Hal Varian’s timeless insights on thinking

In December of 1994, economist Hal Varian, who is currently Google’s chief economist, wrote a paper called “How to Build an Economic Model in Your Spare Time.” Ignore the subject matter. It should have been called “How to think clearly.” His advice hasn’t lost relevance in the 21-plus years since he wrote it. (Thanks to Cory Doctorow at … Continued

The 6 benefits of thinking like a mathematician

When I was young, I was certain I would be a mathematician. I still think like one. You should, too — and you don’t have to learn math to do it. A little background: I was an outstanding math student in high school and college, won an NSF Fellowship, and entered the math Ph.D. program at … Continued

How extra words undermine trust: a case study

Fear makes people hide their meaning with extra words. It backfires. We know you’re afraid. Adding words make people less likely to trust you. A friend forwarded me an excellent example: a 414-word missive about financial improprieties in the school district of Northborough/Southborough, Massachusetts. I know how this letter must have developed: a panicked set of people at the … Continued

Why and how I homeschool my children

My wife Kimberley and I decided to homeschool our children. There’s only one reason: we think they learn better this way. Since people are curious about homeschooling, I’d like tell you how it works. Homeschooling is a personal preference. My intention here is not to change anyone’s mind or win anyone over, but simply to explain myself. I am … Continued

In the #IStandWithAhmed story, conflicting principles confound the principal

There’s a lot more going on in Irving, Texas than a clever boy with a home-made clock and brown skin. Look close, and the story of #IStandWithAhmed — and the letter the principal sent to parents — reveals how America is cracking apart. Here are a couple: America’s strength comes from our diversity, since nearly all of us come … Continued

Oliver Sacks’ beginnings

Oliver Sacks died yesterday. He was a neurologist who wrote about his cases. I loved his prose. You could learn a lot from his unornamented style and intriguing titles. When you start reading something he has written, you immediately relax, knowing you are in the hands of a master storyteller. His narrative sweeps you away into … Continued

How a Forrester analyst thinks about the robots taking your job

Robots and other forms of automation are going to transform the job market, but how much? There are four points of view. And that’s a good way to understand what it means to be an analyst. The pessimist looks at the decline of jobs like secretary or factory worker and sees the same pattern in automation … Continued

The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker: a worthwhile writing guide

I just finished Steven Pinker’s book on writing style. I like Pinker’s take on writing; I learned a lot from it. It’s a great guide and you should read it, but be aware that business writers need to bring a different and more practical perspective to the advice in this book. Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker is … Continued