Questions on Readings Week Two 9/2

Please answer the following questions in a comment on this post before our next class on 9/8:

1. As succinctly as you can, describe your key takeaway from Paul Graham’s piece on how to get startup ideas.

2. What do you think about Clay Shirky’s argument about the new news environment? Do you agree?

3. Describe a way in which you might use design thinking techniques in your current or future work

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12 thoughts on “Questions on Readings Week Two 9/2

  1. Lori Shull says:

    1 – My key takeaway from Graham’s piece was to stop looking for business ideas. To look for things that are annoying and find a solution. So when I get annoyed that my (admittedly cheap) yoga mat fails to lay flat at the edges, I need to design a (still cheap-ish) mat that has weights on the two short sides to keep it flat. Or buy a new mat and pay more attention to things that annoy me.

    2 – Shirky’s line about writing sports stories to sell advertising to give that revenue to the city reporter resonated with me and illuminated how odd a newspaper probably is, at least with the internet. I agree that nothing in online media is a complete solution yet and that it’s better to try and fail than expect a return to Ye Olden Days. What worries me is that democracy suffers with all this chaos. We are already seeing fragmenting media means the far-right only listens to itself and the same on the left. Shirky is right that we don’t have it right yet. Where he is be wrong is in insinuating that we have time to experiment. The culture war is real. It has been for some time and it is only getting worse. (For more and better on the culture war in America, I suggest: That said, are there any other options than waiting and seeing and hoping we can pick up the pieces later?

    3 – My biggest challenge in using design thinking professionally is going to be in identifying problem(s) I can solve by myself. One of my biggest work problems is internal communication with faculty and staff (I do PR for Tennessee Tech University). Most fac/staff are not on social media so I can’t go there for information like I do with students. Many are too busy for me to drop by for a chat or a phone call, and expecting them to reach out to me is a big burden on them. I guess I have to start interviewing.

    • Carrie Brown says:

      Good, insightful thoughts. Lori. I think really the answer to your question in part 2 is, well, entrepreneurship or intrapreneruship. I don’t think there is any way to avoid experimentation, but I also don’t think we sit around and wait. We go for it. That’s why I teach this stuff. 🙂

  2. Kimberly Exford says:

    1- I absolutely loved the reading by Paul Graham. It was straight to the point yet very informative. My key takeaway from all of this would be the quote that he mentioned, “live in the future, and build what seems interesting.” I like how this quote was pretty much birthed from one earlier in his piece that said, “live in the future, then build what’s missing.” As a hopeful future entrepreneur, Graham encourages me to not look for ideas so much, rather I should let them come to me. Don’t’ be so anxious to find the “next big thing”, that I miss out on a very practical and good startup idea. Often times, we can seem to be our own biggest critic, turning down ideas and thoughts of our own, that might actually prove to be useful. Another big thing I learned from this piece, which is closely related to the quotes above, is to turn off all of my filters and just take notice sometimes. It’s so easy to filter out things that aren’t interesting of useful to us, however, sometimes turning off our filter will allow other ideas to flow. And, one of those ideas might just be perfect!

    2- I have read one of Shirky’s books in another class, and similar to my opinion regarding his arguments in that book, I both agree and disagree. I agree that online is not a replacement for print news, and that we should try different things and fail than go back to the way things were. It is evident that the times are changing, newspaper readership is down, and there are less staff in the newsroom. However, he mentions that ANY way of creating news that gets the cost below the income is a good way. I tend to disagree and say, what’s good for the pockets is not always the right fit. I think that change needs to happen, but with the market downsizing and decreasing the way that it is, time is not on our side.

    3- In my field of work, I am unsure how design thinking can be useful. Currently, I am the Associate Center Director for a private learning center for children and adults with special needs. We have about 55 learning centers across the world, so there is always a need to come up with new and innovative ways to keep both clients and our employees happy. Since we are VERY big on customer service and ensuring our clientele remains happy, one of my jobs is to come up with ways to keep our center running smoothly and ensure good quality instruction. Instead of selling products, we offer services. I could see using design thinking when attempting to solve problems that usually occur during the summer (our peak season) and we are forced to hire a large number of new seasonal staff members. Design thinking could be helpful in developing a new tool/strategy to help seasonal staff members feel more comfortable implementing our 1:1 instruction after only 2 weeks of training. Although this could be helpful in the future, I am not too sure it can be known as true design thinking.

    • Carrie Brown says:

      Good, glad you liked the Graham piece.

      I need a little clarification here, not sure exactly what you mean by this: “However, he mentions that ANY way of creating news that gets the cost below the income is a good way. I tend to disagree and say, what’s good for the pockets is not always the right fit.”

      Keep in mind also that Shirky is not necessarily arguing that online is not a replacement for print in the sense of inherent quality. What isn’t easy to replace is the economics that supported print.

      Design thinking can definitely be used for services, not just products, so I think you actually have a good example there of how it could be used. The better you understand the needs of the people you serve, the better job you can do of it.

  3. 1. Paul Graham’s method of attaining great start up ideas pushed me to view entrepreneurialism from a fresh angle. The FIRST thing entrepreneurs need to have is a desire to fix, not necessarily create. I do realize that creativity is an essential part of the start up process. Without creativity, founders cannot generate effective ideas. However, if founders do not initially realize what is missing or what needs to be fixed, how can they build it? Paul Buchheit says that the people at the leading edge of a changing field “live in the future.” Founders must have the ability to visualize themselves as well as others using their idea in the future. This idea should have fixed a problem in the past. Founders cannot solve problems that no one has. Start up ideas should not be “maybe” ideas. They need to be ideas that people need right now.
    2. After reading Shirky’s thoughts about the news environment, the portion where he discussed teaching undergraduate journalism courses at NYU peaked my interest the most. Shirky states, “I could tell these students that when I was growing up, the only news I read was thrown into our front yard by a boy on a bicycle. They might find this interesting, but only in the way I found it interesting that my father had grown up without indoor plumbing.” As disappointing as it may seem, I do believe this is true. At 22, I am still very young in the news environment and have encountered many fellow classmates that are minimally interested in Ye Olden Times. What he knows for certain is that news has to be subsidized, cheap and free. I completely agree. When I read this, I immediately remembered a particular part in Page One when a New York Times journalist was reading a tweet from a reader that stated as much as they enjoyed reading The New York Times they were not willing to pay for information that they could receive for free elsewhere. This is the harsh truth of journalism today. I believe that people want free information and they want it fast; even if that means putting aside their loyalty for historic newspapers such as The New York Times.
    3. I loved our discussion on design thinking. When we were discussing, as well as watching the video it was such an awesome experience to see creative thinking come to life. I don’t just mean people thinking out loud or an open group discussion. I mean really challenging your brain, as well as others to reach its maximum potential of creation. I am currently working on a project with my boss on developing a hunting website for Eastern Arkansas. We want to focus on high definition video, social media and blogging from hunters in our area. I have developed a mock website, logo, merchandise, slogans, etc. I am now working on content and reaching out to media outlets. Learning about design thinking inspired me even more to push the limit. I am from West Memphis, AR, and there is definitely a huge opportunity for this product. By using empathy, creativity and rationality it will help me acknowledge the absence of a hunting website in eastern Arkansas, create a product that hunters and consumers will relate to and consider a way to get people to take action.

  4. Nicholas Beshiri says:

    1) After reading Graham’s piece on startup ideas my key takeaway would be the process of how to stop looking for the “next big thing” or any start-up ideas in general. Graham does a great job in breaking down the process and made me think about it in a way I never had before. I thought the paragraph on the “sitcom’ or “made up” start-up ideas was great, this happens to people all the time. They think they have such a great idea that they are able to trick themselves into spending time and money on a bad idea. My final takeaway was the quote from Robert Pirsig, “You want to know how to paint a perfect painting? It’s easy. Make yourself perfect and then just paint naturally”. I just thought it was a great quote that can be applied to several different things in life. Although it seems very simple and obvious, many people could benefit by approaching their problems like this.

    2) After reading Shirky’s thoughts on the new news environment I do agree with what he has to say . It is very obvious to everyone that the old models of print news are not going to work anymore and that a major change needs to take place. I believe that we should explore every option that is going to bring stability to the industry. I think that Shirky’s comment towards the end pretty much sums it up, “Any way of creating news that gets cost below income, however odd, is a good way, and any way that doesn’t, however hallowed, is bad”. Yes, some of these are going to be bad or maybe even worse than the existing model, but at this time there is really no other option but to experiment.

    3) I think there are several ways in which I could apply design thinking techniques to public education. Over the past three years I have attended several different conferences that have spoken on topics like classroom management or how to increase student engagement. All of these conferences have been well run and I did walk away having learned something, but many of the ideas presented to me were flawed. Once I got back to the classroom and tried to implement them, something always seemed to fall apart or there was an instance that had not been thought about. In my opinion if a design thinking exercise was done, like we did in class, as a faculty and directed towards some of these problems I think that the answers would be more thought out. Using this process would help teachers dig down to what the real problems are in their classrooms and find solutions that may not have been implemented before.

  5. Andrew Doughty says:

    1) Paul Graham’s piece on startup ideas is brilliance in the simplest form. While the content of this article is informative, helpful and inspiring, the tone in which he presents the information is even better. The concept of being entrepreneurial appears daunting to many, even those with an overwhelming confidence, but Graham fills in a void that oftentimes is lacking in that world: calmness. He very smoothly encourages each of us that we can be innovators while sending respectful reminders that it is very difficult. “Live in the future…” appears numerous times throughout the article but the one that resonated the most with me was “Live in the future then build what’s missing” because with this simple article I think he unintentionally filled in a missing link that comes with entrepreneurial inspiration: calmness. I believe everyone needs mentors, reminders, secret helpers, coaches and teachers, especially when embarking on a new journey. Paul Graham is many of those in more ways than one.

    2) Clay Shirky exhibits much confidence when writing or speaking, so much that he can come across as arrogant, regardless if you agree with his opinion or not. While I always appreciate bold opinions, I believe his black-and-white, cut-and-dry approach (e.g. free news, philanthropic support) on the changing news environment hurts his argument because many that blossomed in the traditional news industry can be defensive about the changing culture. That being said, I completely agree with everything he said and am pleased he is not afraid to dodge some harsh realities. His section discussing the importance of a sewn web or network of newspapers was refreshingly cool, as I believe the role of small publications is overlooked. The closing of small newspapers may seem trivial in the big picture, but it is these small newspapers that help construct the much-needed web of news networks, ones that contribute to that bigger picture. Sure the New York Times and USA Today amongst others dominate the national landscape but the tiny publications in Enid, Oklahoma or Marshall, Minnesota are imperative to providing all news to the masses and remaining a supportive democracy.

    3) I live in Saint Paul, Minnesota and work for a company based in the Bay Area, with employees spread across the country from Los Angeles, Seattle and Oakland to Chicago, Boston and Miami. I have never met any other employee face-to-face, with all contact coming via e-mail, phone and text messages. As a result, I find it imperative to keep close relationships with each of them through daily communication regarding anything but work. During these non-work related side conversations, messages or e-mails, oftentimes incredible ideas fly out of nowhere as a result of random thoughts being discussed. It allows for unlimited creativity and suggestions but also keeps everyone on the same page through relationship-building.

    • Carrie Brown says:

      Good, Andrew. Paul Graham is a well known venture capitalist and entrepreneur, so he is also speaking out of experience.

  6. Cheryl Hayes says:

    Paul Graham: Interesting and enlightening information. My takeaway is the best startups are derived from the need to find a solution to a problem, problems I may be experiencing and to think of such problems in future tense. When I would think about startups, it is in the sense of what Paul describes as the wrong way, which to look at startups in a business sense. This method can work, but such startups are not the most successful. Plus, if users already use a product, they are less likely to switch to the “same” product. Apple may be the only exception to this rule however, as consumers always purchase the latest and greatest Apple iPhone, iPad products upon new releases. Another takeaway is that startups should envision capturing a small market initially and not think too big; to see market potential as a narrow, but deep well. Too, the most successful startups were started as a result of an entrepreneur’s own experience, which Paul’s YC group calls “organic”.

    Clay Shirky: The politics of journalism is not my background. I watch the news, local and national, and I mainly read about news events online. However, once when I used to receive the weekend newspapers (Thurs – Sat, or Sun paper), I don’t remember taking the time to actually read them so of course I canceled the subscription as I felt I was wasting money. I do feel that like a great computer (Apple Macbook for some) and a great product in general (ex Starbucks for some), there are people who will pay a premium price for a premium product. But then, if there is not enough demand for the premium priced product, then Roger we have a problem. Soft news is so much easier and quicker to access with today’s new technologies that it makes sense to steer news production in that direction. However, revenue from online news is not great and thus does not make up a substantial difference from printed news. I am not sure about Clay’s idea about subsidized news. There has to be a large number of Philanthropist all with lots of dollars and who have a love for accurate news reporting to contribute funding on a yearly basis. It can happen, but I don’t think it would sustain. Though I like cheap and free, cheap and free does not always mean quality. There are many media outlets online that produce news, but it is not accurate, updated, or up to the minute news. Therefore, there must be a balance in the journalism equation in regards to production, news avenue and revenue generation.

    Design Thinking: The design thinking technique used in last class was a creative means to new ideas. Though my design was not quit the correct way to go about it, I feel I can benefit from using such a technique now as well as in my future. It is to take a problem and think about a way to fix that problem for me, or make the process better. For example, if I have a problem with, let say responding to emails in a time fashion, then I can use the design thinking technique to find a way to correct my problem and allow me to be quicker at responding to emails by date, importance, or subject. I would literally draw the problem, then draw a process to fix my problem.

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