Friday, July 23, 2021

The Imagination Machine: How to Spark New Ideas and Create Your Company's Future (Martin Reeves and Jack Fuller)

The Imagination Machine: How to Spark New Ideas and Create Your Company's Future, by Martin Reeves and Jack Fuller, is a call-to-action for businesses to harness imagination to drive growth. Reeves and Fuller target the leadership of established, larger businesses, arguing that a lack of innovation will stymie the long-term success of a business. As technology evolves ever more rapidly, the authors advocate a change in thinking to better harness the creative power that a business's employees likely have.

The book presents a toolbox of suggestions to engage the workforce - things like “playtime” within the office where small teams of people work on various projects, brainstorm, and collaborate on ideas to foster new ways of thinking. The authors cite real-world examples of how things that we take for granted came about from playtime. Google Maps is one such example!  A chunk of the book dives into how companies should take advantage of artificial intelligence to help their innovation and imagination efforts - citing examples of companies that are taking greater advantage of AI technology to help craft news stories or create predictive forecast models - and how AI can likely help us come up with many ideas in the future.

Reeves and Fuller have a well-researched and thoughtful vision for better creativity in large companies. While The Imagination Machine definitely has a specific target niche, both business students and leaders in established companies that need a creative boost may be wise to read the book.


Monday, July 12, 2021

Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else (Jordan Ellenberg)

Jordan Ellenberg’s Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else is a far-ranging exploration into geometry and its impacts on everything in our life. You might vaguely remember your isosceles triangles, proofs, and angles from math class, not thinking of the practical uses that shapes and geometry may have in your life. Oh, dear reader, geometry is everywhere.

Two topic areas that get extensive coverage in Shape are COVID-19 modeling and political redistricting. In the first, the various models that were used - often erroneously - in predicting death and positive case counts due to COVID-19 were based on geometry. Ellenberg discusses how the models were put together, why forecasting is hard, and what went wrong with the early predictions. The second topic, political redistricting, has become increasingly partisan as state political parties often game census data to create advantages. Ellenberg spends a large chunk of the latter stages of the book tackling political gerrymandering, noting that its origins are not exactly where the history books credit it, and also discusses some ideas of varying craziness in tackling the problem.

I generally enjoyed Shape but had to re-read some sections a couple of times to understand them. It’s clear the author, who is a math professor, is passionate about geometry. The relevant, modern examples of how shapes matter in and impact today’s world makes this book worth reading if you’re an educator or someone who has an interest in math’s application in life.