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Foundation Reading

Serious Play

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Author(s): 
Michael Schrage
ISBN number: 
0875848141
Publication date: 
December 1, 1999
Publisher: 
Harvard Business School Press
Description: 

Schrage's seriously playful and insightful book is subtitled: How the World's Best Companies Simulate to Innovate. Here's an excerpt from Sohodojo's reading recommendation of Serious Play:

"Do you want to work better? Then learn to play better according to Mivhael Schrage. World-class companies today need play – serious play – if they want to make truly innovative products.

Serious play uses such "toys" as models, simulations, and prototypes. Tomorrow's innovations will increasingly be the byproduct of how organizations behave-and misbehave-around this new generation of serious play "toys."

You cannot be a serious innovator unless you are willing to play.

Schrage describes the kind of culture that's needed for encouraging innovation then lays out the 10 rules of serious play, among them:

  • Be willing to fail early and often
  • Know when the costs outweigh the benefits
  • Know who wins and who loses from an innovation
  • Build a prototype that engages customers, vendors, and colleagues
  • Create markets around prototypes
  • Simulate the customer experience

Innovative firms cannot seriously plan unless they seriously play. All work and no play more than ever today will make Jack, an unhappy, unsuccessful boy."

We've put this fascinating book on Jelal's initial project reading list because Schrage makes such a powerful case, with examples, of how simulation and exploratory learning/playing can contribute to the innovation initiatives within organizations. While Schrage focuses on innovation within companies, his case is equally appropriate to grassroots and community organizations as well as social action research projects.

Best on-site reference: 

Mirror Worlds

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Author(s): 
David Gelernter
ISBN number: 
019507906X
Publication date: 
December 1, 1992
Publisher: 
Oxford University Press
Description: 

Gelernter's wonderful book is perceptively subtitled, "Or the Day Software Puts the Universe in a Shoebox: How It Will Happen and What It Will Mean."

Here's an excerpt from Sohodojo's book recommendation of 'Mirror Worlds':

Theodore Kaczynski, convicted Unabomber, was willing to kill to keep David Gelernter from writing another book as good and important as this one. Mirror Worlds is the most important book about the Internet that you can read. What is even more amazing? Mirror Worlds isn't supposed to be about the Internet.

Ten years after its publication, the really impressive thing about Mirror Worlds is what Gelernter and all the rest of us didn't foresee. The Mirror World is a magical Looking Glass; a transforming two-way mirror. The rapid growth of the Internet and its associated impact on the emerging global economy means that the model has become the system itself. The outside world is changing to reflect our lives inside the wired, network world we live in... not the other way around.

We've recommended that Jelal read this book at the beginning of his internship because it makes such a powerful case for the remarkably simple yet profound idea that something qualitatively special happens when you take a simulation of something and hook up its input and output feeds to the actual system the simulation simulates! You get the Big Bang birth of a Mirror World!

Best on-site reference: 

Linked: The New Science of Networks

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Author(s): 
Albert-Laszlo Barabasi
ISBN number: 
0738206679
Publication date: 
May 1, 2002
Publisher: 
Perseus Books Group
Description: 

Linked is easily the most enjoyably readable and Big Idea-rich introduction to the evolving science of network theory.

We put this one on Jelal's short list of early must-reads as network theory is the foundation on which multi-agent simulation modeling of social and economic systems are built.

Best on-site reference: