Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Fun Is Boring, but Here Are 5 Awesome Things You Can Do At Work

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 summaries of 10 GREAT articles that inspire better management. Enjoy!

Science’s great leap forward

(lots of buzz here J)
HISTORICAL events recede in importance with every passing decade. Crises, political and financial, can be seen for the blips on the path of progress that they usually are. Even the horrors of war acquire a patina of unreality. The laws of physics, though, are eternal and universal. Elucidating them is one of the triumphs of mankind. And this week has seen just such a triumphant elucidation.

Higgs in Comic Sans: the right font for physics?

The Higgs results presented at CERN this week were met with applause and cheers from Geneva to Melbourne, but one group was less pleased: font devotees. That's because the slides of one of the two presenters, Fabiola Gianotti of the ATLAS experiment, bore text set in Comic Sans. The typeface mimics handwriting and is much maligned for its irreverence and overuse.

It isn't the first time Gianotti has used the font - her use of it during last year's Higgs update provoked a similar reaction. But was it the wrong choice for presenting ground-breaking physics? The science of Comic Sans offers mixed conclusions.

In fact, there is now a petition to rename Comic Sans to Comic Cerns in honour of the Higgs discovery and Gianotti's typographical choices. It currently has just a few hundred supporters, but it seems that the creator of the font, Vincent Connare, is also in favour of the proposed new name.

Q&A with Pakistan's First Female Architect

On my part, while working in post disaster communities for the last 6 years, I have been able to carry out a great deal of experimentation with local materials, most notably adobe/mud and lime. Since 2009, experimentation with the use of bamboo has yielded exceptional results. My effort now is to spread the message as wide as possible through training of professionals and artisans for construction in post-disaster rural communities but also to encourage the use of "improved vernacular" for tourists’ retreats.

I often tell my colleagues: Let us not treat the disaster-affected households as destitute needing handouts; let us give them due respect, and treat them as we would a corporate sector client. If we can encourage that elusive element of pride among traumatized, shelterless families, half the battle would be won, for they would soon be on the road to self reliance. There are many ways to foster pride in a community, but among the most effective are through well designed shelters and community buildings.

Five Awesome Things at Work

Inspired by the "Awesome" guy (Neil Pasricha) - great TED Talk, one of my faves - here are a few small things that can make the work day super awesome.
  1. Getting into the office and seeing that the two-hour meeting you were dreading has been cancelled. Score!
  2. Being the one to bring in a box of donuts, or scones, or whatever, and seeing the delight on your team members' faces. Extra awesome: catching someone going for his/her second donut and laughing about it.
  3. Sharing an idea and being told to, "go for it." Extra awesome: when you "go for it" and make something happen.
  4. The moment after you talk yourself down from worrying about something that you do not need to worry about.
  5. Cleaning out your in box.

Alan Alda attacks science jargon in "Flame Challenge," a science communications contest for young people (video)

In this PBS NewsHour segment, science correspondent Miles O'Brien reports on a contest launched by actor and authorAlan Alda that challenges scientists to explain the science behind a flame, while flexing their communication muscles. The judges are thousands of 11-year-olds.
Below, the winning video entry: "What is a Flame," by Ben Ames, a quantum physicist working on his doctorate at theUniversity of Innsbruck, Austria. I loved it, but more importantly, so did the kids.

Fun is Boring

It hearkens to that old axiom: easy to learn, hard to master. The book spawned the popularity of some of the most delicious ideas in game design today. If you love games, then you're doing yourself a disservice by avoiding Theory of Fun.
Flow is oft-brandished by theoretical fun seekers. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experienceor even the easily-read Finding Flow, are primary sources here. If you're not into that, Gamasutra has one or two pieces on Flow worth perusing.
Jane McGonigal gives one of the better summaries on Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's work, in her second chapter of Reality is Broken. Near the end of the chapter, she briefly summarizes neurochemicals likely at play when we're experiencing the compelling in games, from adrenalin to oxytocin. This seems a hugely underrepresented path to mapping a lot of what we really mean by "fun". I recommend McGonigal's book, if only because it's the first about games to have hit the NYT Bestseller list. Reality is Broken was a first look at design for an awful lot of non-games folk.

Doing Apps and Start-Ups While Still in High School

Palo Alto High School students recently founded the Paly Entrepreneurs Club, an extracurricular group for students who want to create start-ups and develop future technologies. The group meets weekly during the school year to discuss their ventures and ideas, explore issues such as money-raising strategies and new markets, and host guest speakers. “I want to build something that is tied to what is happening next,” says Paly member Matthew Slipper. Club members have been working on several projects, such as a social network to help teenagers organize study groups, and a trading network for Bitcoin, a virtual currency. “The goal here is inspirational,” says Aaron Bajor, one of the group's founders. "A great idea can hit you any time. Even if you do not have a great idea yet, if you have capabilities and passion others will want you on their team.” The start-up mentality is something Paly students are born with, as many of their parents work in the tech industry. “The kids here have such an unfair advantage,” says Box CEO Aaron Levie, who spoke at a recent meeting. “I told them to make friends and leverage their four years of freedom."

Algorithm Identifies Top Ten Technology News Trend Setters

Berlin Institute of Technology researchers are studying the problem of trend setting among news sites in an effort to determine which Web sites lead the news coverage and which ones follow it. The approach involves taking a snapshot of the words generated by a group of Web sites at any point in time and comparing it to the words generated by one of the Web sites at an earlier point in time, which enables them to calculate whether the content of the earlier Web site is a good predictor of future content on other sites. The researchers monitored 96 technology news sites throughout 2011, generating data on about 100,000 words. The researchers found that the top 10 trendsetters in technology news coverage were BusinessInsider, Arstechnica, Engadget, TechCrunch, Mashable, Venturebeat, Techdirt, The Register, Forbes, and Guardian. For the Berlin researchers' test, the trend setters were the ones who posted the stories first or posted so many of them that they are first often enough to appear to be trend setters. The research could lead to insights into how diseases are spread in epidemics, or determining where the first spark in a forest fire occurred.

Future of Internet: What will the Internet look like in 2020?

I'd like as many different descriptions of what the usage, adoption and structure of the Internet will look like in the year 2020 as possible. Be creative, and try to think outside the box how it will change in the next nine years. Let's see what the current early adopters of the Internet come up with (since we're all using Quora...).

Enterprise Technology: Revenge of the Nerdiest Nerds

This burst of innovation has led to something of a golden age for infrastructure technology. A horde of enterprise-focused startups, fueled by surging demand, could go public this year in a trend that trumps the dot-com buildout in scale. “It’s going to be about 10 times larger than what the Internet did,” said Ted Schlein, a managing partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, during a recent Bloomberg event held in New York. “Just the fact that we have that many more people online with so many more devices…. That’s what is getting everyone excited.” That, and the huge amount of money that could change hands. The market for data-center hardware totaled $100 billion in 2011, according to the research firm Gartner (IT), which predicts that number will surpass $120 billion by 2015. Software represents an enormous sales opportunity as well: Databases alone brought in about $24 billion in 2011, says Gartner.