In this issue:
HBS Working Knowledge • April 5, 2010
Disruption happens. Former Random House CEO Peter Olson says that while book publishers quibble over e-book pricing, they're focusing on the wrong problem: "I don't know of many successful examples of pricing a product based not on what it costs or what people want to pay for it, but based on another format that is completely different, just because you want to keep that format alive." A much more disturbing problem is the shrinking population of readers, which industry estimates at 15-25%—with less than half of the population ever cracking another book after leaving school.
There's a significant nod in this piece to the importance (and greater malleability) of the textbook market. We don't actually hear about what energy might be going into making the e-textbook the success it could be. We know there are problems that need to be addressed. See this interesting piece about a Princeton experiment to assess the Kindle's suitability for delivering learning materials, to wit, "although most users of the Kindle DX were very pleased with their 'reading' experiences with the Kindle, they felt that the 'writing' tools fell short of expectations, and prevented them from doing things easily accomplished with paper." And for the ways the general reading experience gets spoiled by the lack of e-publishing standards check this open letter. Not a rant but a good whine. ( Michalko)
Scientific American • April 15, 2010
Divide and conquer. Recent studies have debunked the myth of the multitasker—we're really not built to do more than one thing at a time well. This article provides insight into how our brain organizes multiple goal-oriented activities, by dividing them between hemispheres and switching back and forth quickly. The conclusion? This is why humans have trouble making a decision when presented with more than two choices at a time, which argues for keeping our Web design and navigation as simple as possible.
This is something that all parents know. Always "Would you like the cookie or a banana?". Never "What do you want for a snack?". ( Michalko)
Innovation Tools • April 13, 2010
Mind mapping. Creative thought leader Michael Gelb says the key to creativity is enabling the right and left hemispheres of the brain to work together. He provides a blueprint for hemispheric harmony in his seven rules for mind mapping.
I'm not familiar with Gelb's work. He certainly has discovered a repeatable pattern for titling his books. They are a tutorial in deriving the perfect business book title. Samurai. Genius. Uncork. Revolutionary. Etc. Shake. Stir. (There's another creativity guru that I've become aware of because we share the same last name and I sometimes get e-mail from his fans. His work seems really focused on exercises that support creative thinking.) ( Michalko)
Idea Champions • April 10, 2010
16 reasons to skim this article. Check any magazine on the newsstand and there's likely to be a "top 10 something-or-other" article on the cover. Why? Because lists make us feel safe. They're a familiar format, they help us cope with information overload, they make us look knowledgeable, and we can fold them up and carry them in our pockets. Read the list for the rest of the reasons.
Short. Funny. Our favorite list is, of course, the OCLC Top 1000 Books. I think the facts about the list are pretty amusing. The list of other book lists like the Great Books canonical list is also addictive. ( Michalko)
The Boston Globe • April 11, 2010
Whatever works. Computer security companies have over-dramatized the threats of cyberspace and the demands they place on consumers simply aren't worth their time or trouble, according to a recent study by top Microsoft researcher Cormac Herley, who notes, "Most security advice simply offers a poor cost-benefit trade-off to users." What does work? Using firewalls, updated security software and a bulletproof password—and, of course, common sense.
The rough and ready cost-benefit analyses in here would make the Freakonomics fellows proud. The analyses seem credible. Wouldn't it be nice if the security czar(ina)s in our organizations took a user-centered approach to their responsibilities? By the way, there's an interesting and entertaining Q&A with another technology security expert, Bruce Schneier on the Freakonomics blog. "Q: How do you remember all of your passwords? A: I can't. No one can; there are simply too many. But I have a few strategies." ( Michalko)