I continued to think a lot about education recently, mainly after watching a Google Talk with Salman Khan from the Khan Academy. Lots of people associate learning with grading and tests and I hear many adult persons say that they are happy that they don’t have to learn anymore. However, most of them learn everyday but they don’t have to write exams and they don’t have to sit in classrooms.
However, these thoughts took me to do some searching and look for books about improving education. After reading the first twenty pages of Learning in Depth, I was already in love with Kieran Egan’s ideas. He suggest that each student gets one topic at the beginning of his schooling and builds a portfolio of this topic in his 12 years in school. This project is ungraded and voluntary. I sketch you how this can look.
You are in your second week in school and your parents are there. The whole class is assembled and your teacher gives you your future topic: Apples. You are eager to learn more about apples, you ask your parents and your teachers about them. You may paint them or collect pictures of them. Six years later. Your still working on your portfolio. You collected facts to different apples and identified rare types. Furthermore, you discovered apples in popular culture and talked to seniors which got the same topic as you about what they learned. Skip ahead another six years. Your in your final years and you still working on your portfolio. You covered different aspects of apples from cultural, to economical, to philosophical, to scientific factors. You helped lots of other peoples with your apple portfolio and you started about website about philosophical aspects of apples.
Why all this? You learned one topic in depth which will help you to connect to other topics more easily. Furthermore, you experienced learning without compulsion. You learned different approaches of learning about topics and structuring them. And all for the joy of learning.
If you are interested in this idea or hate it or have some objections, you should definitely read this book. Egan covers lot of problems and objects. Definitively worth reading if you are interested into new schooling methods.
What is it about?
Gary Hamel writes about the future of leading a company and explains that innovation will rather come from your normal employees than from the top management. He focuses on some outstanding companies like Cemex, Schwab or UPS.
Encourage activism: A lot of front line employees see problems that the (top) management can’t see. You have to enable every employee to share their ideas.
Build internal markets for talents, capital and ideas: A great way to allocate resources are markets. Hamel recommends to build internal markets for these components to allow people to execute their ideas.
Measure your innovation progress: If a idea seems fertile let people test it. If it succeeds let them build ventures and if this venture is successful try to spin-off or reintegrate this venture in your company. You probably have to generate lots of ideas for one successful venture, so start filling the funnel!
Leading the Revolution is a great book for its time. There are some really neat ideas like internal markets which are now successfully adapted (e.g. at Google). Furthermore, Gary Hamel understood the idea of crowdsourcing long before it became familiar.
What is it about?
Steve Johnson tries to find an inherit structure in innovation in nature and our life. He explains seven different characteristics of innovation and environments which supports innovation. However he remarks that not all these principles are necessary for innovation!
Adjacent possible: Innovation is about widening the existing border of knowledge.
Slow hunch: Most innovation doesn’t happen immediately, rather it is carried out over a long time.
Error: Innovation has a high signal:nose ratio. Generate lots of ideas and fail fast.
Exaptation: Often ideas are useful in an other way, e.g. Gutenberg used wine presses for printing books.
Platforms / Liquid networks: Ideas want to be shared and combined. Create platforms for people and technology (e.g. the web)
One thing is really remarkable. He takes the story of Darwin’s voyage with the Beagle and tells it through the whole book. There are various other stories but this is central theme. This makes this book easy to read and actually exciting! These other stories fit well into his chapters. Although the conclusion wasn’t that good. He tried to support his theory and became too fuzzy.
In conclusion, he has observed the world of innovation doubtlessly well but without execution ideas are nearly worthless.
Freedom By 7Bart
I’ve received Hackers and Painters two days ago. It’s a collection of some essays by Paul Graham. One chapter named “Good Bad Attitude” deals with attitude of hackers (both destructive and constructive).
In general the term “hacker” it mutilated by media, now referring to a 15 year of boy who’s destroying websites. In the open software movement or generally spoken in software development a hacker is a great programmer.
This essay is full of great observations. I’ll begin with the disobedience.
“Those in authority tend to be annoyed by hackers’ general attitude of disobedience. But that disobedience is a byproduct of the qualities that make them good programmers. They may laugh at the CEO when he talks in generic corporate newspeech, but they also laugh at someone who tells them a certain problem can’t be solved. Suppress one, and you suppress the other.” — Paul Graham
The main idea behind this quote is that a hacker will question some main ideas or concepts. “He will never grow up. He’s a rebelling teenager with 38.” Sure, like Descartes, Max Planck or Copernicus. Each of them questioned an existing idea or concept. This is the path to innovation. Innovation alters the market, humans and science.
It’s an opportunity for startups. They don’t have so much bureaucracy and tightened hierarchy. There are enough examples: Google, Apple, Microsoft, IKEA or Starbucks.
They’ve questioned current concepts and innovated them with a new search engine algorithm, an new way for selling furniture or an new feeling buying coffee.