Thursday, March 22, 2012

Finding a New Sense of Wonder and Other Keys to Better Management

Every week, we publish an exciting summary of the best articles, videos, events, and posts that relate to innovative management. This week, check out these 10 articles that inspire better management. Enjoy!

How simple ideas lead to scientific discoveries

Adam Savage walks through two spectacular examples of profound scientific discoveries that came from simple, creative methods anyone could have followed -- Eratosthenes' calculation of the Earth's circumference around 200 BC and Hippolyte Fizeau's measurement of the speed of light in 1849.

It’s time for a new definition of big data

Two words seemingly on every technologist’s lips are “big data”. The Wikipedia definition for big data is: “In information technology, big data consists of datasets that grow so large that they become awkward to work with using on-hand database management tools”. This approach to describing the term constrains the discussion of big data to scale and fails to realise the key difference between regular data and big data. The blog posts and books which cover the topic seem to converge on the same approach to defining big data and describe the challenges with extracting value from this resource in terms of its size.
Big data can really be very small and not all large datasets are big! It’s time to find a new definition for big data.

Finding a Sense of Wonder

Often we look at kids and wish we could recapture some of that magic of childhood. One of the many things that make children magical is that complete willingness to have a sense of wonder.
“We need a renaissance of wonder. We need to renew, in our hearts and in our souls, the deathless dream, the eternal poetry, the perennial sense that life is miracle and magic.”
- E. Merrill Root, educator and poet

Kelli Anderson: Design to Challenge Reality

Kelli Anderson shatters our expectations about reality by injecting humor and surprise into everyday objects. At TEDxPhoenix she shares her disruptive and clever designs.

3 Steps To Pursuing Your Ideal Career

There's often a gap between identifying what you naturally gravitate toward and gain energy from and how that translates into your full-time work. Take a deep breath and dive in with these three steps that'll start closing it.
Here are three steps that will help you gain internal clarity so you can plan toward your ideal future.

  1. Gain clarity around what to focus on. 
  2. Define the world you imagine. 
  3. Replace old thoughts with new ones. 

IDEO: Big Innovation Lives Right on the Edge of Ridiculous Ideas

Imagine for a second if you could somehow wrap up the creative chaos of a kindergartner's life and apply it at work. You'd go on field trips, make stuff, hatch crazy ideas, and be awed by the world on a daily basis. Sound ridiculous? At the renowned international design consultancy IDEO, it's how work gets done every day.Psychologists tell us that as we age, we become self-conscious in classroom and other public settings, and quietly begin to suppress our playful tendencies for fear of being childish or breaking with social norms. Creativity requires that we fight against this trajectory.

At IDEO, being playful is almost an obsession. The company believes that great, innovative work cannot happen without trial-and-error, experimentation, and maybe even a little tomfoolery. Few know this better than Brendan Boyle and Joe Wilcox of IDEO's Toy Lab.

Building Babel: Lost in Machine Translation

Automatic language translation is a long way off, given the overwhelming complexity of language. University of Edinburgh's Philipp Koehn says there are so many possible language rules that they cannot all be written down, and there also are too many exceptions to those rules. The statistical approach to translation currently is the chief focus of most machine translation research. "Essentially, we are translating using probabilities to find the best solution," says University of Oxford's Phil Blunsom. "The computer doesn't understand the languages or know any grammar, but might use statistics to determine that 'dog the' is not as likely as 'the dog.'" 

Vast numbers of source texts are required to improve computers' ability to make such decisions, with Blunsom noting that at least 30 million words or 1 million sentences are typically needed. Automatic spoken language translation is even more challenging than text translation because of a multitude of factors that include false starts, references to things that were said earlier, or the lack of a written form.

Software Translates Your Voice Into Another Language

Microsoft researchers have developed speech recognition software that can learn the sound of a user's voice and translate it into a new language. The researchers say the system that could be used to make language learning more personal or make traveling easier. "For a monolingual speaker traveling in a foreign country, we'll do speech recognition followed by translation, followed by the final text to speech output [in] a different language, but still in his own voice," says Microsoft's Frank Soong. The researchers also note that providing sample foreign phrases in a person's own voice can make learning a new language easier for users. 

The system requires about an hour of training to develop a model able to read out any text in a user's own voice. The model is converted into one that can read text in another language by comparing it with a stock text-to-speech model for the desired language. The software can convert between any pair of 26 supported languages, including Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, and Italian. University of Southern California professor Shrikanth Narayanan says using a person's own voice for speech translations could make interactions that rely on translations more reassuring for users, particularly in situations such as doctor-patient consultations.

12-Year-Old Speaks The Truth About Plain Doughnuts
A bit random - but I suspect you’ll get this from somewhere else too :)

Visualization Technologies for Human-Environment Interactions
The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), a national fusion center funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, has invited computational and domain scientists to participate in a workshop on visualization technologies that support research on human-environment interactions. The workshop will focus on the visualization and use of spatial datasets from the social and environmental sciences. Domain scientists will have an opportunity to learn about visualization tools and resources available for their work, and computational scientists will get a chance to learn about the as-yet unmet visualization needs in the domain sciences. The workshop will address some of the visualization challenges in using spatio-temporal datasets, recommend possible collaborative information technology efforts that could be supported by SESYNC's programs or through other funding mechanisms, and establish a network of researchers to share information and exchange ideas on a regular basis. SESYNC will accept abstracts related to the main topics of the workshop until April 20. The workshop is scheduled for July 23-24 in Annapolis, Maryland.