Dr. Tina Seelig is Professor of the Practice in the department of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University School of Engineering, and faculty director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program. She teaches courses on creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship at the d.school at Stanford University.
Tina earned her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Stanford Medical School, has worked as a management consultant, a software producer, and as an entrepreneur. She has received many honors, including the SVForum Visionary Award, the Gordon Prize from the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Olympus Innovation Award.
She has also written 17 books and educational games, including What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 (2009), and inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity (2012), and Insight Out (2015.) Her newest book, Creativity Rules will be released in Sept 2017.
An Interview with Tina Seelig
16TH JUNE 2019
ACADEMIC, MANAGEMENT, NON-FICTION WRITERS, SCIENCE, WRITERS
Tina Seelig is Professor of the Practice in Stanford University’s Department of Management Science and Engineering and is a faculty director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program. She teaches courses in the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (d.school) and leads three fellowship programs in the School of Engineering that are focused on creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Tina Seelig earned her PhD in Neuroscience at Stanford Medical School and has been a management consultant, entrepreneur, and author of 17 books, including Insight Out (2016), inGenius (2012), and What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 (2009). Tina Seelig is the recipient of the Gordon Prize from the National Academy of Engineering, the Olympus Innovation Award, and the Silicon Valley Visionary Award. Please enjoy my interview with Tina Seelig.
How do you describe your occupation?
I am an educator, focused on teaching creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurial leadership in the School of Engineering at Stanford University.
What is something about you that people might find surprising?
Although I teach in a university now I have taught at all levels, from kindergarten to medical students. Also, earlier in my career, I was a scientist, and my early books all focused on teaching science, including two books on the chemistry of cooking.
What are you reading at the moment and what made you want to read it?
Right now I am reading Winners Take All by Anand Giridharadas, which is really provocative. It questions whether those who are in a position to make changes in the world will ever institute changes that are at their own expense. The book invites readers to consider how our current systems are designed to reinforce the privilege that is held by few and to question whether all progress is positive.
What was your favourite book as a child and why?
The first book I remember loving was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. It was a fabulous introduction to science fiction, really stretching my imagination.
When did you fall in love with reading?
Books are an amazing gateway into others’ lives. We can read books written during all different times, by those who are unlike us, in different circumstances, with very different points of view. By reading, we build empathy and learn about worlds – real or imagined – that allow us to see our own experiences with more perspective.
What was the last book you purchased, and why did you buy it?
Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. It was recommended by my son.
What are perfect reading conditions for you?
I like to listen to books. This allows me to “read” more frequently since I can squeeze in 15 minutes when I commute to work, 30 minutes when I walk my dog, or an hour while I make dinner. My only complaint about listening to books is that I frequently want to underline a well-crafted phrase or turn down a corner to mark a section. But, the convenience is worth it.
What book have you found most inspiring, what effect did it have on you?
I really found The Course of Love by Alain de Botton to be very powerful and inspiring. And, I continue to recommend it to others. It brilliantly exposes what really goes on in relationships, from the early flicker of romance through a less than perfect marriage.
What’s the most obscure book you own; how did you discover it?
I have a book with paintings done by migraine sufferers, illustrating the pain they feel. It is beautiful, powerful, and haunting.
What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 6 months?
I’ve listened to a number of really terrific books over the last six months, including Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, Educated by Tara Westover, Becoming by Michelle Obama, Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss, Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, and Winners Take All by Anand Giridharadas. The first three allow you to enter a new world, gaining insights on how individual people respond to challenging circumstances and overcome personal and environmental obstacles. The last three are directly related to my work as an entrepreneurship educator, elucidating how to think about negotiations, starting and building new ventures, and how leaders should engage with the broader community.
What is your proudest achievement?
Besides raising my son, who just turned 30, it would definitely be writing books. Each one is a massive effort, and having others appreciate and find meaning in the words is very fulfilling.
If you were trying to impress a visitor, which book that you own would you leave on the coffee table?
I would leave all the photo books of my travels. When my family takes a trip, which we do annually, we always create a photo book to capture the experience. They are beautiful and tell a very personal story.
If an alien landed in your garden; which three books would you gift them to showcase humanity in the best possible way?
Honestly, I would give them my three most recent books: What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20, inGenius, and Creativity Rules. They capture what it means to have an entrepreneurial spirit, the levers we use to unlock innovative ideas, and the process of bringing ideas to life. They are very optimistic, demonstrating that the problems around us are opportunities in disguise.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life? What impact did it have?
When I was younger, I read Lives of a Cell by Lewis Thomas and The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn. Both of these books shaped my thinking as a scientist, and more broadly as a creative problem solver. They both describe the importance of reframing problems in order to unlock insights – the first related to how we think about biology and the second on how we think about scientific discovery. I have applied these ideas to everything I do.
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
When I was in high school I devoured Shakespeare and had a book with all of his works. I read them every day and memorized many of his sonnets. His works are so beautifully crafted and wonderful to read out loud.
Which book sat on your shelf are you most excited about reading next and why?
I am looking forward to reading Julie Zhou’s new book, Making of a Manager. She was a student many years ago, and I’m eager to read about her experiences growing into a manager. I hope to share this book with my future students.
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