Bose & Insatiable Curiosity…

Up until this week, whenever I encountered the word Bose I immediately thought “expensive” — high end audio equipment that never goes on sale, even at the outlets. To invest in Bose speakers was a splurge purchase, and splurge I did. I am quite pleased with the sound coming from the Bose® Solo TV sound system which I use with the HDTV in my office. I also have some really nice computer speakers that I got at Fry’s for under $100 (a bargain!).

My thinking changed after reading a Popular Science article from 2004 about the founder of the Bose Corporation — Amar Bose.  The title is what caught my eye: “Better Living Through Curiosity.”

How did I end up even knowing about that article?  Good question.  Amar Bose passed away on July 12 of this year, so there were quite a few obituaries like this one from The New York Times   which described Dr. Bose, founder and chairman of the privately held Bose Corporation, as someone who focused relentlessly on acoustic engineering innovation. His speakers, though expensive, earned a reputation for bringing concert-hall-quality audio into the home.

One of my many newsletters I read on a daily basis pointed to a recent Popular Science post  that included the interview from 2004.


Here’s one notable quotable:

“I would have been fired a hundred times at a company run by MBAs. But I never went into business to make money. I went into business so that I could do interesting things that hadn’t been done before.”

Liked that.

What I didn’t know was his background as a teacher.

Dr. Bose earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the 1950s.  After he returned from a Fulbright scholarship at the National Physical Laboratory in New Delhi, he joined the MIT faculty in 1956.

He taught there for more than 45 years, and in 2011, donated a majority of his company’s shares to the school. The gift provides M.I.T. with annual cash dividends.

The Popular Science story included some notable quotables about teaching:

Dr. Bose said he wanted to teach thought, not formulas. The article quoted one student who described Dr. Bose’s influence:

His class gave me the courage to tackle high-risk problems; it equipped me with the problem-solving skills I needed to be successful in several careers. Amar Bose taught me how to think.”

I’m liking this guy more and more — even forgive him for having expensive products.

Where do the Idea Come From?

Bose says that his best ideas usually come to him in a flash. “These innovations are not the result of rational thought; it’s an intuitive idea. But if it’s a sophisticated idea, then you need to apply all the rational tools to determine whether, and how, it can be done.”

Did you know that he came up with a suspension system — which would allow a car to corner as well as any race car AND have a smoother ride than any luxury car? Now that’s pretty cool. It took a long time to develop, which he noted isn’t really an option in today’s automotive industry.


He told Popular Science that “the average automotive CEO stays on the job for only 4.7 years, so he is not likely to invest money in long-term research. The consequence is that this country, which should be on the frontiers of research, is losing its technological leadership.”

He’s right.

Here are some more quotables I underlined:

“The future,” Bose famously told his students, “isn’t in solving the problems to which we already know the answers. It’s in learning how to work through the problems you’ll experience in life, in any subject.”

When asked how he accounts for the impact he has had on such diverse fields, he referenced something his mentor told him: “Insatiable curiosity.

This story needs to get out. Dr. Amar Bose was an amazing man. As the author of the Popular Science piece noted:

The value of Amar Bose—and by extension, his company—isn’t so much in the things he has invented, but in the sense of possibility he inspires. Bose reminds us that we could all afford to be much more skyward-looking, far-fetched and curious, and that we could all believe more strongly in our own potential to create.

Dr. Bose would fit in well with the Gang here at Jedemi.


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