I just finished reading Made To Stick, a book recommended to me by my trendspotting wife Amy, and it’s quite obvious that Brent has both a command of the facts, an understanding of the context, and a gift for relating them in ways that are simple, unexpected, concrete, and other ways that make the ideas stick. It is wonderful (and refreshing) to see a presentation that is at once so right on the facts and so complete in its explanation. Great work, Brent!
Now, the book Made To Stick does talk about The Curse of Knowledge, about how expertise can lead our ideas and means of expressing them away from issues and contexts that matter to normal people. I can certainly say that I have seen (too many times, I’m afraid) one expert or another completely lose their audience in a sea of statistics, analogies, and prognostications. (Have I ever done that? For shame!) Alas, as an expert of sorts, I’m afraid I’m utterly unqualified to be objective in judging how well Brent did, but give these slides a read and tell me if you think he’s given you at least one useful insight you haven’t had before. If so, then he deserves the vote I’d like to give him as having created one of the best explanations of open source in 2007.
Update: I was just re-reading Thinking Design written by David Burney of Red Hat. I noticed his distinction between the typical business school person and the typical designer, which is that the former looks for known, reliable solutions whereas the latter looks for viable, meaningful solutions. Or, can we make this something we know how to do vs. what is the actual problem we are trying to solve. Then I realized that this is the genius of Brent Williams’s piece: he focuses on the question of “what problem are we trying to solve” and discounts heavily the question “what do we (think we) know how to do”. Brent proves that design thinking can be a powerful paradigm for economic analysis, not just an excuse to sharpen one’s pencil.