Blog Archives

Charlie Munger in Praise of Multidisciplinary Thinking

A multidisciplinary approach involves drawing appropriately from multiple disciplines to redefine problems outside of normal boundaries and reach solutions based on a new understanding of complex situations.

'Charlie Munger The Complete Investor' by Tren Griffin (ISBN 023117098X) From ‘Charlie Munger: The Complete Investor’ by Tren Griffin

No one can know everything, but you can work to understand the big important models in each discipline at a basic level so they can collectively add value in a decision-making process. Simply put, Munger believes that people who think very broadly and understand many different models from many different disciplines make better decisions and are therefore better investors.

Multidisciplinary thinking offers a schema or a philosophical template within which thinkers can find an intellectual connectedness to decompartmentalize their approach and face the new intellectual horizons with a broader perspective. Single disciplines are too narrow a perspective regarding many phenomena.

Human thought, as it has evolved in detached disciplines, and the physical systems within which we live exhibit a level of complexity across and within systems that makes it impossible to understand the important phenomena that are affecting humans today from the perspective of any single incomplete system of thought. Thus interconnected systems and high levels of complexity yield a situation in which multidisciplinary tactics to understanding and problem solving produce the real growth industry in the next generation of scholarly thought.

Disciplines develop their own internal ways of looking at the phenomena that interest them. Become broadly knowledgeable about any particular phenomenon as possible before constructing theories and asserting truth assertions. Problems arise from the lack of a viewpoint from which one can understand the relationship between various disciplines.

'Conceptual Foundations for Multidisciplinary Thinking' by Stephen Kline (ISBN 0804724091) In ‘Conceptual Foundations for Multidisciplinary Thinking’, Stanford’s Prof. Stephen Jay Kline expounds the necessity of multidisciplinary discourse:

Multidisciplinary discourse is more than just important. We can have a complete intellectual system, one that covers all the necessary territory, only if we add multidisciplinary discourse to the knowledge within the disciplines. This is true not only in principle but also for strong pragmatic reasons. This will assure the safety of our more global ideas.

Producing and applying knowledge no longer work within strict disciplinary boundaries. New dimensions of intricacy, scale, and uncertainty in technical problems put them beyond the reach of one-thought disciplines. Advances with the most impact are born at the frontiers of more than one engineering discipline.

Multidisciplinarity refers more to the internalization of knowledge. This happens when abstract associations are developed using an outlook in one discipline to transform a perspective in another or research techniques developed in one elaborate a theoretic framework in another.

To get the most out of their R&D workforce, many organizations seek persons who comprehend a range of science and engineering principles and procedures to guarantee that work will be advanced even if a specific expert were not always available.

Posted in Hobbies and Pursuits Mental Models and Psychology

Apply New Knowledge to Solve New Problems

Apply New Knowledge to Solve New Problems

Education is what have left after forgotten everything you’ve learned. Today, people must constantly forget things they know.

Product generations often last less than 18 months. Some entire product lines turn over every year, and some in six months. Companies that roll to success are those that develop constant learning capacities and exploit them.

Learning can become a renewable resource. An educated person is like a spring: as a spring replenishes itself when water is withdrawn, so educated individuals replenish their learning when knowledge has served its purpose.

Educated people know how to learn. A person who has been trained in specific tasks but not educated in the art of learning is like a dipper, which gets its water from an external source. When the water’s gone, the dipper can’t refill itself.

In the industrial age, education was not essential to successful job performance. Tasks were broken into small subtasks, which people performed repetitively. Once the worker had learned the mechanical procedure, further learning was unnecessary. A robot could do it.

Well, robots are doing it, which means that something more is required of people. They must learn to become more than repetitive doers; they must become purposeful thinkers.

Today, knowledge must generate more knowledge. Workers must learn to bridge between what they already know and what they need to know to achieve continuous improvement.

This calls for skills in interacting with other people and applying new knowledge to solve new problems. Corporate education should develop these skills.

Knock down walls (bureaucratic barriers that block communication). In many companies, communication flows through narrow channels, chimneys of power, usually from the top down. People walled off from these chimneys are left to work in an information vacuum.

Today’s leaders must demolish the walls that prevent the lateral flow of communication. With the walls gone, information permeates and people find it easier to be focused, flexible, fast and friendly. You can’t focus the efforts of your workforce if your organization is criss-crossed with walls that impede the flow of information. You can’t be flexible if you have a rigid structure in which every division and department is a closed information loop. You can’t be fast if information has to seep slowly through layers of management. And you can’t be friendly if your people don’t talk to other people inside and outside your organization.

If you look around, you may see plenty of boundaries that need to be removed. One may be the door to your office that remains closed to input. Another might be a rigid boundary between hourly and salaried employees. Or it could be a boundary that shuts out ideas that don’t originate in your own organization. Other boundaries might be the lines between divisions. If one division develops a new method or technology, does it share it with other divisions?

Among the toughest boundaries to dismantle are the ones managers erect around the borders of their turf. People who are promoted to their “levels of incompetence” and armed with the word “manager” in their titles, stake out their own turfs and guard them jealously. In a corporation without boundaries, advancement means moving into positions in which expertise is interchanged and knowledge is put to productive use by coaches, advisers, and knowledge workers. In such corporations, advancement for individuals results in advancement for the entire company.

Posted in Leaders and Innovators Mental Models and Psychology

How Peak Performers Move Ahead and Pursue their Dreams

How Peak Performers Pursue their Dreams

I’m often asked, “How do I know if I’m a peak performer?” Frequently the people who ask seem afraid that the answer will be “You aren’t. You don’t measure up.” You begin answering the question by examining your current situation, “the horse you’re riding on.” You may have chosen wisely and well, knowing that loving your work and being inspired by its possibilities are critical to a life filled with challenge, rewards, and energy. You may have selected your job on those grounds. Still, amid job stress, internal politics, firefighting, and the craziness of daily life, your mission may be nearly forgotten: “I did love it once—or at least I knew I could love it. Now that sense of being in the right place, working at the heart of things, feels faraway.”

Anyone who feels that way will find it difficult to see his or her direction, values, and opportunities as part of a coherent mission. To paraphrase George Santayana, many of us redouble our efforts when we have lost our direction. The result is not necessarily failure. Several famous and wealthy people have mislaid their original missions. The result is, though, that their redoubled efforts often secure gratification not quite their own, at considerable cost to body and soul.

So they must ask another question: “Is my place to stand, in my current commitment, true to my real passions, or have I traded my passions for security or glory, and settled for gratifications hot quite my own?”

The key is to identify your current situation—candidly, with “ruthless compassion,” and then to act in your own behalf. Peak performers assess the degree to which their abilities, jobs, and work environment coincide to move forward their mission the degree to which their current stand gives them leverage to achieve those ends they feel destined to accomplish.

Many of us know the feeling of being close but not quite there, having the mission in sight but a bit out of focus. We adjust; we move elements around; we struggle, perhaps for years. We fail to see that we are having difficulty not with coping and adaptation but with growth and change. To others our struggle might seem puzzling. Those who know us well may feel that what is best for us is obvious. But, obsessed with the trials of daily life, we ignore the “real stuff” of our place to stand and the “right stuff” in ourselves.

“Will I ever discriminate between what really matters in work and life and what only seems to matter? Will I ever judge wisely and have the courage to act in my own behalf?” For the peak performers, the answer to these questions is yes.

Some of us have yet to find our place to stand. We have not taken our best stand, have not fully engaged our mission. But old missions—real ones don’t die easily. They may recede into the background, but they are still waiting there, ready to move to center stage. Like an unrequited love, a real mission lives on in the mind of its creator, awaiting its resolution: “It just didn’t work out. I got pulled away by different interests and responsibilities. The circumstances changed, and the passions cooled. It just wasn’t practical to go on. Besides, something more reasonable came along.”

How to Promote Peak Performance

Promote Peak Performance

Our reasoned, reasonable loves offer but shadows of the motivation and potential of our real ones. Austrian-Canadian endocrinologist Hans Selye once observed: “Realistic people with practical aims are rarely as realistic or practical in the long run of life, as the dreamers who pursue their dreams.” Peak performers know this distinction.

With work, as with people, there must be 50 ways to leave your lover. But if the love is real, its feelings bone-deep and wholehearted, the 50 ways serve only as rationalizations and excuses. Many of us have major responsibilities: equity positions, family obligations, our friends’ expectations, our familiarity with a place and a job. Instead of allowing themselves to be trapped in such situations, peak performers accept the risks and temporary discomforts of challenging themselves to better the situations. In spite of their fears and self-doubts, they exercise their courage and face the difficulties.

As they reflect on the journey, a memory, an award, or a picture may trigger associations with a face, a name, or an old life plan. With missions loved, as with people, come a torrent of images. There is a certain pathos to such reflection, taking its origin as William Wordsworth said poetry does: “from emotion recollected in tranquility” This emotion, not sadness, reconnects them with the source of their motivation. Peak performers move ahead and pursue their dreams.

Others might say: “I always wanted to be .. .I wonder what would have happened if .. .I never knew why it didn’t work. .. If only … If only … If only … ” Such normal feelings trigger further reflection for the peak performer: “What did I learn from that situation? How can I recapture those old dreams, perhaps in an altered or updated form? How can I act in my own behalf? And how can I ensure against being like those people who are unable or unwilling to learn from such reflection, who continue in their rut, riding the horse long after the race is over and the beast has died?”

As a peak performer, you recognize yourself as a person who was born not as a high achiever but as a life-long learner. With the capacity to grow, change, and reach for the highest possibilities of human nature, you regard yourself as a person in process. Not perfect, but a person who keeps asking: What more can I be? What else can I achieve that will benefit me and my company? That will contribute to my family, community, and society? And then answering for yourself.

Posted in Education and Career Leaders and Innovators Mental Models and Psychology

Being Innovative: The Confidence to Reject Conventional Wisdom

The Confidence to Reject Conventional Wisdom

In innovation, saying no can get you ahead. If one of the keys to being a happy person is having the ability to say yes—to new people, ideas and experiences—one of the keys to being a stylish person is the ability to say no.

'Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative' by Austin Kleon (ISBN 0761169253) Mastery of the art of refusal is something every person of great style I’ve ever come across shares: the confidence to reject trends or conventions that don’t feel uplifting or authentic—whether of living, dressing or decorating.

Success is often built on a reflexive habit of saying “yes” to opportunities that come your way. Iconoclasts have renounced bigger homes for smaller ones, modern comforts for more basic ones, a more illustrious career for a more meaningful one, a decorative embellishment for design clarity or simply more stuff for fewer, better, stuff. These people are not the least bit ascetic or anhedonic, but rather recognize value in the absence of too much.

Recommended Book: ‘Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative’ by Austin Kleon demonstrates how anybody can use the idea of mixing what others have done to come up with great ideas that take the concepts to a level not envisioned before.

Posted in Mental Models and Psychology