At this time of cheer and goodwill, let us wish you a truly wonderful Christmas and prosperous 2018. 2017 has been interesting, in the Confucian sense, so I do hope that for you it has also been full of pleasant surprises and strategies fulfilled.
On that note, let me share a gift of good-reads for 2018.
- “The 100 year Life”: Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott; 2016
Co-written by a psychologist and an economist, both leading MBA professors at London Business School, the book quickly establishes that every decade adds 2 years to our average life-span and that anyone born in the mid-1990s is likely to live 100 years. It then poses interesting questions (and proposes pragmatic individual and corporate actions) around how we can regularly re-create ourselves to remain productive, energised and value-adding in a world where retirement for 30 or 40 years is simply un-fundable. Challenging, practical and eye-opening!
- “Thinking, Fast and Slow” – Daniel Kahneman; 2011
Though originally published in 2011, this book continues to be an international best-seller. Daniel Kahneman does a deep-dive into the two cognitive systems that rule who we are as human beings – our intuitive and our analytical/logical selves – and echoes elements of “The Chimp Paradox” in the process. Together these two ‘selves’ shape the judgments we make and the decisions and the actions we take in our everyday lives. The book challenges us to slow down, countercultural as that may be, in order to think differently, to better harness our intuition, to better leverage our analytical capacity – as individual people – in order to increase our personal creativity and our ability to innovate.
- “The Path” – Michael Puett and Christine Gross-Loh; 2016
As China re-emerges as a – maybe the – leading world power, this book, written by one of Harvard Business School’s most popular professors, walks through the philosophies and values that inform that populous nation. If the foundation and first step towards more effective leadership is self-awareness, the second step must be greater awareness and understanding of others. This book helps us understand the values and mind-sets that influence Chinese people and society, that inform the way they think, live and work.
- “The Quest for a Moral Compass – A Global History of Ethics” – Kenan Malik; 2014
At this crucible moment in human history when leadership and personal behaviour in public life – in business, in politics, in defence of the nations, in entertainment and in the arts – are possibly more exposed and openly critiqued than ever before, this book helps us reflect on what it takes for us to be trusted as people and as leaders. It comes from the angle of moral philosophy yet is very accessible and very relevant. It postulates that far from “morality … [being] a scam, a set of rules invented by the ruling class to promote its own interests and to keep everyone else in check” …“the quest for a moral compass … [is] not simply to find answers to questions of right or wrong, good or bad, but also to understand what it is to be human, what humans should be, and the relationship between the two.”
- “The Human Use of Human Beings”; Norbert Wiener; 1954
As the introduction and use of AI and robotics gathers pace across the world, in all aspects of business and across all industries, this book attempts to answer one of my burning questions: “What is and will continue to be the value of human beings in an increasingly automated world?” Weiner was one of the first to speak of ‘learning machines’ and the clarity and uncomplicated manner with which he shines a light on today’s reality is scary and pertinent. Two quotes, both directed at ‘learning machines’ (example of which in Wiener’s days were automatic doors), but equally applicable in a human context: “Feedback is a method of controlling a system by reinserting into it the results of its past performance.” And “We shall never receive the right answers to our questions unless we ask the right questions.”
- “The Wisdom of Finance – Discovering Humanity in the World of Risk and Return” – Mihir Desai; 2017
A contender for the US list of top 10 business books for 2017, this is quite simply a remarkable and surprising book that swings from finance to literature and back with ease. In less than 200 pages it presents a stripped-down yet complete and sophisticated view of “finance through the prism of the humanities [to] help us restore humanity to finance”. The author weaves “the two cultures” of “literary intellectuals and scientists” in a remarkable way such that finance informs and critically illuminates prose, and prose exemplifies principles of finance and brings them to fresh relevance. You’ll never see finance or options or insurance or leverage – or for that matter leadership or love with the same eyes again!
- “Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind” – Yuval Noah Harari; 2011
One of the most talked about books of the year, this tome races through 70,000 years of the species called Homo Sapiens – us – observing ‘it’ with a very different and wide-angled lens. For example, Harari postulates that sapiens did not actually tame nature through the agricultural revolution; nature tamed sapiens by forcing an end to our nomadic existence – as cultivated land ‘trapped’ us into ‘submission’. “Wheat … manipulated sapiens to its advantage.”!! The book begs the question: Are we captains of what we do – at work, play and in our private lives – or slaves to that which consumes our attention? Half-way through the author postulates: “We study history not to know the future but to widen our horizons, to understand that our present situation is neither natural nor inevitable, and that we consequently have many more possibilities before us than we imagine.”
Until 2018, when we hope we will reconnect, wishing you success and great results!