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04 MAY, 2011

6 Popular Business Books Adapted as Comics

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What 6th-century Chinese military strategy has to do with the art of closing a deal.

Comic books resonate so deeply with us because they speak to our brains’ fundamental visual bias, known as the pictorial superiority effect. A new series of books by SmarterComics is harnessing this human predilection and doing for nonfiction what The RSA has done for lectures, adapting popular business and strategy books by iconic thought-leaders into visually-driven narratives. Here are the first six of the series.

THE LONG TAIL

Based on the 2006 bestseller of the same name by Wired editor Chris Anderson, The Long Tail explores a counterintuitive side of business profits as Anderson declares the death of “common culture” and makes a case for the multiplicity of small niches, as opposed to the high-volume peaks of the mainstream, as the sweet spot of market opportunity.

THINK AND GROW RICH

In 1937, Napoleon Hill wrote what’s commonly considered the greatest wealth-building guide of all time. SmarterComics breathes playful new life into the now-iconic Think and Grow Rich, a blueprint for improving your life through the practical power of positive thinking, a cognitive toolkit to which many of modern history’s most famous millionaires and billionaires point as the secret to their success. A self-help book for the hard analytical types, Hill’s classic is considered a landmark publication in success philosophy and has shaped generations of subsequent business books.

MI BARRIO

Entrepreneur Robert Renteria grew up as an infant sleeping in a dresser drawer, then got drawn into drugs and gang violence as a teenager. But rather than letting his circumstances dictate and define him, he let them become a part of him as he grew from a childhood of poverty and abuse into a successful businessman and civic leader. In Mi Barrio (My Neighborhood), Renteria turns his story into a modern-day, real-life fable of persistence and hard work, extending an invitation to all of us to transcend the limitations of our circumstances and the burdens of our past.

HOW TO MASTER THE ART OF SELLING

Since its original publication decades ago, Tom Hopkins’ straight-shootingly titled How to Master the Art of Selling has remained true to — and widely acclaimed for — its title’s promise. Among the many sales scrips and tactics on everything from building trust to closing elusive deals are also a number of anecdotes, which seem to lend themselves particularly well to the storytelling format of a comic book.

OVERACHIEVEMENT

Originally written by performance coach and psychologist John Eliot in 2004, Overachievement offers an ambitious look at what it takes to be exceptional. Eliot explores a number of cognitive performance enhancers used by Olympic athletes, business moguls, surgeons, salesmen, financial experts, and rock stars, pointing to the importance of intuition and what he calls “the trusting mind” — the same idea, no doubt, that inspired Nike’s iconic “Just do it” slogan — as the fundamental make-or-break point of success.

THE ART OF WAR

Chinese military treatise The Art of War (not to be confused with Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art), attributed to philosopher and military general Sun Tzu, is one of the world’s oldest and most successful books on military strategy, dating back to late 6th century BC. The wisdom from this 2,500-year-old text remain required reading for today’s MBA classrooms, offering history-tested insight on how to prevail in any conflict, be it in on the battlefield or in the boardroom.

Besides the traditional printed editions, the books are also available in a variety of eletornic formats on the SmarterComics site.

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03 MAY, 2011

Old Jews Telling Jokes

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What Milton Glaser has to do with a Rotweiler and your mother.

We’ve previously had our fun with some painfully hilarious politically incorrect books, most of which began as blog projects. But we’d be remiss not to add the apologetically titled, apologetically funny Old Jews Telling Jokes. Available as both a book (Old Jews Telling Jokes: 5,000 Years of Funny Bits and Not-So-Kosher Laughs) and a DVD, it’s an absolute string of comedic gems that don’t fail to tickle the funny bone of people of all faiths.

The joke-tellers range from mere mortals — doctors, lawyers, wine salesmen, garment workers — to icons like Milton Glaser, for a vibe that’s part Larry David without the painful awkwardness, part Seinfeld without the painful laughtrack, part something completely authentic altogether.

And just in time for Mother’s Day, why not warm up with six jokes about mothers?

via Coudal

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03 MAY, 2011

Children and Established Artists Draw Autism

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What the spectrum of difference has to do with 12th-century demons and Google Earth.

Autism is one of the greatest modern mysteries of cognitive science, a highly faceted condition that remains largely misunderstood. We’ve previously explored several notable autistic outliers — British savant Stephen Wiltshire, who draws remarkable 3D panoramas of cities from memory; animal scientist Temple Grandin, who is equally well-known for her innovations in livestock herding and her autism advocacy; and autistic savant Daniel Tammet, who was able to learn Icelandic in a week, among other remarkable feats of memory. But what is the actual experience of living with autism in a deep felt sense, beyond the social stereotypes and headline-worthy superskills?

Drawing Autism, a celebration of the artistry and self-expression found in artwork by people diagnosed with autism, explores just that.

The stunning volume, with an introduction by Grandin herself, features works by more 50 international contributors, from children to established artists, that illustrate the rich multiplicity of the condition — which we hesitate to call a “disorder” as we subscribe to the different, not lesser view of autism — and the subjective experience of each autistic individual. Thanks to Will of 50 Watts for the wonderful images.

Felix: Imaginary City Map, Age 11

Who are some artists that you like?

None. I study road maps and atlases in detail and generally I scroll the full track of our trips on Google Earth.

Eleni Michael, Dancing with the Dog, 1995

Josh Peddle, Changing Seasons, 2006 (at age 12)

Vehdas Rangan: A. (India)

David Barth, Vogels (Dutch for 'birds'), 2008 (at age 10)

Emily L. Williams, Leap Years

Wil C. Kerner, Pals (collage), age 12

Wil’s grandmother explains:

The key in understanding Pals is the brown rimmed off-white donkey ear. Four facial expressions depict the bad boys turning into donkeys in the movie Pinocchio: purple-faced Pinocchio is stunned by his new ear and considering what to do; it’s too late for the horrified yellow face; the green trapezoid is oblivious to his pending fate; the blue head is looking away hoping he’s not included.”

Eric Chen, Mirror Mind poster 3, 2005

Jessica Park: The Mark Twain House with the Diamond Eclipse and Venus, 1999

Drawing Autism comes from Mark Batty Publisher — one of our favorite independent voices at the intersection of visual art and thoughtful cultural commentary, whom you may recall from The Unruly Alphabet, Drainspotting, Pioneers of Spanish Graphic Design, and Noma Bar’s fantastic Negative Space illustrations.

Images via 50 Watts

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03 MAY, 2011

Lawrence Lessig on the Free Access Movement

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Open access to knowledge, a business model for science, and the value of “uncool” innovation.

Harvard’s Lawrence Lessig is easily the most important voice in intellectual property today, whose work — including founding Creative Commons — has done for remix culture what Al Gore’s did for climate change. In this animated excerpt from a lecture he gave in Geneva last week, Lessig introduces the Science Commons project and makes a compelling case for universal access to knowledge through new information architecture that supports its recombination and reconfiguration, advocating for what he calls “the free access movement.”

Ultimately, he argues — and we wholeheartedly agree — that encouraging exclusivity of access is inconsistent with the ethics of our world, the sort of paradigm that lets knowledge wither in the hands of the privileged.

We need to recognize in the academy, I think, an ethical obligation […] An ethical obligation which is at the core of our mission. Our mission is universal access to knowledge—not American university access to knowledge, but universal access to knowledge in every part of the globe.

We don’t need, for our work, exclusivity; and we shouldn’t practice, with our work, exclusivity. And we should name those who do, wrong. Those who do are inconsistent with the ethic of our work.” ~ Lawrence Lessig

See the full 50-minute talk below:

Archiving is not enough. Because what it does is leave these right out there, and by leaving these rights out there, it encourages this architecture of closed access. It encourages models of access that block access to the non-elite around the world. And it discourages unplanned, unanticipated and ‘uncool’ innovation — the sort of thing publishers would’ve said of Google Books.” ~ Lawrence Lessig

More than six years later, Lessig’s Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity remains an absolute must-read. Unlike most books, whose cultural relevance tends to wane with time, this is a cultural essential that’s only increasingly relevant as we grapple with new facets of what constitutes creative labor.

[UPDATE: Per appropriate albeit abrasive reader comment below, a reminder that Free Culture is also available as a free downloadable PDF if you can stomach the reading experience that entails.]

HT @matthiasrascher

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