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Best New Thinking Winner 2010

Bookshop – Knowledge Creation Books

A pet topic of mine I’m afraid. Ignorance is such a plentiful resource in most companies than it’s amazing how much trouble they take to store it and to keep it secret..


Freakonomics, Steven Leavitt Stephen Dubner 2006
This is written in the juxtaposition style of Malcolm Gladwell story - conclusion - totally different story - related conclusion and so on. Written by the most brilliant young economist in the country. That's what the introduction says and just in case you didn't get the message there's a testimonial in between every chapter. Steven Leavitt? The brilliant young economist? Oh he's bloody brilliant he is. And so on. What they're getting excited about isn't just an economist coming out from behind a great big spreadsheet and speaking plain language, or even climbing the bestseller lists but because here's an individual doing a piece of analysis weighing up probably causes and then setting out his conclusions - on just about any topic you care to mention. Sounds familiar? Yup this is account planning writ large - the solitary sleuth, the intuitive leaps the frantic post-rationalisations. So all you have to do dear reader is persuade your mum/mates/next employer that you do this sort of thing all the time and appreciation, coolness and unbridled wealth can be yours. The tricky bit is that this seems to be the back catalogue of Levitt's published papers made acessible. I enjoyed him demonstrating that if you want to reduce the crime rate you have to allow poor girls to abort the criminals in the first place (bit controversial ladies and gentlemen) but he manages to go back and do it all again a second time. And by the time he had got onto parenting and why poor people give their children names that they think will make them rich and successful (but it won't make a difference) the fun was starting to wear a bit thin. The best chapter and the single best reason for buying the book is the explanation among other things that getting a job in advertising is like being a runner for a Chicago crack gang (with the difference I suppose that your life expectancy will be a little higher than 23). Buy it and read it on holiday. What we now need is for an uberplanner to write up all their Advertising Works and APG awards with a bit of gangsta, hip hop and good ole' fashioned swagger. And suggest they can solve all the worlds' problems at 2000 words a time. Which will do all of us a power of good.
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The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint, Edward Tufte 2003 Graphics Press
This is barely a book. It's really a published paper. But it's by one of my heroes who has taught graphic communications in Yale for years. And it's a ferocious attack on PowerPoint that ubiquitous tool for explaining well just about anything. And Tufte's point is that PowerPoint actually communicates very little relative to many paper based formats and that certain types of communication should never been done using PowerPoint specifically ones involving scientific explanation. The key exhibit is a NASA slide which was central to the decision to bring the illfated Challenger back to the earth. The headline implies that the shuttle is safe. The body copy when analysed carefully actually states the opposite but is so obfuscated through being shoehorned into the PowerPoint format that nothing is very clear. There's lots more to enjoy - particularly the turning of Lincoln's Gettysburg address. You don't need to use PowerPoint most of the time. I'm exploring whether DVDs are a better layout for integrating text with primary data. But it does make me feel a little smug to recall last month when I was ushered into a room and shown a video projector to which I could attach my laptop to present my credentials. It's all right I said - I'll just tell you what they are.
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The Facilitators Pocketbook, John Townsend Paul Donovan 1999 Management Pocketbooks
has been on my shelf for 2 years now and I take it down before every workshop I run because it is very helpful on doing the critical set up at the start of the session to get everyone understanding why they are there and pointing in the same direction. You can find it in the Knowledge Creation area of the bookshop but you can click through at the top here and go to Amazon to order it. The pocketbook series are well worth a look. I've also got the Learner's pocketbook, the Self-managed Development Pocketbook and the all important Managing Cashflow!
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The social life of information knowledge creating company, John Seely Brown, Paui Duguid 2000 HBS Press
The digerati can see the future. It's digital. This book exposes very readably the narrow extrapolation of future trends without looking at the wider context. Information has a social context. It can't just be delivered by the screenful.
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The knowledge creating company, Ikujiro Nonaka Hirotaka Takeuchi 1995 Oxford
The Japanese again. All about inductive knowledge: how to learn by experiencing things first hand then storing and disseminating that knowledge through the organisation. Don't theorise. Go and do it then reflect on it, then share the knowledge with your people. A great book.
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The Visual Display of Quantitative information, Edward R Tufte 1983 Graphics Press
Edward Tufte is a genius. In this work and two others he has written the textbooks on how to picture numbers, nouns (things) and verbs (changes). Most business communications is full of non data ink - stuff which confuses because it doesn't actually provide information. Tufte shows how to ensure you communicate economically. The books are works of art, finished by hand with copious fantastic illustrations. See also Envisioning Information 1990 and Visual Explanations : Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative 1997
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