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Reading list

Books and articles that matter

This contribution to "Reading List" is by Dean Andy Boynton

I'm concerned these days about whether we know enough about how to equip our students with the most valuable long-term asset they can bring to a life of work: the ability to spot great new ideas and then to shape them so they catch fire within an organization.

Two books that have stimulated (and I hope advanced) my views on this topic are Sam Harrison's Ideaspotting: How to Find Your Next Great Idea (How Books, 2006), and Chip and Dan Heath's Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (Random House, 2007).

Harrison's book offers practical tips for seeing what lies around you, but not necessarily in your direct vision. Picking up ideas just isn't a linear business. If you focus in a linear way, you'll see the white lines running down the middle of the road but not the landscape that lies to either side of the highway (or the interesting detours or the mountain range in the distance). I'm convinced, for example, that our students will improve their ability to spot and work with new ideas if we teach them to develop a habit of practicing wide-ranging intellectual interests. This means reading the Atlantic along with BusinessWeek and watching live theater in addition to Bloomberg television. Students also need to be taught the importance of knowing social and political theory so they have a framework for understanding the place of business in the ancient and ongoing conversation between civic culture and the economy.

The Heath brothers present principles that they believe guide the implementation and enculturation of fresh ideas, and they outline these principles as an acronym: "SUCCES: Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotion-evoking, and embedded in Stories." (It would have been nice if they'd come up with a final standard that would have allowed them to spell out the whole word.) These principles, they write, point to a way of working with ideas, of forming and reforming them so they not only rest nicely in your imagination but move out through the organization, influencing the thoughts and actions of the most junior employee as well as those of the CEO.

What are your thoughts about teaching students to recognize ideas and then turn them into practical and inspirational tools? How can we instill idea development in a classroom or corporate culture? What "idea work" practices have you find most useful in your work or in teaching? I would be grateful to learn your thoughts and would be happy to post them on the Carroll Capital website along with responses from other interested members of the Carroll community.

Sincerely,
Andy Boynton, Dean

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