Sunday, September 14, 2008

Think Like a Rocket Scientist


I've been lax in my little posts about books I've read. One of the reasons is that I'm now addicted to bookjetty, which makes it sooo easy to track my reading and think "I'll review/blog it later". The other reason is simply time.

But reading Jim Longuski's The Seven Secrets of How to Think Like a Rocket Scientisthas prompted me into action again.

This is a great book on practical innovation, and generally just getting things done. Although it takes the "Rocket Scientist" as the model (understandable, since Longuski is one), it largely avoids the trap of being elitist and sycophantic. It's just an honest and thoughtful analysis of how rocket scientists work, and presented almost like a pattern language for knowledge workers.

The "seven secrets" are actually seven stages of the creative process, from the initial idea generation through to delivery. Each stage includes half a dozen or more "secrets" (or patterns), so the book is more like "The 50 Secrets of How to .."
  • Dream

  • Judge

  • Ask

  • Check

  • Simplify

  • Optimize

  • Do

The book is also littered with great quotes, has a bibliography that immediately adds many books to your "must read" list. Perhaps the best part is however Longuski's ladder of the "Greatest Sci-Fi Films of the Twentieth Century" gratuitously included in the appendix. Longuski clearly has some "issues" with Shuttle-era NASA, but when these intrude on the text, they just serve to highten the drama!
Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius-and a lot of courage-to move in the opposite direction. -- Albert Einstein

When you find a good move, look for a better one. -- Dr Emanuel Lasker

Do. Or do not. There is no try. -- Jedi Master Yoda

It is often said you can lie with statistics. But-it's even easier to lie without them -- Jim Longuski


PS: I since wrote a reflection on this book called Code like a Rocket Scientist

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've heard about this around the internets, and it's one of the first things i thought about when i got the idea to start some sort of club at school.

I'm on the first step now.

The book is on my must-read list.

Paul said...

@Anonymous .. wow, starting a club is an interesting application of the "think like a rocket scientist" creative process. Post back your thoughts on how that goes?