Five chunks of career advice from Dan Pink

May 3, 2008

Daniel Pink is a keen observer of the changing workplace and its implications for the way we think about, and train for, our careers. His A Whole New Mind describes the challenges and opportunities in the transition from an “information age”-based economy to a “conceptual age”-based economy.

Now, in The Adventures of Johnny Bunko Pink has created a comic full of advice for college graduates as they prepare to enter the world of business. It is a joy to read. The manga illustrations of Rob Ten Pas give one a new appreciation of this art form. It is also meant to be digested in one sitting, and there is enough good stuff that, upon completion, you feel as if you’ve just eaten a tasty bag of nacho cheese Doritos, only to discover they are 0-fat and full of protein.

Get yourself a copy and pass it among your colleagues. It ought to spur some healthy conversation. Below the fold, I translate some of Johnny Bunko’s life lessons to the world of grad school, with a wee bit of commentary. Read the rest of this entry »

5 books on design for every graduate student

March 9, 2008

pillar1.jpgI’ve added five great books to the Reading List page on the importance of thinking like a designer. Too often when scientists communicate–in seminars, lectures or in journals–they assume content will carry the day.

But quality, as we all know, equals good content * good design.

One big plus: these books practice what they preach. They are a joy to read, browse, flip through, or pore through. They belong to that rare class of books that you will always keep at hand, a perfect companion to revisit when you have 30 minutes and a steaming cup of coffee.

QotD: Creativity 101

March 8, 2008

200px-leonardo_self.jpg “”Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works.
You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it.
Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.”
Leonardo da Vinci

Update 8 March 08–Gads, this may be a quote from Tom Peters. Either that or Mark Twain. Outside chance that it’s H. L. Mencken.  😉

More about Peters soon.

h/t Full Grown Single

5 writing tips from A. Lincoln

February 26, 2008

lincolns-sword.jpegOne way to improve your writing is to read good writers. Occasionally, if you are lucky, you come across a book on how a great writer writes. Such is Lincoln’s Sword by Douglas L. Wilson. No American president’s writings are so well known as those of Abraham Lincoln. His First and Second Inaugurals, and the Gettysburg address survive in part for the music of Lincoln’s words. But that music served a purpose; his style served the content masterfully. Here are a few things any beginning writer can learn from Abraham Lincoln, as revealed by Douglas Wilson. Read the rest of this entry »

There are some memes which must be…transmitted

February 21, 2008

Recovering from two back-to-back very excellent visits to colleagues  (see mental health days).

h/t Boing Boing

5 ways to exercise your analytical chops

February 16, 2008

Creativity is a about freely generating new ideas and culling 99% of them. The end product of creativity is thus new, useful ideas.

One’s quality as a scientist is a product of these two abilities.

Some folks are so hyper-critical of any new idea that nothing leaves their notebook. Even writing a paragraph becomes an excruciating ordeal, as any abstraction is ruthlessly worried and excised.

Some folks fill their notebooks with idea after idea, but end up swallowed up in the thicket unable to commit to any one idea for long (sort of an intellectual ADHD). Consider this post a dose of analytical Ritalin, prescribed by the good Dr. Tufte.

Edward Tufte is someone every beginning scientist should get to know. His Visual Display of Quantitative Information is the best introduction to the theory and practice of effective graphics. His website includes a bulletin board on all topics analytical, graphical, aesthetic, and concrete. The site’s only downside is that it can swallow Friday afternoons whole if you let it.

In short, Tufte is the paragon of GTDA’s guiding principle:

Quality = great content*great design.

Here is the opening salvo (plus my commentary) from his “Advice for effective analytical reasoning.”

Read the rest of this entry »

5 creativity tips from Steve Martin

February 3, 2008

stevemartin.jpegI just finished Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up in one sitting this morning. It’s a short autobiography of his 10 years learning, 4 years refining, and 4 years of wild success in stand up comedy. Martin is also a stand up writer.

The memoir describes Martin’s analytical approach to becoming very very funny. Any book by such a talent about the struggle to be creative is worth a look. Here are a five take home’s relevant to any young academic. Read the rest of this entry »

Tools are great. Talent and dedication? Better.

January 9, 2008

Many academics are pure geeks when it comes to software and gadgets. But tools exist solely to let your ideas shine.

As evidence, consider this little number, the first song on what is frequently called “The Greatest Rock Album of All Time”. It was recorded, in it’s entirety, on a 4 track tape machine. Which means that a song, no matter how complex, ultimately had to be recorded in no more than 4 takes. Modern recording studios now have an infinite number of tracks at their disposal. But, arguably, nothing has bested Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, recorded, by way of computer analogy, on a Kaypro.


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Why your best idea may never see the light of day

November 14, 2007

From the late, great Creating Passionate Users.


In place of “fear”, you may substitute “committee meeting”.

QotD: Walter Kirn on Multitasking

October 24, 2007

Walter Kirn“This is the great irony of multitasking–that its overall goal, getting more done in less time, turns out to be chimerical. In reality, multitasking slows our thinking. It forces us to chop competing tasks into pieces, set them in different piles, then hunt for the pile we are interested in, pick up its pieces, review the rules for putting the pieces back together, and then attempt to do so, often quite awkwardly. ”

From Atlantic Monthly, November 2007