Tuesday/Wednesday Highlights

Links?

  1. So, a technique popularized in narratives but proven ineffective … and now encouraged in public schools. So is that “go figure” or “color me (us) unsurprised.” And “brainstorming” isn’t skunkworks. Skunkworks techniques do work.
  2. The march of bad science, how it works edition.
  3. Bang!
  4. A question.
  5. Hall of fame or shame?
  6. So the Dems think that inequality is high on that list. Apparently Gallup doesn’t even find it in the top 5 (or 10?).
  7. The rigors of yoga.
  8. It’s not a mild winter everywhere it seems. When the cold masses don’t come south … that isn’t because they aren’t cooling someone off.
  9. Disease and resistance.
  10. NYT plays the straight man to great effect.
  11. Faith, science and a liberal icon.
  12. Should there be an agency for that?

6 responses to “Tuesday/Wednesday Highlights

  1. 1.So, a technique popularized in narratives but proven ineffective … and now encouraged in public schools. So is that “go figure” or “color me (us) unsurprised.” And “brainstorming” isn’t skunkworks. Skunkworks techniques do work.

    Do they work everywhere? One of these days I’m going to have to get that book you recommended to me about them. BTW, do you recall that book I suggested to you dealing with nuclear power and systems failure? It was more about why some systems fail and others don’t and why some systems you’d think would fail more (like air traffic) sometimes do much better than other systems you’d think should almost never fail (i.e. ships literally ‘turning into’ each other on rivers). Frontline had an episode last night talking about how Germany and Japan have nearly eliminated all their nuclear power use since the earthquake diaster.

    Anyway, I’ve been in a few brainstorming sessions myself. I can’t say they are horrible but I’m also not sure if they can be properly measured as working or not. The actual choosing and implementation of ideas does not happen by brainstorming but by upper management with teams dedicated to implementation. If something worked well, do you credit the brainstorming that spit it out among 100 other ideas or do you credit the decision making and implementation process?

  2. But I do think this piece tends to demonstrate the real problem with public schools, the fact that we let ideologues opine about them. I mean here you have a piece that literally calls brainstorming totalitarian! If anything, I’d suspect its failure is due more to it not being totalitarian. Sometimes you need someone to reject ideas and some people’s ideas are worse than others.

    Anyway, I think this is an example of the “Walmart is Conservative / Target is Liberal” problem. People who are overly political (like you and the blogger you cite) try to line everything up under either their own banner or under the banner of their enemies. If brainstorming doesn’t work, it must be because it’s an insideous plot by the ‘enemy’….rather than simply a technique that doesn’t pan out as well as was hoped. Imagine if a drug company was run this way. Imagine the CEO thinking of some compounds as ‘liberal compounds’ and others as ‘conservative’ and trying to force the R&D department to produce evidence that the liberal ones don’t work and the conservative ones do (or more likely retroactively producing reasons why the compounds that do work are conservative and the ones that don’t are liberal). In that case I think you’d agree the problem isn’t so much about figuring out which compounds are properly labelled liberal or conservative but wasting time and our small stock of rationality by the distraction of turning a rather mundane emperical question into a street fight!

  3. Faith, science and a liberal icon.

    Icon though he is, and for good reason, he wasn’t omniscient, not by a mile. The only way you can argue that religion gives us wisdom is if you are extremely selective about what you consider religion. For example, MLK believed that religion taught equality, but yet there were plenty of religious white right-wingers at the time who believed that religion taught inequality. Methinks MLK either lucked into a version of religion that taught the right thing or else he picked it (or “interpreted” it) based on something else… something like empathy.

  4. Boonton,
    The thesis of the book (“Have Fun At Work”) is that complex projects (those too complex for one intelligent man to encompass) fail unless management/project is done via Skunkwork methods. It is not that Skunkworks invariably succeeds, but that the other (hierarchical) methods only work for non-complex projects and that they fail. A good fraction of the book was centered on identifying a project as complex or not (and if it was to give you pointers on how (a) not get fired and (b) not pin your health/satisfaction on a “job well done” because the job will fail).

    . I can’t say they are horrible but I’m also not sure if they can be properly measured as working or not.

    You need to chat that remark up with Mr JA. He offers consistently that empirical data is all that matters. Empirical data, as linked here, suggests that “brainstorming” as a methodology doesn’t work compared to individuals working alone.

  5. JA

    … something like empathy

    ROTFL. I almost spit my coffee out on the keyboard. That was rich.

  6. I don’t get the joke. MLK represents empathy to me. TIME in their article on MLK as 1963’s Man of the Year: He had “an indescribable capacity for empathy that is the touchstone of leadership.” He uses his religious views in service of his empathy, just as small-minded people use their religious views in service of their small-mindedness. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but religious people generally “interpret” their religion to mean whatever they want it to mean.

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