Maria Konnikova is the author of the New York Times bestseller, MASTERMIND: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes. She writes the weekly “Literally Psyched” column for Scientific American, where she explores the intersection of literature and psychology, and formerly wrote the popular psychology blog “Artful Choice” for Big Think. Her writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, Slate, The New Republic, The Paris Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, The Observer, WIRED, Scientific American MIND, and Scientific American, among other publications. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University, where she studied psychology, creative writing, and government, and is currently a doctoral candidate in Psychology at Columbia University. Before returning to school, she worked as a producer for the Charlie Rose show on PBS. She lives in New York City.
Here is an excerpt from my interview of her. To read the complete interview, please click here.
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Morris: When and why did you decide to write MASTERMIND?
Konnikova: It grew our of a series of pieces I wrote for Big Think and Scientific American, called “Lessons from Sherlock Holmes.” I stumbled on the idea of using the Holmes stories to illustrate a few psychological concepts—and it clicked into place. The more research I did, the more convinced I became that it would make for a good lens for a book on the mind.
Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing it? Please explain.
Konnikova: I never realized before just how frequently I multitask and how often my focus strays from my writing. Writing MASTERMIND made me confront my media-tetherdness, so to speak.
Morris: To what extent (if any) does the book in final form differ significantly from what you originally envisioned?
Konnikova: Surprisingly, it doesn’t. I basically followed my initial outline and proposal.
Morris: What are the defining characteristics of “mindful thought”?
Konnikova: Mindful thought is just a way to describe presence of mind: a mind that is focused on the present moment and is able to both acknowledge and dismiss any internal or external distractions that may arise.
Morris: You suggest that for Sherlock Holmes, “mindful presence is just a first step.” Please explain.
Konnikova: To Holmes, mindfulness isn’t an end in itself. It’s a means toward the type of clear thinking that allows him to tackle problems, solve cases, catch criminals. Sure, he gets all of the benefits of mindfulness—mental sharpness, emotional benefits, and the like—but they are by-products and not the end goal. Mindfulness is the prerequisite starting point for the type of thinking he needs to engage in to become—and remain—the world’s best consulting detective.
Morris: In various films about Holmes, especially those featuring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, the character Dr. John H. Watson’s primary function seems to provide comic relief. Sometimes he asks questions that many of those who watch the film have. In your opinion, what is his primary function in the works of fiction written by Arthur Conan Coyle?
Konnikova: He is decidedly not comic relief—although you must admit, Holmes’s quips at Watson’s expense are fairly hilarious. Watson is a worthy companion; remember, he is a trained medical doctor and not just a random who-knows-what. He helps Holmes clarify and sharpen his thinking, helps him avoid the pitfalls of reasoning to which even the greatest detective is prone, and sometimes even serves as the source of a key insight (or reprimand) that will solve the case.
Morris: What are the most significant differences between System Watson and System Holmes?
Konnikova: For those who have read Daniel Kahneman’s wonderful Thinking Fast and Slow, the difference is simple. Watson is System 1, and Holmes, System 2. System Watson is the fast, natural, largely effortless, reflexive system. System Holmes is the slow, largely effortful, reflective system. The one frees up our cognitive resources for other things; the other, takes them up for deeper reflection.
Morris: Early in the book, on Page 21 to be specific, you observe, “To Sherlock Homes, the world has become by default a pink elephant world.” Please explain.
Konnikova: It’s my way of illustrating a concept that dates back to the work of philosophers like Spinoza and that has more recently been explored by the psychologist Daniel Gilbert. In order to understand something, we must first believe it. Only then can we disbelieve. So, if I say “pink elephant,” you must for a brief instant visualize an actual pink elephant, before your brain jumps in to say that that’s a false statement and pink elephants don’t actually exist. The pink elephant is an egregious case; obviously, it is false. But in real life, false statements get past our correction radar all the time: we believe it and then never take the time to disbelieve. And so, our minds become populated by pink elephants. Holmes is skeptical from the get-go. No matter how innocuous something may sound, he questions it with the same severity.
Morris: I have read most of the research results produced by K. Anders Ericsson and his associates at Florida State University and am aware of the need to supplement mindful motivation with brutal training: deep, deliberate “practice, practice, practice” for (on average) at least 10,000 hours under expert and strict supervision. Here’s my question: Is that what is required to master the Holmes methodology? Please explain.
Konnikova: Yes, that is certainly part of it, as I say repeatedly. Nothing comes without practice, and Holmes has been honing his methodology for years and years. We can’t expect to catch up right away. That said, no, we don’t need 10,000 hours to begin to change the way we think and approach the world. We don’t have to become first-class detectives; just more mindful thinkers.
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To read the complete interview, please click here.
Maria cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:
Her blog at Scientific American
Her Amazon page
Toby Lester is a journalist, an editor, and an independent scholar. In addition to writing books, he is a longtime contributor to The Atlantic, for whom he has written extensively, on such topics as the reconstruction of ancient Greek music, the revisionist study of the Qur’an, and the attempt to change alphabets in Azerbaijan. Between 1995 and 2005 he worked for the magazine in a number of different editorial capacities—as a staff editor, as the executive editor of the website, as a senior editor, and as a managing editor. He has also served as the editor of Country Journal and the executive editor of DoubleTake. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic as well as Smithsonian, The Boston Globe, The American Scholar, The Wilson Quarterly, BBC News Magazine, and the London Times, as well as a number of anthologies, including the lead chapter of the recent New Literary History of America.
Prior to 1995, Lester worked in international relief and development: monitoring intifada-related activity in the West Bank, as a refugee-affairs officer for the United Nations; helping establish programs in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, as a Peace Corps country desk officer; and teaching English in a mountain school, as a Peace Corps volunteer in Yemen. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1987 with degrees in English and French, and now lives in the Boston area with his wife and three daughters.
Lester comes from a family of writers. His father, James Lester, was a member of the first successful American Everest expedition, and is the author of Too Marvelous for Words (1994), the only biography of the jazz pianist Art Tatum. His mother, Valerie Lester, is the author of, among other works, Fasten Your Seat Belts: History and Heroism in the Pan Am Cabin (1995), and Phiz: The Man Who Drew Dickens (2004) — a biography of her great-great grandfather, Hablot Knight Browne, who was Charles Dickens’s principal illustrator. And his sister, Alison Lester, is the author of Locked Out (2007), a collection of short stories about expatriate life.
Here is an excerpt from my interview of him. To read the complete interview, please click here.
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Morris: Before discussing Da Vinci’s Ghost, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest impact on your professional development? How so?
Lester: I’d have to say Cullen Murphy, who for years was the managing editor at The Atlantic and is now an editor-at-large for Vanity Fair. Much of what I’ve learned about writing and editing I’ve learned from Cullen.
Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.
Lester: Indeed there was. After finishing college, I worked for about seven years in international relief and development: first for the Peace Corps and then the United Nations. Ultimately, though, I found myself unsatisfied with what I was doing, and I decided to abandon that whole career. Instead, I took an unpaid internship at The Atlantic, which was a magazine I’d always admired. I thought I’d stay for two months, but I ended up staying almost ten years, and certainly wouldn’t have written my books had I not done so.
Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?
Lester: It prepared me well in a general way, just as a liberal-arts education should. I can’t point to anything specific in my education that has led me to where I am now, except that reading and writing, and the pursuit of ideas, was something that I began to indulge in seriously in college, and I haven’t ever stopped since.
Morris: Now please shift your attention to Da Vinci’s Ghost. When and why did you decide to write it?
Lester: In the course of writing my first book, The Fourth Part of the World, I came across a number of medieval world maps that bore an uncanny visual likeness to Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man, in that they depicted a human figure inside a circle and a square, and I began to wonder about the kinds of influences that prompted Leonardo to draw his famous picture. Like a lot of people, originally I’d thought he had summoned the picture up out of thin air, but in fact, as I learned, there were all sorts of fascinating and now forgotten precursors to the image. I thought it would be fun to explore them as a way of unpacking the kinds of information and meaning he invested in his picture.
Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing it? Please explain.
Lester: The biggest one, I think, was that Vitruvian Man has not always been famous. In fact, it turns out that the picture was completely forgotten from the time of Leonardo’s death until 1770 — there are simply no references to it anywhere in the historical record. And for almost two centuries after that the picture still wasn’t widely known. Only in 1956, when Kenneth Clarke published The Nude and included the picture in that work, did it suddenly enter the ecosystem of popular culture and take on the iconic significance that we now take for granted.
Morris: For those who have not as yet read the book, who was Vitruvius and what is his relevance to Leonardo?
Lester: Vitruvius was a Roman architect who wrote the only treatise on architecture in the ancient world: the Ten Books on Architecture. The work surveyed ancient architectural theory and practice, and was the subject of great interest in the Renaissance, when Europeans began to revive the classics, and Italians, in particular, began to build in a neo-classical style. Of particular relevance to Vitruvian Man is a passage in the Ten Books that concerns the proportions of the ideal human figure, whom Vitruvius says can be inscribed in a circle and a square. Leonardo’s drawing is an illustration of that idea (which Vitruvius himself didn’t illustrate).
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To read the complete interview, please click here.
Toby cordially invites you to check out the resources at this website:
Richard Florida is author of the global best-sellers, The Rise of the Creative Class and Who’s Your City? A more recent book, book, The Great Reset, explains how new ways of living and working will drive post-crash prosperity. Other works include The Flight of the Creative Class and Cities and the Creative Class. His previous books, especially The Breakthrough Illusion and Beyond Mass Production, paved the way for his provocative looks at how creativity is revolutionizing the global economy.
Richard is senior editor for The Atlantic and a regular CNN contributor. He has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Economist, The Globe and Mail and The Harvard Business Review. He has been featured as an expert on MSNBC, BBC, NPR and CBS, to name just a few. Richard is Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute and Professor of Business and Creativity at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. Previously, Florida held professorships at George Mason University and Carnegie Mellon University and taught as a visiting professor at Harvard and MIT. Florida earned his Bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University and his Ph.D. from Columbia University. His research provides unique, data-driven insight into the social, economic and demographic factors that drive the 21st century world economy.
His latest book is The Rise of the Creative Class, Revisited: 10th Anniversary Edition–Revised and Expanded, published by Basic Books (June, 2012).
Here is an excerpt from my second interview of him.
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Morris: To what extent is The Rise of the Creative Class, Revisited a sequel? To what extent does it plow entirely new ground?
Florida: A great deal of the book has been rewritten or rearranged—this is not so much a revision as a full-blown revisiting of the original book. My team and I brought all the statistics up to date, provided new ones, and incorporated a decade’s worth of new research. I took advantage of the opportunity to address my major critics, too. Finally, there are five completely original chapters, covering the global effects of the Creative Class, quality of place in our cities and suburbs, the widening—and increasingly damaging—role of class and inequality in society, and the political challenges and opportunities that the rise of the creative class represents.
Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing the book? Please explain.
Florida: One big insight is the worsening inequality and underlying class divide that plagues not just nations but cities and metro areas. You can see it in US cities and metros and also in London and even in Toronto where I now live. That said, the rise of the creative class and post-industrialism needn’t exacerbate wage and income inequality. In fact, the wages and salaries for working and service class members are higher in metros with greater concentrations of the creative class. Interestingly enough, the US is something of an outlier when it comes to post-industrialism and inequality across the advanced nations. In many of them, especially in Scandinavia and North Europe, post-industrialism and the rise of the creative economy has been accompanied by higher living standards and far less inequality that in the US. In the revised edition, I look in detail at inequality across US metros. I find that the class divide accounts for about 15 percent of income inequality, a significant amount for sure, but more is at work. Income inequality across US metros has a lot to do with entrenched poverty, race, weakened labor unions, and an unraveling safety net than it is the result of the Creative Class’s relative prosperity. The solution, in other words, isn’t to roll the Creative Class back—it’s to lift up the classes that aren’t doing as well.
Morris: To what extent (if any) does the book in final form differ significantly from what you originally envisioned?
Florida: Books always turn out different than expected. When I started the idea was to update the data (which was ten years old) and revise and update the existing chapters. But that’s where my research and thinking took me. I certainly did not expect to write five entirely new chapters The whole issue of the creative class going global and the need to include more data and information on the creative class around the world; and also widening inequality and the growing class divide – those are things that needed to be treated in detail. The last chapter – “Every Single Human Being is Creative”— discusses the need for a new Creative Compact based on harnessing the creativity and talent of every single human being. We are at such a critical turning point: our society is changing as fundamentally as it has since the shift from agriculture to manufacturing. The old industrial order of relentless production and consumerism, of brute growth, has proven itself unsustainable; it’s left us with a degraded environment, a broken financial system, and a sclerotic political culture. We have an incredible opportunity to remake ourselves in a better way—for maybe the first time ever, to align human and economic development. But to do that, we need to create new institutions that will both help to develop and utilize everyone’s innate creativity. It won’t happen by itself, and no Invisible Hand is going to guide it.
The University of Chicago economist Raghu Rajan said it well: “The advanced countries have a choice. They can act as if all is well except that their consumers are in a funk, and that ‘animal spirits’ must be revived through stimulus. Or they can treat the crisis as a wake-up call to fix all that has been papered over in the last few decades.” I’m trying to sound that wake up call.
Morris: Please explain the reference to “the key underlying forces that have been transforming our economy and culture” for several decades.
Florida: Our economy is shifting from an industrial to a post-industrial basis—our most valuable products are no longer the natural resources we scour out of the ground, or the durable goods that we manufacture in factories but the things that spring from our creativity: software, movies, medicines, applications. Human beings have always been creative, of course, but now creativity itself—“the ability to create meaningful new forms,” as Webster’s Dictionary has it—is what powers our economy.
As creativity has become more fundamental, it’s given rise to a whole new social class that works in creative fields (the sciences, education, medicine, technology, media, the arts). Many of them have embraced a new ethos and a new set of meritocratic norms that in turn have shifted our whole society.
If anything Creativity is an even more powerfully transformative force than it was a decade ago. The Creative Class has come through the last decade—and through the economic crash of 2008—stronger and more influential than ever.
Morris: In your opinion, why have we not as yet unleashed “that great reservoir of overlooked and underutilized human potential”?
Florida: If a third of our most fortunate workers belong to the Creative Class, the other two great classes are not faring anywhere near as well. The working class, our blue collar sector, has lost a third of its members in just the last decade—it represents just 20 percent of the workforce today, about the same share that farmers held at the turn of the last century (they are less than one percent of the economy today). About half of the workforce belongs to the Service Class—the people who serve our food, cut our lawns and our fingernails, take care of our elderly. Most of them are paid terribly and there are very few opportunities for advancement.
Class and geography have a huge impact on your destiny in the US—if your parents don’t have good jobs and good educations and you live in a state that has a smaller Creative Class share, the odds are that you’ll be poorer, travel less, and receive a worse education than your peers in more creative states. That’s not snobbery or elitism—that’s just statistics. Poorer states have shorter life expectancies too—there is more smoking and obesity, more gun violence, and worse health outcomes across the board.
This is why I’m so passionate about the need for change—for a new Creative Compact, as I put it, that will do for our own epoch what the New Deal did for its own generation.
Morris: What are the defining characteristics of the Creative Class?
Florida: I define the Creative Class by what people do—by the kinds of jobs they hold. What I call the Super-Creative Core of the Creative Class are scientists and engineers, university professors, poets and novelists, artists, entertainers, actors, designers, and architects, as well as the thought leadership of modern society: nonfiction writers, editors, cultural figures, think-tank researchers, analysts, and other opinion shapers. I define the highest order of creative work as the production of new forms or designs that are readily transferable and widely useful—such as designing a consumer product, coming up with a theorem or strategy that can be applied in many situations, or composing music that can be performed again and again.
The Creative Class doesn’t just solve problems—it finds problems that we didn’t know we had. It invents the iPod and then it figures out a better way to organize its music library—and to combine it with a telephone, and an e-book reader while giving its battery longer life.
Beyond this core group, the Creative Class also includes “creative professionals” who work in a wide range of knowledge-intensive industries, such as high-tech, financial services, the legal and health professions, and business management, who engage in creative problem solving. Creative Class people are smart and skilled; they’re often (but not always) highly educated. Three quarters of degree holders belong to the Creative Class, but less than 60 percent of the Creative Class has degrees.
I talk a lot about “creatifying” jobs that are not considered Creative Class, but could be, such as retail sales. With the addition of creativity such jobs can become more productive and earn higher and higher salaries. Services can be creatified too, as their providers become more entrepreneurial.
Richard cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:
To read the complete second interview, please click here.
To read my first interview of him, please click here.
To read my review of his latest book, The Rise of the Creative Class, Revisited: 10th Anniversary Edition, please click here.
Here is an article written by William C. Taylor for BNET (February 14, 2011), The CBS Interactive Business Network. To check out an abundance of valuable resources and obtain a free subscription to one or more of the BNET newsletters, please click here.
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Now that Valentine’s Day is but a distant memory, may I suggest that we think about love not just in our personal lives but in our professional lives too?
Here’s what I mean. In his inspiring and instructive book Rules of Thumb, my friend and Fast Company cofounder Alan Webber identifies two questions that demand the attention of leaders. The first is familiar: What keeps you up at night? What are the problems that nag at you? The second is less familiar, but even more important: What gets you up in the morning? What keeps you and your people more committed than ever, more engaged than ever, more excited than ever, particularly as the environment around you gets tougher and more demanding than ever?
That’s a question every organization needs to ask and answer if it hopes to prosper in an era of hyper-competition. Even the most creative leaders recognize that long-term success is not just about thinking differently from other companies. It is also, and perhaps more importantly, about caring more than other companies-about customers, about colleagues, about how the organization conducts itself in a world with endless temptations to cut corners and compromise on values. For leaders, the pressing question isn’t just what separates you from the competition in the marketplace. It’s also what holds you together in the workplace.
Learn from Lombardi: Love is Stronger Motivator than Hate
Of course, the best leaders have known this all along. There’s a wonderful biography of Vince Lombardi by David Maraniss, by the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter at the Washington Post. After the Green Bay Packers captured the first-ever Super Bowl, Maraniss writes, Coach Lombardi, as tough an SOB as there was on the American sporting scene, found himself in high demand as a speaker to executive audiences, who wanted him to translate his principles for victory on the gridiron to success in work and life. In what became a recurring message to corporate America, he set out seven principles of competition and leadership, most of which you’d expect from the greatest football coach of all time. But his most important principle was also the most surprising: Love is more powerful than hate.
“The love I’m speaking of is loyalty, which is the greatest of loves,” Lombardi told his audiences. “Teamwork, the love that one man has for another and that he respects the dignity of another…I am not speaking of detraction. You show me a man who belittles another and I will show you a man who is not a leader…Heart power is the strength of your company. Heart power is the strength of the Green Bay Packers. Heart power is the strength of America and hate power is the weakness of the world.”
Here’s one small example of Lombardi’s larger point, a touching story that made me sit up and take notice when I read it in my local newspaper shortly after Valentine’s Day two years ago-and that I think about often. Boston’s legendary Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where sick kids get some of the best care in the world, was building a new facility on its busy campus. Every morning, in bitter temperatures and biting wind, ironworkers showed up for work and moved the building a little closer to completion. No news there. The new was what was happening before the shift began. The Boston Globe reported:
“It has become a beloved ritual at Dana-Farber. Every day, children who come to the clinic write their names on sheets of paper and tape them to the windows of the walkway for ironworkers to see. And, every day, the ironworkers paint the names onto I-beams and hoist them into place as they add floors to the new 14-story Yawkey Center for Cancer Care.
“The building’s steel skeleton is now a brightly colored, seven-story monument to scores of children receiving treatment at the clinic-Lia, Alex, and Sam; Taylor, Izzy, and Danny. For the young cancer patients, who press their noses to the glass to watch new names added every day, the steel and spray-paint tribute has given them a few moments of joy and a towering symbol of hope. ‘It’s fabulous,’ said [18-month-old] Kristen [Hoenshell]’s mother, Elizabeth, as she held her daughter and marveled at the rainbow of names. It’s just a simple little act that means so much.’”
The Globe account, understandably, focused on the impact of this daily ritual on the kids and their parents. But think about the impact on the job. Is there any doubt that these union members worked harder and smarter, that they paid even more attention to quality, because their “simple little act” gave their work a greater sense of meaning? “Everybody saw the kids smiling,” foreman Mile Walsh, from Ironworkers Local 7, told the reporter. “And that’s what you want to do, keep them smiling.”
For these tough-as-nails ironworkers, work had become personal, which meant they devoted themselves to their work with a renewed sense of personal responsibility. That’s the difference between new ventures built on a hot product or a cool piece of technology-a foundation for success that can evaporate as quickly as it materializes-and those built on both most-of-something ideas and an all-for-one sense of shared commitment. If you want to start from scratch and shake things up, whether as an independent venture or a team or business unit inside an established organization, how you work will be as decisive as what you think.
Have you seen loyalty and commitment help your organization?
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William C. Taylor is cofounder of Fast Company magazine and coauthor of Mavericks at Work. His new book is Practically Radical. You can follow him on Twitter at @practicallyrad.
In the August 2010 issue of Wired, Jonah Lehrer asserts that “stress doesn’t kill us – but it makes everything that does kill us much worse.” In the article that follows, Lehrer explains how to reduce stress with science. To read the complete article once it is accessible online, please click here.
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Make Friends: “Social relationships are a powerful buffer against stress. In fat, several studies in Europe and the US have found that people with fewer friends and family members they’re close to have significantly shorter life expectancies.”
Drink in Moderation: “While the moderate consumption of alcohol might reduce the stress response, blood alcohol levels above 0.1 percent – most states consider 0.08 the legal limit fir driving – trigger an automatic spike in stress hormones [and convince your body] it’s in a state of mortal danger.”
Get Enough Sleep: “Recent studies have found that even a single night of insufficient sleep…triggers an automatic spike in stress hormones.” The result is increased stress and insomnia.
Don’t Fight: Recent and extensive research (on baboons) by Stanford biologist Robert Sapolsky suggests that human beings as well as baboons with a less aggressive personality (i.e. “the ability to walk away from a provocation”) have much more stable relationships.
Confront Your Fears: As one research study of Norwegian paratroopers reveals, there was massive stress prior to and then following their first jump but over time, after repeated jumps, “they showed elevated levels of stress hormones only while in midair.”
Meditate: Extensive research suggests that “even a short training session in meditation can dramatically reduce levels of stress and anxiety. “
My own take on this point is that, at least once or twice a day, it is a good idea to take a brief “time out” from tensions and pressures: calm down, relax, take a few deep breaths, and envision an especially pleasant scene (for me, walking along a tropical beach). I always feel refreshed and usually energized after these brief moments of decompression.
Don’t Force Yourself to Exercise: “While exercise is remarkably effective at blunting the stress response, at least for a few hours, this effect exists only if you want to exercise in the first place.” Otherwise, those who force themselves to suffer through exercise will nit reduce their stress level; on the contrary, they may exacerbate it.
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To learn more about this subject, here are links to two of Lehrer’s blog posts:
To check out several videos during which Robert Sapolsky shares what he has learned about stress, please click here.
Who is Jonah Lehrer? “I’m a Contributing Editor at Wired and the author of How We Decide and Proust Was a Neuroscientist. I graduated from Columbia University and studied at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. I’ve written for The New Yorker, Nature, Seed, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe. I’m also a Contributing Editor at Scientific American Mind and National Public Radio’s Radio Lab.”
Richard Florida is the author of several global best-sellers: The Rise of the Creative Class, The Breakthrough Illusion, Beyond Mass Production, The Flight of the Creative Class, and Who’s Your City? In his latest book, The Great Reset, he explains how new ways of living and working will drive post-crash prosperity. Florida is a regular correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly and a regular columnist for The Globe and Mail. He has also written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Economist, and The Harvard Business Review. He has been featured as an expert on MSNBC, CNN, BBC, NPR and CBS, to name just a few. He has also been appointed to the Business Innovation Factory’s Research Advisory Council and recently named European Ambassador for Creativity and Innovation. Florida’s ideas on the “creative class,” commercial innovation, and regional development have been featured in major ad campaigns from BMW and Apple, and are being used globally to transform the way regions and nations do business and “reset” their economies. He is one of the world’s leading public intellectuals on economic competitiveness, demographic trends, global trends, economics, prosperity, competitiveness, and disruptive growth as well as cultural and technological innovation.
Morris: For those who have not as yet read The Great Reset, what is a “Reset”?
Florida: Economies and societies invariably remake themselves in the wake of a crisis. It’s a necessary component of rebound and recovery. Outmoded industries and tired consumption habits make way for new goods and services, new careers and forms of employment, and population realigns itself in the landscape. All these developments are connected to lifestyle changes.
Morris: In which specific ways are economic systems “embedded within the geographic fabric” of a society?
Florida: Many ways. I have always argued that the place and geography has a significant impact on economic systems. With this Great Reset, we will see an even greater emphasis on place – more specifically the rise of the mega region, which are new and incredibly powerful economic units. No longer will we focus on the city versus suburb but on how to increase our connection to our respective mega regions. Worldwide there are just 40 significant mega regions, which are home to 1/5 of the world’s population, 2/3′s of the globaleconomic output and 85% of all worldwide innovation. The rise of vast mega-regions such as the corridors stretching from Boston to New York and Washington, D.C., which will intensify our use of land and space the way that the industrial city did during the First Reset and suburbia did in the Second.
Morris: Where were the most significant consequences of the First Great Reset in the 1870s? And of the Second Great Reset in the 1930s?
Florida: Each of the previous two Resets were actually vibrant periods of innovation. Inventors and entrepreneurs rushed to fill the voids left by struggling industries with new ideas and new technologies that led to new forms of infrastructure like railroads, subways, and highways systems. All of that innovation powers economic growth. The First Reset saw power and communication grids and streetcar and subway systems spread across the country, speeding the movement of goods, people, and ideas. This was the era of Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan, after all. The Second Reset brought huge developments in media, mass-produced consumer goods, and the role of large corporations, when companies like IBM rose to prominence and when what was good for General Motors was good for the nation. It also saw the rise of a suburban, mass-consuming nation.
Morris: In Chapter Thirteen, you discuss Toronto. Why do you think this city has “tremendous upside potential coming out of the current crisis”?
Florida: I’m convinced that Toronto has a tremendous upside potential coming out of the current crisis. It won’t topple New York or London as a financial center, nor will it dethrone Los Angeles as the international entertainment capital, but with its large and stable banks, numerous knowledge-based industries thriving in the surrounding mega-regions, and an increasingly diverse population, it will gain ground. And with employment opportunities in the largest centers eroding, it can make a big move on top global talent. It stands as a model of an older, once heavily industrial Frostbelt city that has not only turned itself around but continues to grow and thrive.
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To read the complete interview, please click here.
You are cordially invited to check out the wealth of resources at
[A brief excerpt follows.]
Many organizations are pressured to do the seemingly impossible: Increase quality and affordability, and expand their customer base — all while keeping tight control on costs. These would seem irreconcilable tradeoffs.
Not so, judging by a high-flying subset. They see their competitive predicaments not as being imposed by the limits of physics and chemistry, but rather by the limits of their current understanding. Call it improvement, innovation, or discovery, their self-imposed challenge is recognizing where they are not good enough and learning how to get better. They understand what customers truly need, configure products and services to meet those needs, and design and operate systems that produce and deliver those offerings.
Some organizations undercut their ability to discover their way to greatness by confusing the information needed to see problems with the information needed to solve them. So, they overburden staff with establishing the former and then underarm them in tackling the latter.
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Steven Spear is an award-winning author of Chasing the Rabbit: How Market Leaders Outdistance the Competition, and is an expert on leadership and competing through high-velocity innovation, improvement, and invention. He is a visiting senior lecturer at MIT and a senior fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. With deep roots in industry and in health care, he is well known for publications in Harvard Business Review as well as The New York Times, the Boston Globe, Annals of Internal Medicine, and other medical journals.
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