Decision Making (Malcolm Gladwell at RSA)

Even if you don’t work in IT, this discussion of decision-making by Malcolm Gladwell at the RSA conference is worth checking out. He makes some interesting points about how gathering information is not the critical mechanism for making good decisions. In fact, gathering too much information can actually damage your ability to make good decisions. While that seems counter-intuitive, the more I think about it the more I think that it’s consistent with my own experience.

Click the 4th link on the left to hear Gladwell’s talk – otherwise you’ll listen to a bunch of IT stuff that may or may not be of interest if you’re not in the IT security business. Clearly, the RSA folks want to discourage “deep linking

Decision Making

http://media.omediaweb.com/rsa2008/webcast.htm?id=3_1

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“One in Four adults say they read no books at all in the past year . . .”

"One in four adults say they read no books at all in the past year, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Tuesday. "   

I can't say that the results of this AP poll surprises me much, but it's still a bit depressing.  Even if you assume that some of those people were reading newspapers and articles on the Internet instead of books, we lose something important as books become a smaller part of our culture.   

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Stone Brewing’s “Book & a Beer” Club

Finally, a book club that I can get enthusiastic about!  Stone Brewing, makers of a variety of fine beverages including Arrogant Bastard and several fine IPAs, has begun a "Book & a Beer Club," beginning with a discussion of Michael Pollen's Omnivore's Dilemma last night.  This first meeting was a proof-of-concept to see if they could get a decent turnout, and based on the 60-70 people that showed up I'm sure that they'll be following up with additional meetings (as far as I can tell, they still haven't put up a web page for the book club yet – I found out about it from an article in the paper last week.)   

The sample chapter on Pollen's website gives you a pretty good idea what the book is about.  The discussion in the bistro's gardens mostly concerned ways to opt out of the industrialized food system.   One resource that seems worth sharing is LocalHarvest.org, which acts as a resource for finding local farmer's markets, CSAs,  restaurants serving locally grown produce, etc.

BTW, the restaurant attached to the brewery, the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Garden, is worth a visit even if you don't drink beer -the menu, which focuses on "Slow Food," is fabulous.  Even if you're not concerned with the philosophy behind the menu, the food is just damn tasty :-)

Team of Rivals

Team of Rivals is one of the better books I've read lately.  My favorite biographies use their subjects as a way to explore larger issues – the rough-and-tumble of politics in the first volume of Robert Caro's biography of Lyndon Johnson, issues of race and the professionalization of sports in Randy Roberts biography of Jack Johnson, etc.  The discussion of leadership in Doris Kearns Goodwin's book struck a couple of cords with me. 

Team of Rivals

First, there are obvious contrasts to be drawn between the leadership styles of Lincoln with George Bush.  How different would the world be today if George Bush had chosen more independent, stronger voices with which to surround himself?  Would a Bush cabinet that included rivals such as McCain have made different choices?  (Although, to be fair, recent news stories seem to show that some departed Bush cabinet members, such as John Ashcroft, may deserve more credit for independence than they have been given.)  While I doubt the overall direction of policy would have been that different, I suspect the policies might have been implemented with more competence. 

Second, as we continue to suffer through this extended presidential election cycle, with both parties fielding lots of candidates, I wonder if a similar team could be assembled from either party.  I doubt that Bill Richardson, for example, will be able to win the Democratic party's nomination, but his resume makes him an intriguing choice for the cabinet in a Democratic administration.  Could Mitt Romney and John McCain coexist in the same Republican administration?  All kinds of intriguing possibilities and combinations come to mind.  Right now, the Democratic field  looks like a deeper pool of talent to me than the Republican field, but there is a long way to go.

Rice University summary of Eric Schlosser’s Lecture

Rice University has posted a summary (Schlosser: Meatpacking reforms have rotted away) of the Eric Schlosser talk that I attended back in February.  I still wish that I could find a transcript of the talk,  or at least the text of his prepared remarks.  Much of his talk echoed the points he made in the book (I finished reading it while I was in Mexico), but he updated and expanded the arguments from Fast Food Nation. As I said in my original post about his lecture, we need more of this kind of intelligent, well-researched muckraking. 

Eric Schlosser speaks at Rice

Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, spoke at Rice last night as part of their President’s Lecture Series.  I don’t go to these types of things as often as I should, but last night was a reminder about why I should.  I really regretted not having my little notebook with me to make a couple of notes – there were several points that he raised in both his prepared remarks and during the question and answer session that I wanted to look into afterwards.  I wish I could find the text of his prepared remarks somewhere, or better yet a transcript of last night including the Q&A session.  

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