Threads between books: civilization, good business
I recently finished an interesting set of books that seemed to share a theme. Or at least a thread of the familiar: Betterness: Economics for Humans by Umair Haque; The Elastic Enterprise: The New Manifesto for Business Revolution by Nicholas Vitalari and Haydn Shaughnessy; Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think by Peter H Diamandis and Steven Kotler; and At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson.
Betterness (a "Kindle single" rather than a full-length book) talks about moving away from businesses that are all about money and the next quarter's results and toward business that is about doing something new and different and better in the world - emphasis on creating value for the common good. I particularly enjoyed the light tone of the book and Haque's willingness to poke fun at himself and the business world as a whole. (He says things like, "be prepared to get sick" when reading sample vision statements.) The section that stands out for me is the transformation of vision and mission statements into very different things. What he proposes is that companies have habits of Ambition (why they exist), Intention (how they help the world become better), intentional Constraints (what they won't do), and Imperatives (where and when). With these habits, the company moves in the direction of creating a better world takes a different direction when presented with challenges and opportunities.
Elastic Enterprise is about organizations that succeed because of their unique way of looking at their world and the opportunities available. As I read Elastic, I couldn't help but reflect back to the "wild" ideas of Betterness: they both talk about businesses that don't look beyond strictly the competition to what else they can do. How can they transform the world in which they are operating? How do you get beyond the "traditional" and go for something different.
Abundance gave me a different take on the ideas that Betterness was proposing. Diamandis and Kotler suggest that there is plenty of everything in the world and plenty of capability to create a better life for all the world's inhabitants. The book talked about the interconnectedness between health, education, energy, water, food, technology, and freedom. And they also talked about their take on how to make this all happen: reliance on the do-it-yourself innovator, technophilanthropists, and the power of the "rising billion" people who will power the next wave of needs and innovations. They are also very interested in the power of using grand challenges to quickly create the innovations needed to bring abundance to a closer reality. (Diamandis is the CEO of X Prize Foundation which has promoted things like the Ansari X Prize race to build cheap, reusable spacecraft.)
Elastic Enterprise and Abundance were disconcertingly current for full-length business books - evidence of the speed at which publishing can turnaround a book.
And the fourth book, At Home is different from the other three in this collection. But it also contains an unusual set of connections. Bryson uses an old English home as a starting point for a history of how our houses came to be what they are. He ranges all over the English countryside and ventures into the USA and other countries to follow strings of his thinking. The connection to these other books - Abundance in particular - was in discussions of food & eating (the section on the kitchen) and healthcare & sanitation (or lack thereof). I was reading the physical book of At Home while reading the ebook of Abundance and kept getting surprises as topics that Diamandis covered were being covered by Bryson.
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