Good Sportsmanship—Win to Win

racquetball equipment

Image by exfordy*

An enhanced edition of Imagination First, the book I wrote with Eric Liu in 2009, was published in paperback on April 26th. Watching it go out into the world a second time has prompted me to revisit the question: what kind of impact would I like the book to have?

A brief, breezy personal anecdote will illustrate the more serious point I want to reach. I used to play racquetball on a regular basis with two friends, a Ph.D. in psychology and an attorney. The psychologist’s strategy—which may or may not have had to do with his profession—was invariably to try to psyche his opponents out and make us play below our usual level. But when I competed against Joe, the attorney, he played with a healthy intensity that drove me to play better—which then led him to play even better. We pushed each other to improve our games, and no matter who won, that always felt pretty good. Continue reading

The Wider Possibilities of Invention


Image by Western Dave*

In Imagination First, Eric Liu and I discuss “‘challenge awards’” that “spur the creation of what does not yet exist” (171). The Ansari X Prize, for example, awarded $10 million in 2004 to the brilliant minds behind the first nongovernmental manned space flight of a reusable craft. Such challenges are exciting, to be sure, but they also have unfortunate limitations: their super-specific goals mean that other, more everyday problems remain unacknowledged, and their substantial scope makes it impossible for ordinary people who aren’t independently wealthy to compete. Which is exactly why I find the 2010 BI-LO Invention Convention and the Connecticut Invention Convention so refreshing. Continue reading