two full days of interactive workshops that promise to be engaging and enlightening. After developing a deeper awareness of their own personality styles, participants learn strategies that include, but are not limited to: empowering quiet students, collaborating more effectively with colleagues, maximizing flow in the creative process, and creating more balanced classroom environments.

…and Membership in Quiet Schools Network
When schools partner with Quiet Revolution through the Ambassador Program, they become part of a national independent school community dedicated to collective innovation and the sharing of best practices. Network benefits include a monthly newsletter, a yearly student magazine, regional seminars offered by our Quiet Revolution team, and measurement tools for year-end assessments."
quiet  susancain  heidikasevich  schools  education  kindness  presence  compassion  lcproject  openstudioproject  introverts  schooldesign  leadership  sfsh 
february 2016 by robertogreco
How to Be Invisible - NYTimes.com
"IN one of the most popular ads shown during the Super Bowl last weekend, the Indian-American actress Mindy Kaling thinks she’s become invisible. Cabs pass her by, and men barely look up on the sidewalk. And yet she embraces her invisibility as a kind of liberation. More of us should do the same.

We live in a time and culture that value display and are largely indifferent to the virtues of passing unnoticed. If we don’t get the interest, attention and recognition we think we deserve — whether we are men who have retired, women of a certain age (over 50, like me) or millennials who obsess over their brand visibility — we tend to file grievances. When Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” was published in 1952, it was a long overdue cry for recognition — social, judicial, legislative, human — for an entire race. But today, it’s a claim that many more of us seem to think we can file.

Which makes me wonder if it is time for all of us to reconsider the beauty, elegance and imagination that can come with being unseen. In her 2012 book, “Quiet,” Susan Cain discusses at length how silent attentiveness, rather than active participation, can allow one to absorb “on a deep level the laws of social dynamics” that go on around us. While she makes an eloquent argument for reticence and reserve, the natural world may be even more persuasive.

I almost missed the walking stick insect resting lightly on a wisteria branch on the porch railing last summer. With the symmetry and hue of a twig or shoot, it defied notice. Yet some small movement, some slant of light allowed me to see it, and once I did, I also saw that its elegance was a matter not just of its delicate frame and subdued color, but of its discretion as well. Calling it an inconspicuous marvel is not a contradiction.

Throughout the natural world, the capacity for camouflage and the ability to recede into the background come with lavish beauty and biological aplomb. Consider the arctic foxes and hares that turn white before snowfall. Or the baroque patterning of Indonesian crabs that mimic the coral in which they live. Or the octopus with cells beneath its skin that can change color to simulate that of the surrounding marine life. You could call these all extravaganzas of obscurity.

They also propose that becoming invisible, whether it is in color or behavior, is not the equivalent of being nonexistent, a lesson the human species seems to resist. It is not about denying creative individualism nor about relinquishing any of the qualities that may make us unique, original, singular.

Rather, it can be a condition of insight and endurance, a position of strength and power, a matter of knowing how and where we can be best accommodated by the exterior world. It can reflect a knowledge that we are of a larger world and that our survival depends on knowing this — not a bad thing to be reminded of when our disruptions of the natural environment result in everything from freakishly warm temperatures to ocean acidification.

Invisibility can be about finding a sense of fit with the immediate landscape, be it social, cultural or environmental. It can be about adaptability and the recognition that assertiveness may not always be in our best interest. Most of all, it can reflect a sense of vigilance, a sensitivity to and respect for external conditions.

Escaping notice need not be about complacent isolation, mindless conformity or humiliating anonymity. When circumstance confers invisibility upon us, perhaps it is something to appreciate and even welcome, as some iteration of the small imprint, low-impact living it makes sense to aspire to. Or possibly as a more profound poise, a fuller appreciation for our place in the greater scheme of things.

I think of the walking stick again. When it moves, its shadow is the shadow of a branch, its incremental motion suggesting nothing more than the breeze hitting a bit of bough. It may just be one ordinary thing disguised as another, but it has a lightness of being, a composure, and all the grace of going unseen."
invisibility  2015  akikobusch  susancain  inconspicuous  isolation  unseen  attention  nature  obscurity  individualism 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Magazine - Hire Introverts - The Atlantic
"Introverts are also comfortable with solitude—a crucial spur to creativity. When the psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Gregory Feist studied the lives of the most-creative people across a variety of fields, they almost always found visionaries who were introverted enough to spend large chunks of time alone."
introverts  via:lukeneff  mihalycsikszentmihalyi  gregoryfeist  2012  susancain 
june 2012 by robertogreco
An Introverted Boy Against An Army of Label Makers | A.T. | Cleveland
"I certainly still lie awake some nights worrying that I am in denial, that Simon has some gross deficiency not yet identified, and I am did him great a disservice. I worry constantly that I should limit his reading and solitary time and push him into sports and classes and social activities. But just when I am about to write that check for ice hockey classes I touch base with my instinctive sense of my son, this imaginative, overly verbose happy creature, and decide not to risk ironing out his uniqueness.  Until we can figure out more creative ways to educate and encourage introspective boys who are neither high achievers nor troublemakers—boys “in the middle,” like Simon–I will keep holding my ground, my breath and my tongue, and shoo away the well-intentioned label makers who cross our path."
males  boys  academics  introspection  nclb  productivity  howwelearn  unstructured  creativity  specialized  learningdisabilities  slowprocessing  add  dysgraphia  dyslexia  adhd  overdiagnosis  autism  schooliness  schools  learningdifferences  learning  parenting  education  teaching  introverts  susancain  2012  annetrubek  shrequest1 
february 2012 by robertogreco
Collaborative Workspaces: Not All They're Cracked Up to Be - Design - The Atlantic Cities
"Being a part of group is awesome (go team!) but so is individual effort. The uncritical embrace of collaboration above all else can lead, as a social scientist at the SPUR panel remarked, to the reverse of what was intended: group-think, conformity, consensus for the sake of peace-making. Further, the suburban corporate campus, even when it attempts, as Facebook and Google are, to approximate urban environment, can often serve to exacerbate the type of self-reinforcing behaviors Bill Bishop explored a few years ago in his book, The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart. Forest City’s Alexa Arena, another participant in the SPUR panel, says that her company’s anthropological research while working on the more iterative workspace model seen in its 5M Project revealed that employees working in these environments found that their best ideas came not while in that bustling, lively office but more likely when they were in their own neighborhoods hanging…"
schooldesign  classroomdesign  2012  variety  adaptability  flexibility  work  attention  furniture  openstudioproject  openstudio  lcproject  tcsnmy  allornothing  unintendedconsequences  brainstorming  collaboration  susancain  extroverts  introverts  howwework  officedesign  architecture  design  workplace  workspace  allisonarieff  groupthink  solitude  productivity  workspaces 
january 2012 by robertogreco
The Rise of the New Groupthink - NYTimes.com
"But even if the problems are different, human nature remains the same. And most humans have two contradictory impulses: we love and need one another, yet we crave privacy and autonomy.

To harness the energy that fuels both these drives, we need to move beyond the New Groupthink and embrace a more nuanced approach to creativity and learning. Our offices should encourage casual, cafe-style interactions, but allow people to disappear into personalized, private spaces when they want to be alone. Our schools should teach children to work with others, but also to work on their own for sustained periods of time. And we must recognize that introverts like Steve Wozniak need extra quiet and privacy to do their best work."
committees  susancain  socialnetworks  socialnetworking  online  web  internet  communication  proust  efficiency  howwelearn  learning  interruption  freedom  privacy  schooldesign  lcproject  officedesign  tranquility  distraction  meetings  thinking  quiet  brainstorming  teamwork  introverts  stevewozniak  innovation  mihalycsikszentmihalyi  flow  cv  collaboration  howwework  groupthink  solitude  productivity  creativity  marcelproust 
january 2012 by robertogreco

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