Wednesday Jan 13, 2010

The Necessity of Making Mistakes

Nice article on the brain biology behind how scientists actually create science. Accept Defeat: The Neuroscience of Screwing Up. Recognizing anomalies, making mistakes, being challenged, and engaging in conversation are all critically important elements that make science work. Context and perspective matter greatly as well. Seems all very human to me. I`m not so much interested in the brain chemistry that influences behavior in science (you can see this in partisan politics as well), but what fascinates me more is the notion that with this awareness you can dig yourself out of the natural traps that catch most people, and that can lead to new opportunities that only a few generally see.

From the article:

Modern science is populated by expert insiders, schooled in narrow disciplines. Researchers have all studied the same thick textbooks, which make the world of fact seem settled. This led Kuhn, the philosopher of science, to argue that the only scientists capable of acknowledging the anomalies — and thus shifting paradigms and starting revolutions — are “either very young or very new to the field.” In other words, they are classic outsiders, naive and untenured. They aren’t inhibited from noticing the failures that point toward new possibilities.

The "acknowledging the anomalies" bit from Thomas Kuhn is key. It may enable you to jump paradigms or start revolutions, which is very cool, but in the process it also gets you a lot of knives buried deeply in your back. So acknowledge carefully. More than a few people have ended up dead challenging paradigms throughout the ages. Granted, the deaths are at the extreme, but why go through all that if it`s not necessary. Start small. Pick off what you can. Even though most people usually can't change the paradigms in which they live, they can change the small things in their world by recognizing and resolving anomalies that crop up every day. Then, hopefully, over time the small changes add up to big changes. And when you are focusing on this process, you are more apt to spot big paradigm shifts coming along and you can jump when the opportunity is right. So, don`t be afraid to poke around and change your position and screw up from time to time. Failure is important. It helps you succeed.

Thursday Mar 18, 2004

Paradigms well Defined

Tim O'Reilly spoke at the Open Source Business Conference yesterday in San Francisco and correctly cited Thomas Kuhn as the historian who popularized the concept of paradigms. This was refreshing since many people in technology toss around the word "paradigm" a bit too casually. The implications of paradigms are powerful and deserve the utmost respect, especially if you want to survive a paradigm shift.

Kuhn wrote in the Structure of Scientific Revolutions about the evolution of science and how the field grew through a series of major paradigm shifts -- one paradigm replacing the other not one built on top of the other, as our science textbooks suggest. Tim drew the parallel to the technology industry brilliantly.

Paradigms and their effect on technology was also beautifully explained by Clayton Christensen at the conference during his two hour evening keynote to a standing room only audience. Christensen, though, uses terms like innovation and disruption to explain his theories in The Innovator's Dilemma and The Innovator's Solution.

All three books are landmarks of strategic thought. They will terrify you if you are stuck in Christensen's sustaining technology or in Kuhn's normal science, but the books are also liberating for those who understand and embrace the phenomenon. Embrace it and succeed. Ignore it and fail. History demonstrates the concept with painful and exhilarating clarity -- depending on what side of the paradigm you are on, of course.

Update: Tim wrote up his talk as a comprehensive article here.
About


Search

Archives
« April 2014
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
  
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
   
       
Today
Bookmarks

No bookmarks in folder