How does one go about building multiple models in our minds? There are three things that we can do which can help us. Underlying these ideas is the assumption that we are open to learning.
1. Read-Think-Write: The importance of reading is only too evident. But that reading also needs to work as a stimulant for thinking as well an attractor for external feedback. All of this can be accomplished via a weblog. I think to sustain a blog requires that it may made part of a daily discipline. It is not necessary to always write something new. Some of the posts can also be an aggregation of what others have written, serving to amplify ones own memory.
2. Meet People: Interacting with people form outside ones immediate circle of family, friends and business associates is important because it exposes one to different, often contradictory viewpoints which can challenge our mental models. By opening ourselves to constructive criticism from others, we can enrich our own ideas. I find meetings useful both for clarifying ones own thinking (how well are we able to explain ideas to semi-strangers) as well as generating new ideas (often, these ideas come from some associative memory link that I find myself navigating).
3. Eliminate Blindspots: Many times, we just close ourselves off to certain things perhaps, based on a past experience. It is necessary to revisit what we perceive as our blindspots and work towards limiting their impact or even eliminating for them. For example, until recently, I complete ignored the developments in mobile phones. I thought that networks were too slow for any data services and that the input/output mechanisms were too primitive. It was only when I consciously decided to give it a try that I realized how wrong I was and how much the technology had progressed the thrill I experienced getting my email auto-delivered to my Nokia 6600 was comparable to my first experience of the Web just over a decade ago. Now, I am clear that mobility has to be a key component of all our future thinking.
Going back to the earlier discussion on rural India: how can we apply a multi-model mind to come up with solutions? To me, two points stood out that day as I listened to the presentations. First, the notion of hubs. Rather than trying to solve the problem at 600,000 distributed places across rural India, perhaps we should first look at 10,000 places which have economies of scale. This would be similar to the Atanu Dey-Vinod Khosla paper on Rural Infrastructure and Services Commons. Second, the need was for increasing their incomes either by reducing input costs or increasing output costs. It boils down to providing access to markets an idea so fundamental to our lives that we often overlook it.
When I thought about the hubs and information marketplaces, I realised that these two ideas also underpinned my vision of centralised computing for the next billion users: building computing hubs to reduce cost and complexity, and building a compelling set of services accessible via the thin clients and mobile phones. Life, it seems, is a set of simple, recurring themes!
Tomorrow: Correcting Education