“An incomplete list of things invented at Bell Labs during its heyday: lasers, fiberoptic cables, satellite communications, cell phones, the C programming language, solar panels.
My favorite story in here: John Bardeen and Walter Brattain plug away for years to find the right materials to create the first functioning transistor. Their boss William Shockley, who had laid some of the theoretical framework for their achievement, gets angry about not receiving enough credit. So he stays up all night in a hotel room on New Year’s Eve writing out 30 pages of notes describing a better approach, and is able to prove out the concept in a few months. His version becomes the standard.
The book will get you thinking about innovation and the circumstances that lead to it. Much is a reinforcement of the now-fashionable idea that all invention is iteration, not the solitary genius model you might have learned in school. But that new dogma is also challenged, or at least tempered. Consider Claude Shannon, who showed up for work whenever, spent much of his time creating electromechanical mice and riding around the office on a unicycle, and knocked out the whole foundation of Information Theory in between games of chess.”
“There’s one main theme to Essentialism: prioritizing the important things and throwing away the rest. While this sounds simple in concept, whether in a professional or personal context, we tend to often prioritize incorrectly or choose to include non-important tasks due to outside pressures. The audiobook weighs in at over 6 hours for this central topic, so it definitely gets repetitive, but the overall message is a good one.”