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A version of this article appeared in the May 2013 issue of .

Angela Wilkinson is the program director of the Futures Directorate at Oxford University’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment. She spent nearly a decade on Shell’s corporate scenario team.

Angela Wilkinson is the program director of the Futures Directorate at Oxford University’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment. She spent nearly a decade on Shell’s corporate scenario team. Roland Kupers, an associate fellow at Oxford University, is a consultant who has written about complexity and futures. He was formerly a senior executive at Shell and at ATT. They are the authors of a forthcoming book on the history of Shell scenarios.

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I read this in 2016. I have the impression that today's homogeneization (due to the web and the social network impact on information sharing, and in general to a markets regulation policy that don't priviledge differentiation over cost advantage ) is making scenarios planning always less fruitfull. The number of variables free to change is shrinking: industries are dominated by oligopolies ( e.g. the Gas Turbine industry went from dozens of players to around 3 in just 15 years), nations are clustering into macro-economics areas, Comsumers are feeded with the same brands in every city of the world. The only variables still uncertain are the sudden swings of mind of some politician that can decide over a specific commodity / market access point / local regulation in an unconsistent way. So scenarios are always less about evolutionary trends and always more about betting on human freewill. Does this make scenarios still appetible or simple un-usable? I fear to be keen to the second one.

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Technology continues to make learning things simpler and easier. Curious about something? You can instantly Google it and find all sorts of information. This may tempt you to bring your laptop to class and use your superior typing speed in order to take down more notes.

However, more is not always better. In recent research done to test the efficacy of typing out vs. writing out notes, those who wrote their notes out the old fashioned way were better able to handle conceptual questions about the topic.

The researchers believe the cause for this is the tendency of those who use a keyboard to take down the lecture verbatim. Those who write out their notes, because of the slow speed, can’t afford this luxury, forcing them to summarize what the speaker is presenting.

What’s the takeaway from this?

Whether you use pen and paper or a laptop, do not try to take down “exactly” what the lecturer is saying. Instead, focus on summarizing the lecture by getting to its core. This will put an extra load on your comprehension through active engagement of the material, resulting in higher retention.

Divide your page into two columns, the right being about twice the size of the left.

The right side is going to be for note-taking while the left is used for keywords or questions. When taking the notes one should be careful not to write out too much. Paraphrase, summarize, and condense as much as possible. As you move along use the left column to write out the big idea keywords for your notes and write down any questions about the topic.

Leave some space at the end of each page. This will be used to summarize the page of notes as a whole (one should attempt this summary no longer than a day after the lecture).

Why is this method of note-taking so effective?

Cognitively, you are essentially packaging, unpackaging, re-packaging, and wrapping a nice little ribbon around the whole thing.

The right column condenses the lecture into short comments which is then chunked into a keyword or idea. Any question you may have gets written down which helps to clarify the details creating a more accurate picture of those ideas. Finally, the summarization of the page of notes ties all those points together.

You don’t come home from the grocery store and try to carry in each item individually; You bunch them together, making the workload much easier (one trip or bust). When you chunk up the lesson into a clear and concise whole, the details of the lesson are retained more efficiently.

No matter what system you use to take notes it needs to organize the information in a way that can be easily summarized.

Your best asset for packaging what you are trying to learn is your ability to think critically about the subject.

Learning important subjects should involve active, deliberate effort.

Thinking critically about the topic allows you to categorize it more efficiently and with more clarity. You get to ask questions about it, clearing up any confusions. You get to pry deeper into the details. Finally, you get to criticize the idea and see how it holds up.

Today, the equivalent may be a team putting out an order for late-night pizza while they are working hard on pushing out a release update or finalizing a new product feature.

Edison was always keeping his eyes and ears open, watching what others were doing. When he learned that the competition — in one case, Alexander Graham Bell — was nearing completion of a phonograph, Edison called a confab and his closest colleagues and contributors came to a three-day session to help solve the challenge.

The lessons that Edison can teach us about collaboration are vital and very applicable in today’s work world. Many of the following points were integral to Edison keeping forward momentum on his projects:

Embracing his team’s creativity was a huge asset for Edison. In fact, he encouraged them to contribute ideas, jot down ideas, and sketch out diagrams. The best ideas from his experimenters were identified and developed — keeping creation at a group level rather than favoring individuals.

According to historian Greg Fields, Edison’s keen insight into the creative process was what set his work apart from the rest.

“One of Edison’s greatest overlooked talents was his ability to assemble teams and set up an organizational structure that fostered many people’s creativity,” Fields says .

Many of Edison’s inventions involved a complex menagerie of parts, machinery, and electrical wizardry. Edison relied heavily on drawings and sketches to help map things out and manage complex concepts in his inventions. They also helped out when it came time to filing for patents.

As Edison pursued the advancement of electricity, his notes and drawings for work on the electric light grew so big they required their own notebook.

Today, there are many scientific links to the power of doodling out ideas by drawing, again showing how well Edison presaged modern productivity methods.

And then, of course, there’s one of the world’s most famous to-do lists.

Edison isn’t quite considered the father of the to-do list. But, his lists — especially the four-page ‘things doing and to be done” he created in 1888, established an important system of managing and tracking all the projects he had going on during the opening of his West Orange laboratory and the projects he planned to start.

In the span of a few notebook pages Edison penciled in work he wanted to manage for the cotton picker, the electric piano, ink for the blind, the phonograph, and a chalk battery. While he certainly didn’t complete everything on this massive list, it represented the opportunity to get ideas at many different stages committed to paper.

“He did keep a very careful record of the experimental work. At West Orange, every project was assigned a number. At all of his laboratories, you can find account records and experimental records. He was managing costs, figuring out where things might start to get too expensive,” said Paul Israel.

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