Last week I had the great pleasure of attending a talk by Peter Kaufman on the Multidisciplinary Approach to Thinking. I would like to thank Mr. Kaufman for delivering such an engaging and insightful talk. His ‘three bucket’ approach to implementing and understanding multidisciplinary thinking is an immensely powerful tool. I hope you all find it equally compelling.
I transcribed the full event from my audio recording which you may listen to on SoundCloud. Throughout the transcript you will find;
- Time stamps, each linked to its corresponding recording location.
- Links to relevant supporting information.
Furthermore, I’d like to thank Spencer Hoff, President of the Cal Poly Pomona Economics Club, who graciously invited the Latticework Investing Community to attend. I would also like to thank the Cal Poly Pomona Economics Club for hosting such a great event.
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Transcript: Peter Kaufman on The Multidisciplinary Approach to Thinking
0:00 Talk Begins
Spencer Hoff: Thank you for coming. Today we’ve got Mr. Peter Kaufman, CEO of Glenair, who wrote this book, Poor Charlie’s Almanac about Charlie Munger. It’s an excellent book, best book I’ve ever read by far in my life. He serves on the board of Daily Journal with Mr. Charlie Munger and he’s going to give us a few words today. So please welcome Mr. Peter Kaufman everybody.
Peter Kaufman: Thank you. Now I’m happy to talk about a subject. I was asked to talk about the multidisciplinary approach to thinking. So I’ll start out with that. But if you guys get bored or something and say ‘Well I thought we were supposed to have fun listening to this today.’ You can raise your hand and say ‘Could you talk about leadership or team building or business strategy or ethics or something else?’ I gave a talk recently at Google, in fact I’ve given three talks at Google. And the first talk I gave they said ‘What are you going to talk about?’ And I said, ‘Well, what do you want to talk about?’ They said, ‘About whatever you want. What do you usually talk about?’ Well I usually talk about leadership, culture, team building, strategy, ethics. And they said, ‘We don’t hear about that team building crap. We get that all the time. We want to hear about self-improvement.’ So I will mix in with our multidisciplinary topic a little bit of self-improvement as well. Is that OK? OK.
So why is it important to be a multidisciplinary thinker? The answer comes from the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (link 1, 2, 3) who said, ‘To understand is to know what to do.’ Could there be anything that sounds simpler than that? And yet it’s a genius line, to understand is to know what to do. How many mistakes you make when you understand something? You don’t make any mistakes. Where do mistakes come from? They come from blind spots, a lack of understanding. Why do you need to be multidisciplinary in your thinking? Because as the Japanese proverb says, ‘The frog in the well knows nothing of the mighty ocean.’ You may know everything there is to know about your specialty, your silo, your well, but how are you going to make any good decisions in life…the complex systems of life, the dynamic system of life…if all you know is one well?