Books that Make You Think part 1: motivation, crowd-sourcing and organisation

Make Ideas Happen

Have you ever wondered why some ideas work where others fail; or why some individuals whom in your mind lack creative flare succeed where other creative geniuses do not? Scott Belsky, founder of The Behance Network and The 99% think-tank, argues that in order for our ideas to be productive and long-lasting we must first be organised and work as part of, or have the support from, a community of people. On a personal note, I ‘m currently leading a major county-wide project involving more than 100 schools and my ideas for supporting them to ensure they deliver their funded outcomes have been plentiful but without a dedicated approach to project-management many of the networks may not have been successful. Belsky’s book, particularly the chapter on ‘Action Steps’ have helped to organise both my time and the way I work. A real gem and a good read with many interesting case-studies about creativity and organisation of work.

Other books which provide a good read on organisation, creativity and ideas: Made to Stick: why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck , The Back of a Napkin:solving problems and ideas in pictures and many others.

Wisdom of Crowds

I have always found crowd-sourcing to be an interesting way of aggregating information whilst sharing ideas since reading Leadbeater’s We Think. What separates Surowiecki’s ideas with many others is the depth he provides the reader and the multitude of practical examples including the nature of brainstorming, problems with Group-Think, the importance of diversifying and how to extend info-cascading to purposeful information gathering. On the plus side, Wisdom of Crowds is also very well written, at times humorous and immensely useful.

Other excellent books which provide ideas and theories behind successful crowd-sourcing include:
Crowdsourcing: How the Power of the Crowd is Driving the Future of Business and of course Charles Leadbeater’s We-Think: Mass innovation, not mass production and many others

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Drive tries to break the myth that carrots, like financial rewards for example, do not lead to increased motivation at work/school in the 21st Century. Pink goes on to discuss his theory, based on four decades of research, that true motivation only happens when an individual becomes autonomous, has true purpose in what they do and has the opportunity to move towards mastery in their field.

Although this book was written with businesses in mind, many aspect of his ideas and theories can easily be incorporated in education. For example, as teachers we already provide students with a sense of purpose, or at least try to achieve this by showing them that skills learned in lessons matter in real life (see these two post which deal with many of these issues: Big Ideas and Creative Ideas from the industry).

Another interesting discovery by Pink was that companies’ productivity and profits did not increase if they offered financial incentives to their employees because although some people might have worked harder, it didn’t mean the quality of their work improved. What about your class? If you tell students they will get As and Bs if they work harder, how many of your students will actually work harder? Be honest. Virtually none? However, companies that provided employees with a sense of autonomy, purpose, training and support to become better at what they did, improved significantly. Similarly, if you can engage students to want to learn, they will realise that working hard at something leads to increased progression (mastery). Suddenly, your subject will become more important to them because they know they can achieve. Using Drive ideas in the classroom is something worth exploring. There is also a Drive Audio Book for those of you that travel a lot.