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The 70% Rule: When Imperfect Understanding Is Best

At conferences, maybe it’s a good thing if some engineers don’t understand your entire presentation

2 min read
Illustration by Dan Page
Illustration: Dan Page

I recently attended a conference by watching live presentations over the Internet. This was a kind of out-of-body experience, as I virtually hovered over the meeting without the visceral interaction of physical attendance. My attention often wavered, and I viewed the entirety through a sometimes unfocused perspective.

After two days of this, I arrived at an unexpected observation. The talks fell into two distinct categories—those that I understood almost entirely, and those that I hardly understood at all. There were very few in the middle. This got me thinking about the quality and understandability of conference presentations, and how this has changed through the years.

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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

His pivot from defense helped a tiny tuning-fork prevent SUV rollovers and plane crashes

11 min read
Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

In 1992, Asad M. Madni sat at the helm of BEI Sensors and Controls, overseeing a product line that included a variety of sensor and inertial-navigation devices, but its customers were less varied—mainly, the aerospace and defense electronics industries.

And he had a problem.

The Cold War had ended, crashing the U.S. defense industry. And business wasn’t going to come back anytime soon. BEI needed to identify and capture new customers—and quickly.

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