5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Gift for Unemployed Smart People,August 31, 2012
I am a 60-year old unemployed smart person with no pensions, and received this book as a gift. It came to me as I am in the middle of writing what I hope will be a seminal work on the future of public governance, and to my enormous surprise, not only has the book been a “pick me up” of a read for me as the unemployed smart guy, it has also been relevant to my new book.
The author’s core message is: the world is random, embrace that, seek out as much random as you can handle, be alert for “aha” moments, and act instantly to take advantage when such moments occur.
At the very end of the book the author says that one should use randomness to one’s statistical advantage, which is to say, embrace the random, chase the random, respect the random, and your chances of “scoring” in some way will be better.
I am loading an image above that includes the word diversity, in part to highlight why I connected immediately to the author’s story of how innovation is inspired by diversity, what some CEO’s who have a hard time understanding Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) programs can instantly get: a side door for insights that do not occur to white, well-fed, preening males.
The author discusses very ably how “old world” is about rules and norms, this is a world where 10,000 hours of practice at anything will indeed make you a world champion, because the parameters are fixed and the rules don’t change. In today’s world, on the other hand, where a woman’s slap can trigger a revolution in Tunesia and the downfall of Libya’s dictator, not only are the “expedrts” wrong most of the time, but open platforms change everything–there are no binding rules (to which I would add, governments are so screwed up and ineffective that three fifths or more of the global economy now routes around government).
Having just spent a year focused on “open everything” the author’s discussion of how open platforms change everything and are a huge range of opportunity for all (no barriers to entry) resonates with me, and I am reminded of David Weinberger’s book, Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder as well as Marc Prensky’s book, Don’t Bother Me Mom–I’m Learning!. Our structured world is in disarray, and this is a good thing! As much as governments, corporations, and religions may resist the notion, the fixed patterns of the past are false patterns, imposed patterns, unsustainable patterns–get over it, and open up to the wealth that is random.
As an avowed strategist, I respect the author’s insight on page 83 where he stresses that in today’s world a strategy is NOT about pre-planning, but rather about getting going. It is the fire starter, not to be confused with the kindling or the fire itself.
About this point I have a note that the author is clearly well-read, but more importantly, he does a fine job of blending in references to a wide range of books that support his arguments while respecting the work of others.
For me this is not as much a counter-intuitive books as it might be for others, but I certainly recommend it to one and all.
Four ways to optimize and embrace the random:
01 Take your eyes OFF the ball.
02 Use inter-sectional thinking (BETWEEN cultures, BETWEEN disciplines, BETWEEN personalities).
03 Follow your curiosity (it is one of the things that makes you you–makes you unique)
04 Reject the predictable path (for those in my shoes, I think this means your job is never coming back, prepare for a 180 degree turn)
The section on purposeful bets is the one that is no doubt touted to the start-up circles, but it applies to any individual that wants to become a renaissance person rather than a drone:
01 Place many bets
02 MINIMIZE bet size — since I have no money I think in terms of time, this tells me to explore and partake of many many more possible paths, in small measured ways, rather than throwing myself into a full court press to find work in one particular industry that is actually just a spin off of my old industry (spying and multi-disciplinary analytics).
03 Take the smallest executable step (i.e. smallest amount of time, money, involved parties)
04 Calculate affordable loss rather than return on investment. I like this a lot — the point is to increase opportunities, any one of which could be a huge return.
05 Use passion as fuel (for creativity)
The author goes on to discuss how complexity creates unintended consequences, cascade effects, and self-reinforcing loops. Also in this section are two gross errors that would normally cost the author a star, but I am giving him a bye: he does not understand the international violations that led to the theft of Libyan gold, water, and oil by the West; and he adopts the standard butterfly effect story (the butterfly analogy actually refers to the plotter design when the cascade effect is plotted out). Neither the NYT nor fact checkers are what they used to be.
The book concludes with five strategies that are as applicable to individuals thinking about their next passage in life, as they are to start-ups, recent college graduates (great gift idea–along with the address of the nearest military recruiter, tell them to demand a contract in the intelligence occupational field).
01 Create large hooks — buy the book to understand this, it’s worth it.
02 Examine surprises carefully.
03 Look for an opening everywhere.
04 Spot momentum and ride it (I am reminded of Harrison Owen’s superb Wave Rider: Leadership for High Performance in a Self-Organizing World)
05 Double down when you find any opening — do NOT ignore ANY opening.
I like this book, and am acutely conscious that the author is avoiding all the negatives that have brought to to chaos today, my last few allowed links will capture both the pathos of the present and the prospects for the future. As I look over my shelf of books waiting to be delivered as donations to the Oakton Library, all non-fiction, I have to give the author credit: among all of them, this is the one that might actually help me find my next opportunity….and that, today, is precious.
Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency
Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History
The Global Class War: How America’s Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future – and What It Will Take to Win It Back
Empowering Public Wisdom: A Practical Vision of Citizen-Led Politics (Manifesto Series)
Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition
Escaping the Matrix: How We the People can change the world
Reflexive Practice: Professional Thinking for a Turbulent World
Best wishes to all,
THE OPEN SOURCE EVERYTHING MANIFESTO: Transparency, Truth & Trust