Tuesday, June 23, 2009

New On My Reading List

David Swensen taught a generation of portfolio managers how to achieve decades of market-beating returns, yet, to this day, no one seems to be able to catch up to the brilliant chief of Yale's Endowment. A generous gift to investors everywhere from one of the greatest minds in the history of the field.

New on My Reading List

I am loving this multi-biography of the elite group of Jewish Hungarian physicists who changed the world of twentieth century science. Why don't people also mention that this unusual line of brilliant scientists has continued into the 21st century, including Microsoft's Charles Simonyi , and Intel's Andrew Grove?

Success Book Reviews: Michalko's "Cracking Creativity"

Imagine having Albert Einstein or Leonardo DaVinci around to help out when you are stuck on a problem. Or perhaps Steve Jobs, or T.S. Eliot. Or maybe Thomas Edison or Nikola Tesla to offer a different point of view when you were stuck looking for a solution. Michael Michalko’s Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius may be the next best thing to “channeling” these great minds.

Michalko’s research has broken down a lot of the “mystery” surrounding the production of new and brilliant insights, solutions, and models. He puts these techniques into our hands in great profusion. Like a “tool chest of the mind”, I think someone would be hard-pressed NOT to generate a wealth of ideas and solutions once they started using these remarkable tools.

So, what do geniuses do that we can emulate to solve our problems and deliver new breakthroughs in our own lives.? First and foremost, think in terms of “a lot”. Whether it is a lot of approaches to the problem, a lot of potential solutions, a lot of subcategories of the problem, or drawing from a lot of different fields, geniuses always generate a lot of output, and then cull the best solutions from that output. Call it “divergent/convergent” thinking if you will. Instead of a “Eureka” moment, think in terms of hundreds of small-caps “eureka’s”.

Problem Statement Techniques
Michalko starts here, and urges us to restate the problem from as many perspectives and levels as possible. Use different descriptions, levels of abstraction, alternate wordings, questions, etc. Sometimes this technique alone may even solve the problem

Diagrams and Graphics
Michalko makes a good case that , during the Renaissance, human productivity improved dramatically as scientists and thinkers began to use graphic representations of their concepts. Michalko presents several techniques for diagramming problems that can shed a while new light on sub-problems, systems, interrelationships, and cause-effect chains.

Idea Generation
For most of us, idea generation is not a “process” but a more-or-less haphazard act. Reading Michalko, it becomes clear that, with Michalko’s techniques, most of us could produce ideas in much larger quantities, and with much more diversity, thereby allowing us a much larger field to select from as we develop the most important ideas.. A few of Michalko’ insights:

Geniuses produce quantity first, deferring judgment to a later stage of the process

Geniuses continue to elaborate on ideas, allowing many variations and improvements to take place

Geniuses work at improving different parts of an idea

Geniuses keep accurate records of their ideas

Geniuses search for unusual “triggers” for ideas: different fields, random words, fantasy, “what if” scenarios, abstractions, and “creative accidents” all contribute to the creation of new solutions and concepts

Geniuses often work with multiple great minds in non-judgmental ways. This process similar to Napoleon Hill’s “Master Mind” concept, allows multiple perspectives, and multiple lines of thought, to intersect in powerful ways.

So...does this stuff work? For me, absolutely. I tried using a few of Michalko’s concepts in my ongoing work developing a particular style of trading system. Within one evening, I could see that the results would produce a system approximately 6 times as effective as the previous version of the system, and, furthermore, that the algorithm generated would be applicable to other trading systems as well.

Be ready for lightning to strike when you use the techniques of Cracking Creativity.

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