Peter J. Denning, Distinguished Professor of Computer Science. Co-Author of The Innovator's Way (MIT Press, 2010).
At long last, here is a volume of the Fernando Flores' original essays on his philosophy of communication, which has become so important in business. Bravo!
Many of these essays circulated in an underground of Fernando's students and business clients, but they did not see the light of day or become available as a collection. Until now. Finally all those who asked for such a collection will be satisfied. Although written in the 1980s, there is a timelessness about the essays: they speak vividly to issues we encounter today.
I especially liked the commentary by Fernando at the beginning. It gives a nice summary, in his own words, of the key ideas in his thought. It also explains the inspirations behind the ideas.
I also liked the introduction by Maria Letelier, Fernando's daughter, who carefully edited all the pieces and, in her commentary, adds her own interpretations. She took time to say what makes each essay relevant today.
I started my career as a computer scientist professor and was drawn to Fernando and his work in the mid 1980s because I was encountering management breakdowns in a research institute I was leading. From Fernando's essays I saw like a lightning bolt that my traditional view of information as a collection of facts, and of coordination as exchange of information, completely missed the side of language in which we make commitments, build our identities, and cope with our moods. That was where the management breakdowns were coming from. Once I learned this I was able to lead the organization much more effectively.
Fernando offered another interpretation that grew out of this, that education is the learning of practices at increasing levels of skill. This was another lightning bolt that revealed that my approach to teaching was built on the idea that education was transferring information. I developed a manifesto about how engineering education could become vastly better if based on this principle, and I took it back to university where I could put it to practice. I developed a design course called "Sense 21" (a new common sense for the 21st century), which became very popular. The students formed an alumni group that continued for ten years after the first time I offered the course. No student of my traditional computing classes wanted to form an alumni group. Fernando's principles were more appealing than many computing
Now I'm a computer science professor who also teaches students about the practices of innovation. My second career that grew from those essays.
Take this book, settle into a comfortable chair, and let the new insights settle into your system. Soon you will be seeing lightning bolts too.
Peter J. Denning
Distinguished Professor of Computer Science
Co-Author of The Innovator's Way (MIT Press, 2010).