If you've never heard the name Claude Shannon, you're not alone. However, according to journalist Jimmy Soni and political theorist Rob Goodman, Claude Shannon is the reason I can even write this article and you can read it. He's the genius whose work spawned the information age we now live in. Despite being unknown, his work may be as influential and he may have been just as brilliant as Albert Einstein.
In the newly released book, A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age, Soni and Goodman reveal to the world an unknown yet inspiring and important story. A recent article covered by NATURE provides a brief break-down of the books contents.
As for my purposes, I was interested in what made Shannon think and innovate the way he did. Not only did Soni and Goodman detail Shannon's history, but his very routines, habits, strategies, mindsets, and more.
Here are five of my favorite from my book, which you can use yourself to create the next global movement.
1) He followed his intuition.
"I use my intuition, not logic, to help make these important decisions."--Albert Einstein
What may initially seem crazy eventually becomes the most logical and clear explanation. The process of trusting your intuitive voice allows you to weave together inspired work and even an inspired life.
For instance, when discussing how he wrote the music for the Disney film, Beauty and the Beast, Alan Menken said you must follow you heart, throwing your feelings metaphorically "out there" and following those feelings. What you will find, Menken explains, is that logic and sense will naturally follow.
Claude Shannon followed his nose when it came to solving problems, and more importantly, knowing problems to solve. He was a scientific mind, but the thing that set him apart was this ability to sense and see things. Despite "intuition" being a somewhat fuzzy topic, many of the most creative minds depended on it.
2) He wasn't a workaholic.
Shannon wasn't a workaholic. In fact, he would show up to work late.
His space was messy.
He wasn't always finishing what he started.
He wasn't the picture of a disciplined, intense, type-A achiever. If anything, he was the opposite.
Soni and Goodman credit a big part of Shannon's breakthroughs to his disconnected and unrefined character. They believe it's what led to the extreme creativity of his thinking and work.
3) He chose his work places wisely.
Your environment should match the work you're doing. Shannon intuitively grasped that. For instance, his choice of working at Bell Labs was a brilliant one. The company gave him a huge amount of freedom to choose what he wanted to work on (think Google's 20% time on steroids) and he took full advantage of it.
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In any other company, he would have been sad, frustrated, and stifled. But the openness and creativity built into Bell Labs was a great fit with his personality and instincts.
4) He played (a lot).
Shannon was a juggler, a unicyclist, a chess player, a builder of robots... and honestly that's just scratching the surface.
According to Soni and Goodman, this is important on two levels:
1) He didn't have his whole identity wrapped up in one professional pursuit. If he had a bad days at Bell Labs, he could go home and tinker.
2) It gave him a very vast set of experiences to draw from.
Soni and Goodman's insights about Shannon are reflected in a great deal of recent science highlighting the many benefits of play. In his TED talk, Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, has said, "Play leads to brain plasticity, adaptability, and creativity... Nothing fires up the brain like play." Similarly, author Greg McKeown has said, "Very successful people see play as essential for creativity."
- Enhanced memory and focus
- Improved language learning skills
- Creative problem solving
- Improved mathematics skills
- Increased ability to self-regulate, an essential component of motivation and goal achievement
- Team work
- Conflict resolutionLeadership skill development
- Control of impulses and aggressive behavior
5) He didn't plan out every move in his career.
Claude Shannon would have laughed if you talked about a five year plan.
He didn't do that, at all. He allowed his curiosity and serendipity to lead him where it did.
That didn't mean that he didn't work hard--he really busted his hump to get good theoretical work done--but it meant that he wasn't following some script.
If you want to check out one of the more interesting stories and biographies around, check out A Mind At Play. You'll not only learn about a person who has influenced nearly every aspect of your life, but you'll be intrigued and inspired by how he did it.