Reading a bunch of books on a related theme all at the same time and thinking in public.
So a while back I was writing posts about trying to figure out what genuine new forms of wealth creation might be, as the things touched on in the book Revolutionary Wealth by Alvin and Heidi Toffler seemed to be very superficial and not very new at all.
As we’ve gone through a dramatic global economic downturn, and have seen exuberance chastised, it seems important to keep trying to figure this out. When I look at books that are built around these issues, these days I always check when it was first published. If it is more than three years old I generally think it’s too dated to be relevant – and in that I don’t mean there is no relevant thought older than three years, but rather that I can probably find those thoughts more succinctly expressed online, or in some real classic. These kinds of books tend to be shallow but interesting thought provokers, and don’t age tremendously well.
The books in question at the moment are:
A Whole New Mind, Daniel H. Pink (2005) – This one is a bit old, but the author is Daniel Pink, who gave the talk behind this wonderful thing:
The book is an argument that the cognitive style that predisposes a person to success is changing. I’m predisposed to disagree, but willing to be convinced. At a gloss it seems to be saying that reductive, linear and analytic thought styles that have formed the undercurrent of civilization throughout the scientific/industrial era are giving way to a more intuitive, holistic and creative approach. I think that the collapse of the stock market recently has been a repudiation of creative excess in enterprises that, by their nature, are best guided by reductive, linear analysis. It’s easy to look at who is the most flamboyantly successful in the US, Europe and Japan and extrapolate a trend, but the greater portion of the world is nowhere near engaging in this sort of rock-star mystique in business. Possibly the fact that a lot of the old traditional foundation of science and industry has shifted to places with extreme poverty to follow cheap labor is distorting our self perception. Are lucrative conceptual acrobatics even possible without the massive support of grinding, linear industry?
Deep Economy, Bill McKibben (2007) – This one is a bit more recent, but probably will hold up better over time. What role do markets play in a stable economy that serves its community? It’s not a simple question. It seems to me often that companies traded publicly get trapped in insanity, constantly required to increase profit quarterly regardless of whether or not that is advisable for the long term health of the enterprise or even possible at all. To behave sanely as a corporate entity, and to contribute to the health and substance of the community in which you do business, I think you almost have to stay a private concern and focus on long term goals, keeping the company healthy first, seeking profit increases second. I’m guessing this book will make a similar argument, but with more facts and imagination.
The Tyranny of Dead Ideas, Matt Miller (2009) – This is the most recent, but the one I have the weakest bead on. From the jacket it looks like it deals with presumptions about the economy and always increasing prosperity that are likely to be disastrous if maintained in the face of real upheaval.
Rocketeers, Michael Belfiore (2007) – A book about the recent boom in private space ventures, which is just generally an interesting subject. I think it may dovetail nicely with the above list though, as the nascent private space industry is a nice example of more current thought styles being applied in a field dominated by the old style of deliberate, scrupulous engineering. The fact that the old style has produced spectacular successes here, and the new style is struggling to meet achievements long surpassed by the old, may be interesting to consider while thinking through these topics.
That’s the lineup. More posts to come as reading progresses!Look for posts in the same categories: Exhibitionist Reading
This entry was posted on Thursday, June 24th, 2010 at 11:20 pm