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Thinking While Doing: What We’ve Been Reading, v.V

If GKI had a 2014 “back to school” reading list, this would be it. Take a look at some of the interesting, inspiring, and provocative books and articles our staff has been reading lately.  We’d also love to hear about the best things you’ve read this month, or what you’re looking forward to reading next! 

Article: Seelig, Tina. 2013. “How Reframing a Problem Unlocks Innovation.” Co.Design.

Why we liked it: This article goes into great depth about the importance of problem framing. The way we envision a particular challenge or problem directly impacts the way we attempt to solve it. Albert Einstein once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first fifty-five minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.” This article provides a number of examples of how challenge framing has unlocked innovation potential, and provides tools that readers can use to apply this practice in their own problem solving experience.

Andrew Bergmanson, International Trainings Coordinator

Book: Chopra, A. (2014). Innovative State: How new Technologies can Transform Government. Atlantic Monthly Press: New York.

Why we liked it: Aneesh Chopra is optimistic about the US government’s ability to innovate. While at first blush this may strike some readers as delusional, his use of evidence of the US government’s enduring legacy of enabling innovation through policy and investment is (to me anyway) persuasive. What I especially enjoy, and did not expect, is the inclusion of little discussed, yet transformative efforts from American history, such as the National Weather Service’s very early “open data” initiatives that allowed meteorological innovation, and gave the Weather Channel a platform on which to build.

Andrew Gerard, Program Officer

Article: Dahal, L. (2014). “New Campaign Aims to End Malaria by Using iPhones.” Jakarta Globe.

Why we liked it: I found it interesting that the diagnosis of malaria can now be done using an iPhone. The development of the diagnosis tool is an innovative project made possible by collaboration between health and technology experts. I also recently read an article about a successful money system called M-PESA in Kenya. It is becoming clear that mobile innovation is good news for the field of development, given the accessibility of mobile phones even to the poor in developing countries. I hope we will continue to see more innovative technologies using phones to solve pressing challenges in developing countries.

Semi Yoon, Program Intern

Book: Garvis, N., & Rebeck, G. (2012). Naked civics: strip away the politics to build a better world. Plymouth, MN: Naked Civics.

Why we liked it: Nate Garvis’s book sheds some very interesting light on our structure for global problem solving.  Rather than getting caught up in the adversarial and partisan political world, citizens can play a critical role in achieving the common-good through a number of institutions.  Garvis explains that “[w]hen we talk about tools, we usually think of technologies.  But some of the most powerful tools the world has ever seen are institutions.”  While these institutions are often built around transactional efficiency, in order to solve the world’s toughest problems, we must focus on relationships, which are about interactions, not transactions.  Because our culture has been primarily polarized, working together will not happen by accident.  So building purpose-driven forums, or networks, is key.  As GKI takes a networked approach to solving complex international challenges, Naked Civics provides some refreshing pointers for moving from a competitive to a collaborative culture.

Kathryn Bowman, Junior Program Officer

Book: Brynjolfsson, E., McAfee, A. (2014).  The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.: New York.

Why we liked it: I like this book because it highlights both the challenges and opportunities presented by networked intelligence. It does an excellent job of identifying the most important technology trends and what they mean for future economies. I particularly like point the book makes on education policy, making the case that education must adjust to the rapidly changing economy as a result of technological innovation, and teaching must prepare future leaders for the new economy rather than the old one.

Karim Bin-Humam, International Programs Associate

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