One Dreadnought

One Dreadnought Buys 52 Dirigibles and 235 Aeroplanes” is a full-page diagram appearing in the 3 June 1911. Lovely perspective in this graphic. HT sciencebookstore blog

Age of Innovation

Reading Alan’s new book:

Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths , Alan Webber stimulates, inspires, challenges and helps us understand what makes for a life well-lived and work well-done. Reflecting 40 years of experience as observer, participant and agent provocateur, Alan has gathered 52 gems of wisdom (on how to lead and innovate in these extraordinary times).

What always ticks me off about innovation books is the authors desire to feed you more methodology, I’m looking to be inspired by new market and customer insights (and find the ability to adapt and shape new ideas). What’s refreshing (and rather desirable) about this book is the age old habit of identifying new ways to solve old problems.

Daring advise for girls


Rebecca’s book was composed of dozens of short chapters explaining how-to skills that were absolutely not dumbed down. This book teaches a girl dozens of things–about female spies of the Revolutionary War, the ancient arts of palm reading, how to do a back bend, and the arts of public speaking. It is remarkably un-Kool, insofar as it is detailed in its history and skeptical of easy solutions.

It’s an all-you-can-know advise book about life for 8+ year old girls, drawn from culture. I love how this book skips between history and modern scenes. In one chapter, we read about Revolutionary spies. In another, we read about doing backbends. How did they find a balance between history and modernity?

Andi Buchanan (co-author) We were very clear from the beginning that we wanted the book to be a fantastic mix of great things to do and fun things to know — guidelines for having fun and being creative, not heavily directed advice. Part of the fun of being a kid is having the space to try things, even if they don’t turn out perfect the first time. We wanted to give girls that kind of freedom — the freedom to try things their own way and figure things out as they go along.

Eckhart Tolle

Quotes come and go, they wash over you and make an immediate impression. All too often the feeling or wisdom fades away, but occasionally you remember them well. Like this one,

“Whatever the present moment contains accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it–not against it.”

Suboptimal environment


A quickly-produced suboptimal solution to a problem is often better than an optimal one that takes a long time to produce. I hereby approve this quote until we have a better, improved one.

Do patents create a suboptimal innovation culture?

This study found that a free market solution greatly outperforms a patent monopoly solution where the “first” provider gets a monopoly. The research was led by economist Peter Bossaerts and a team of others — and it made a point that won’t surprise anyone who’s studied the economics of monopolies.

Patents tend to function just like any other monopoly system: it shrinks the overall market, decreases net social benefit, provides monstrously excess rewards to a single provider and harms everyone else. In fact, the research found that the patent system created a massive disincentive for many people to participate in the very process, even if their contributions could have been quite helpful in speeding along the innovation.

Notwithstanding such remarks, I still believe that patents help substantiate the growth of IP but critically, a time-limit should be placed on the patent, allowing a collective catch-up once the protection expires. This works well in the pharmaceutical industry. Observing the rights to exclusive (but time-restricted rights) is a price worth paying for the up-front investment in innovation in the first place.

In The Paradox of Asset Pricing, Peter wrote about how a leading financial researcher argues forcefully that the empirical record is weak at best. He undertakes the most thorough, technically sound investigation in many years into the scientific character of the pricing of financial assets. He probes this conundrum by modeling a decidedly volatile phenomenon that, he says, the world of finance has forgotten in its enthusiasm for the efficient markets hypothesis–speculation!

Buffett would be enjoy this one I suspect.

Flexibility + Optimism

Ariane de Bonvoisin new book, The First 30 Days: Your Guide to Making any Change Easier,” highlights nine principles that make someone good at change. The first principle is the importance of being optimistic. Optimists always handle change better. They look for what’s good about the current change.

I’m not advocating or promoting this stuff. For goodness sake, we have a shelf full of business management books already. What’s interesting is the need for first hand research, (we do user centered design at DARE). It’s clear that we are living with highly dependent, interconnected, dysfunctional, global financial systems that has, will, soon to be crashing around us. What happens to our relationships when constant evolving change is needed, it likely comes down to optimistic behavior.

Getting good at change is becoming one of the most important competitive advantages for a company. What you need to understand is that companies don’t change — people change. That said, if you can learn how to get good at change, you will be indispensable to your company.

Nigel Cross

Designerly Ways of Knowing

“The concept that designers have and use ‘designerly’ ways of knowing and thinking emerged in the late 1970s alongside new approaches in design education, and was first clearly articulated by Professor Nigel Cross, one of the most internationally respected…”

Out of print, here’s the link. Nigel Cross giving one of his UCI talks, at the Department of Informatics.


A Day at El Bulli

David twittered this morning: “Read ‘a day at el bulli’, Ferran Adria’s book. His creative methods are easily transferable to other domains, brilliant process”

A Day at el Bulli: An Insight into the Ideas, Methods and Creativity of Ferran Adria reveals for the first time the creative process, innovative philosophy and extraordinary techniques of the multi-award-winning restaurant, el Bulli, and its legendary head chef, Ferran Adria. Situated on a remote beach on the northeast coast of Spain, el Bulli is famous for being the ultimate pilgrimage site for foodies, and a reservation that is nearly impossible to obtain. Each year el Bulli is open for just six months, and receives more than 2 million requests for only 8,000 seats. Renowned for his spectacular ever-changing 30-course tasting menu, Adria’s pioneering culinary techniques have been applauded – and imitated – by top chefs around the globe for the past decade, and he was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of our time.

If you weren’t one of the lucky few to get in this year (2008 reservations were booked a year in advance), you can now experience the restaurant like never before. This generously-illustrated 600-page ”day in the life” features over 800 photographs, menus, recipes and diagrams, and presents a guided tour through a full working day at el Bulli. The book documents the activities of each hour of the day, from dawn at 6.15 am to switching off the lights at 2.00 am.

The book highlights 30 dishes which represent a full elBulli menu, and Adria shows you how he creates the restaurant’s innovative cuisines. Sample recipes include Samphire Tempura with Saffron and Oyster Cream, Steamed Brioche with Rose-Scented Mozzarella, and Coulant/Souffle of Granadilla with Cardamom Toffee.
In April 2008, elBulli won the #1 Best Restaurant in the World, for the third year in a row at the S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards.

An enormous undertaking, this monumental tome, complete with more than 1,000 photographs, chronicles one day at revolutionary eatery elBulli in northern Spain, arguably one of today’s most influential restaurants. Adria, the culinary genius behind this success, along with restaurant manager Soler and brother and fellow chef Albert give the reader a firsthand look at day-to-day activities and the innovation for which elBulli is known. Lavish photographs are the main attraction in this work; text is sparse and offers only glimpses into activities. While there is an examination of the team’s creative methods, most topics are only touched upon briefly, such as creative sessions, testing and utilizing a mental palate. Given the highly technical nature of the dishes served at elBulli, recipes (Pine Nut Marshmallows; Steamed Brioche with Rose-scented Mozzarella) are rare. A glance behind the scenes at a pivotal time and place in culinary evolution, this book will delight serious foodies, and its stunning package guarantees it will grace many a coffee table. (Oct.) –Publishers Weekly

Terra Incognita

Richard Sexton Terra Incognita

A limited edition of Terra Incognita was published by Chronicle Books in September 2008 and is available through Richard Sexton’s galleries and select booksellers. The gallery edition includes a linen covered clamshell case and an original signed quadtone pigment print of the cover image. The gallery edition is limited to 200 books.