Tuesday, March 22, 2011

9th Talk: Dr. Michael Steer - Ideas from Nothing - Solving a Problem Without Knowing the Problem

The ninth TEDxNCSU is Dr. Michael Steer on Ideas from Nothing - Solving a Problem Without Knowing the Problem. We are told that Dr. Steer has a great accent, and he does have a nice Australian accent.

The talk is personal, and he has broken down before while giving it.

Recently received a military medal for developing a solution for radio controlled roadside bombs. This talk is about that story and the lessons of that 8 year development process.

How do you come up with ideas from nothing?

He starts describing the attacks of 9/11. He wanted to help and make a difference. He worked 70-80 hours per week without a day off. But, he didn't have a problem solve. Engineers know a little science and math and want to create. Currently system consists of taking complex systems and compartmentalizing them into little pieces. The little pieces work great, but the system is not necessarily optimized.

He recommends taking a system view (Yay!). He looked for vulnerabilities in complex systems. He spent his time doing professorial duties, reading, and building (social) networks.

Things that he learned on the way.
1.) There are few in any new ideas. All ideas are synthesized from previous ideas.
2.) Diversity of thought and experiences is absolutely critical. Expose yourself to uncomfortable ideas.
3.) Travel is essential. Try conferences outside of your expertise.
4.) Consciously try to learn new things.
5.) It takes a lot of work to make a real difference.
6.) Think at a systems level (woot!) in all disciplines.

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