Guiding boards. Growing business.

Festive Season Reads

By Roger Hitchcock

As the year starts winding down and we find time to disengage, it is always good to keep the mental processes turning over with some reading that helps us to reflect, review and anticipate.

The suggested books in this blog are ones that I have found thought-provoking, inspiring and insightful. They are all, except maybe one, a fairly quick and easy read. And they all cover topics that should trigger some great conversations with our family and friends during this time – whether they find themselves in a boardroom or not.

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World– by Hans Rosling

Thinking and making decisions clearly and well, rely on basing our thoughts and actions on actual facts of the matter and not our assumptions – or just the things that we have heard. Factfulness is bound to challenge some of our thinking – things that we thought were obvious or settled – and guide us to question well before plunging into deciding and doing.

This book also encourages the reader’s whole family and circle of friends to get involved in the discussion as it is based around a set of questions about the state of the world that most of us get completely wrong. A good, healthy, intergenerational debate and discussion should be triggered by each one answering these questions as best they can – before anyone looks at the answers – and then unpacking the implications of both the range of answers, and the actual facts of the matter.

If nothing else, Factfulness will inspire each of us to test all of our assumptions as we tackle 2023.

Imaginable: How to See the Future Coming and be Ready for Anything– by Jane McGonigal

The successful will be those who can imagine their way through what lies ahead.

A constnt theme that Covid highlighted is how to navigate what we are all going through. Each of us needs to navigate these experiences in a different way though since while ‘we may all be going through the same or similar storm, we are all in a different boat’.

Written by a futurist with scenarios including the financial crisis, a pandemic, massive wildfires, extensive power cuts and an energy crisis, this book provides encouragement to imagine the future as well as some really good tools to do so. These tools aim to equip the reader to inform and exercise the imagination, and to develop the skills for ‘good imagining’.

The future, while being uncertain, is not unimaginable and the future belongs to those who can imagine well.

The Man Who Broke Capitalism: How Jack Welch Gutted the Heartland and Crushed the Soul of Corporate America―and How to Undo His Legacy — by David Gelles

We all make decisions based on our current view of the world. And we easily believe that something is good or successful based on the outcome that is presented.

This book examines some of means followed to achieve the outcomes created in GE during Jack Welch’s tenure as CEO. Looking back after some time has revealed that many of the outcomes evident at the end of his term were achieved with not-so-sustainable means, thereby unravelling much of the so-called success.

The Man Who Broke Capitalism is a narrative worth reading that, although written from a specific perspective, can help to explain some of the prevailing damaging mindsets and narratives that govern decision-making in business.

This is a fascinating and frustrating read given the fact that many businesses continue to be run according to the Jack Welch narrative!

Anthro-Vision: How Anthropology Can Explain Business and Life — by Gillian Tett

What we end up doing is very often the result of the way we see things. The way we see the world determines how we choose to live in it in both our personal and our business lives. Expanding our thinking is so important in learning to see through (or with) someone else’s eyes and to get another perspective.

Written about business through the eyes of an anthropologist, this book offers some fascinating perspectives that, given where the world is currently, will be incredibly valuable moving forward.

Some of the most interesting conversations I have are with a good friend who is an anthropologist. So perhaps this book could also motivate each of us to expand our circle of friends, or just to have deeper conversations with a friend we have that sees the world, and therefore tends to think, in ways completely different to ourselves.

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power — by Shoshana Zuboff

Given the massive promises that technology makes and the current challenging state of ‘Big Tech’, this list would not be complete without a book that can get us to re-examine what technology can do – and how we actually feel about it.

This is a big read: while it is the longest book on the list, it needs to be.

We all know the questions about ‘is tech the product or are we the product?’, ‘are we using tech or is it using us?’ The Age of Surveillance Capital is a milestone in identifying the good, the bad and the ugly. It walks through some of the history of the companies that we all rely on and use daily. This insight is really valuable as we make personal and business decisions about the use of technology.

I found the end of the book most challenging. Without giving anything away, the author talks to the ways in which technology, by design or by default, has invaded our most sacred spaces, and the implications that we are seeing unfold as a result.

Enjoy and please provide us with feedback on your reading experiences.