On Harry Nyquist (again)…

tags: harry-nyquist, culture, knowledge-sharing

My research into Harry Nyquist continues. The last time I posted about him, someone recommended a book called The Culture Code which had a bit about Nyquist. I ordered it immediately.

To recap, he was a scientist at Bell Labs in the first half of the 20th century. An internal study revealed that the other scientists with the most patents all had a tendency to have lunch with this guy named Harry Nyquist. So, there was something about Harry himself that caused other people to do better work.

The book includes a couple pages about Nyquist. I’ve drilled it down to the most important few paragraphs here –

Nyquist by all accounts possessed two important qualities. The first was warmth. He had a knack for making people feel cared for; every contemporary description paints him as “fatherly.”

The second quality was a relentless curiosity. In a landscape made up of diverse scientific domains, he combined breadth and depth of knowledge with a desire to seek connections. “Nyquist was full of ideas, full of questions,” Bell Labs engineer Chapin Cutler recalls, “He drew people out, got them thinking.”

“Nyquist was good at a particular kind of activity that Bell really encouraged in those days,” Keefauver says. “People in all kinds of disciplines, on all kinds of projects, talking about their project with someone who’s working on something entirely different, to put a new light on things. People like Harry Nyquist could capture what someone was doing, throw some idea at them, and ask, why don’t you try that?”

I love this, and I would love to be this for someone else. Every organization needs a Harry Nyquist.

If you know of any other resources on his interpersonal skills and habits, let me know. There’s a lot of information out there about his scientific breakthroughs, but I want to know more about how Harry interacted with people.

This is item #30 in a sequence of 42 items.

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