Saturday, October 10, 2020

Follow the Swarm

During my holidays, I  read two fantastic books about problem solving and focusing on the important stuff. "Range" by David Epstein fascinated me in that there are plenty of examples demonstrating how people without specialized knowledge in a particular area could find solutions to problems where the best experts got stuck. The book rejects the common believe one has to start and specialize early in order to really get good at something. It lists plenty of famous people in the world having demonstrated the contrary such as Roger Federer, Vincent Van Gogh, Dave Brubeck, etc. 

Experimenting in your career, trying out different stuff broadens the skill to look at problems from different angles and find solutions that are much more difficult to identifiy if you can't get out of your box. It explains also the success story of Nintendo which once was a small company and not very attractive to high talented graduates. 

The other book "Simplicity" by Benedikt Weibel, former CEO of Swiss Railway Corporation (SBB"), goes into a similar direction with other and less detailed examples. He analyzes how the best chess players think in terms of patterns and how to focus on the essential stuff. Less is more. Weibel encourages to make more use of checklists and he also makes a heretical remark when he says that "without a great checklist, Sullenberger had not managed to bring down the Airbus on the Hudson savely" (that's not really my opinion. I think it was a mixture of all, great experience, courage, and a little bit of luck). 

Big Data is an interesting tool, but it is not solving our problems and it is not free of failure (examples in the book). I am not advertizing but simply sharing my thoughts on two great books full of valuable hints and references although I know, it will be difficult to not fall back into old habits.

Interesting related reading:

  • The Carter Racing Case Study:
  • The missing bullet:

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