Reading, wrote Ben Okri, the Nigerian poet-novelist, is one of the greatest acts of civilization because it takes the free raw materials of the mind and builds castles of possibilities. The lockdown and WFH/WFA afforded business captains some time to dive into the world of books and read, reflect, introspect and build new perspectives.
There are many books where possibilities of the future have been insightfully depicted. Yet, thanks to the pandemic and its multi-dimensional ramifications, some books of the yesteryears have found greater resonance, meaning and relevance.
Here are four of them:
- Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered (Harper Perennial Modern Thought) by Ernst Friedrich Schumacher: This landmark book of Ernst Friedrich Schumacher ranks among the most influential books published since WW II. The author argued that the modern economy is unsustainable as natural resources are not treated as capital. His philosophy is one of “enoughness”, appreciating both human needs and limitations, and appropriate use of technology. In the pandemic when the realization of “Less is More” is dawning upon the world, this book, written way back in 1973, impels us to reflect deeply on the critical need for sustainability.
- Medium is the Message by Marshall McLuhan: Marshall McLuhan proposed in 1964 that a communication medium itself, not the messages it carries, should be the focus of study. Message signifies not only content but character as well. While content is easily grasped, the character part is overlooked. Understanding medium as a medium of communication in a broader sense, Mc Luhan highlighted the structural changes, social pace or patterns and social implications that the medium ushers in through the character of the message. The television and the films were there during the time the idea was first brought to the fore. But if we look at the new medium of internet, Facebook, Twitter or OTT that have emerged since then, we appreciate more the underlying subtle dimension of a medium in human affairs that the book envisioned.
- Blue Ocean Strategy, Expanded Edition: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne: This book published in 2004 by Chan Kim and Mauborgne, professors at INSEAD, asserted that companies need to unlock new demand and make the competition irrelevant. They presented analytical frameworks and tools to foster an organization’s ability to systematically create and capture” blue oceans”-unexplored new market areas. The book gave a new perspective on the way we need to look at competition and the ways to deal with it, shedding traditional comfort zones and exploring new ones. Today, faced with crippled economic activity and severe financial challenges, businesses, thankfully, are thinking afresh, foraying into unchartered business lines to survive and thrive.
- A World of Three Zeros: The New Economics of Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment, and Zero Net Carbon Emissions by Muhammad Yunus: Muhammad Yunus, who created microcredit, invented social business, and earned a Nobel Peace Prize for his work in alleviating poverty, declared it was time to admit the present economic model’s inherent infirmities–that in its current form it leads to rampant inequality, massive unemployment, and environmental destruction. He advocated for the need of a new economic system that unleashes altruism as a creative force just as powerful as self-interest. The book sketched the legal and regulatory changes needed to jumpstart the next wave of socially driven innovations, inviting young people, businesses and political leaders, and ordinary citizens to help create the better world we all dream of. It is interesting to note that the broad conception of a better world that we see post-pandemic, coincides closely with the idea the book propounds.
Francis Bacon, making a distinction among books, writes that “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested,” Rich in quality, value and insight, the four books merit reading slowly, thoughtfully, to be “digested” well.
Written by Ram Krishna Sinha. Have you read?
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