Selbey Labs - Books of the Month (June 2023)

Selbey Labs - Books of the Month (June 2023)

Selbey LabsForesight & Innovation
Selbey Labs - Books of the Month (June 2023)

OMG – did someone say summer? If so, it’s time to start thinking about a reading list for the beach. And we can’t think of anything more appropriate than a book detailing the glamour of the French Riviera in its heyday, which is why we’ve included ‘Once Upon a Time World’ in our latest recommendations. Elsewhere, you might like to consider alternatives covering subjects such as linguistic philosophy, neurotechnology, freedom of thought, political turbulence, economic theory, psychology, imagination, and innovation. And if those don’t interest you, then you can always fall back on a long lunch or a game of beach volleyball. (Possibly the latter before the former).

‘Beyond Disruption: Innovate and Achieve Growth’ by W Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

In their new book, the authors of ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’ link two management obsessions: the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ and stakeholder capitalism. In particular, they focus on transforming attitudes towards innovation, particularly from the perspective of disruption. The dreaded D-word is everywhere in conversations about innovation theory and practice. But, the authors note, disruption is inherently destructive - displacing jobs, companies, and even entire industries. So they reveal another way to innovate and grow - nondisruptive creation, free from the destructive displacement that happens when innovators set out to disrupt...

‘The Invention of Tomorrow’ by Thomas Suddendorf

What is the most powerful human invention? According to the psychologist author(s) of this book, it isn’t agriculture, gunpowder or even language. It’s the idea that our astonishing capacity to imagining the future is key to our species ingenuity and culture. The authors argue that its emergence transformed humans from unremarkable primates to creatures that hold the destiny of the planet in their hands. Drawing on their own cutting-edge research, they break down the science of foresight, showing us where it comes from, how it works, and how it made our world. Journeying through biology, psychology, history, and culture, they show that thinking ahead is at the heart of human nature-even if we often get it terribly wrong. Incisive and expansive, the book offers a fresh perspective on the human tale that shows how our species clawed its way to control the future.

‘The Future starts Here’ by John Higgs

The Future hasn’t happened yet. The idea that our civilisation is doomed is not fact. It is a story we tell ourselves. But what if we’re wrong? At some point in the 1980s we gave up on the future. Before then, we imagined wonderful days to come, free from disease, work and want. When we look ahead now, we tell dystopian stories of environmental collapse, zombie plagues and the end of civilisation. If it is true that we have to imagine the future before we build it, then this is deeply worrying.  We are changing too. The postmodern world is evolving into a metamodern one. While the postmodern world view was detached, cynical and frequently pessimistic, the metamodern is naturally more optimistic. If we engage with the problems of the world, we can overcome them.  Hence, we can imagine a future worth building. 

‘The Human Mind: a brief tour of everything we know’ by Paul Bloom

Are you a human? Do you have a mind? (That’s a question my teachers often asked me.) Meanwhile, despite the hype around the idea that we’re living through a neuroscience revolution, the truth is that the subject is slow-moving. This book, therefore, is a sane corrective in an increasingly crazed world. Nothing is more familiar and yet less understood than the human mind. It defines the experience of being human, and yet its workings contain some of the deepest mysteries ever encountered. Written by one of the world's greatest teachers of psychology, this title provides a masterful and riveting guide to all that we have learned since modern science began probing those mysteries. It shines new light on everything that makes you you.

‘The Goal’ by Eliyahu Goldratt and Jeff Cox

To quote The Economist “this is a 40year old book with a topical message and is a management tome dressed up in the clothes of a thriller. Thus it’s a lot more readable than most business books, and makes you think about a subject that is relevant not only to supply-chain managers and operations managers but to bosses everywhere. Bottlenecks abound. They just need to be found”. In this intriguing business novel, which illustrates state-of-the-art economic theory, Alex Rogo is a UniCo plant manager whose factory and marriage are failing. Alex's attempts to find the path to profitability and to engage his employees in the struggle involve the reader; and thankfully the authors' economic models, including a game with matchsticks and bowls, are easy to understand. Recommended for anyone with an interest in the state of the American economy.

‘End Times’ by Peter Turchin

Why is the world gripped by revolutions and civil wars? This provocative book blames the elites – we just have too many of them now. What leads to political turbulence and social breakdown? How do elites maintain their dominant position? And why do ruling classes sometimes suddenly lose their grip on power? This book, based on a fairly staggering amount of research, a ground-breaking account of how society works. The lessons, the author proposes, are clear. When the balance of power between the ruling class and the majority tips too far in favour of elites, income inequality surges. The rich get richer, the poor further impoverished. As more people try to join the elite, frustration with the establishment brims over, often with disastrous consequences. Elite overproduction led to state breakdown in imperial China, in medieval France, in the American Civil War and it is happening now...

‘Freedom to Think: protecting a fundamental human right’ by Susie Alegre

From Galileo to Nudge Theory to Alexa, Alegre charts the enticing history of our most vital human right – the freedom of thought – and explores the serious challenges modern technology and big data impose on our quest to liberate our minds. Without a moment's pause, we share our most intimate thoughts with trillion-dollar tech companies. Their algorithms categorise us and jump to conclusions about who we are. They even shape our everyday thoughts and actions—from who we date to how we vote. But this is just the latest front in an age-old struggle. Part history and part manifesto, human rights lawyer Susie Alegre explores how the powerful have always sought to get inside our heads, influence how we think and shape what we buy. As the reviews say, we must protect this most fundamental element of our freedoms at a time when it is in danger of being impacted by propaganda, fake news and hate-fuelled social media.

‘The Battle for your Brain’ by Nita Farahany

Developments like employee brain monitoring are closer to reality than we think. Nita Farahany also argues that a new dawn of brain tracking and hacking is coming. Will you be prepared for what comes next? Imagine a world where your brain can be interrogated to learn your political beliefs, your thoughts can be used as evidence of a crime, and your own feelings can be held against you. Neuroscience has already made all of this possible today, and neurotechnology will soon become the “universal controller” for all of our interactions with technology. This can benefit humanity immensely, but without safeguards, it can seriously threaten our fundamental human rights to privacy, freedom of thought, and self-determination. This book offers a path forward to navigate the complex legal and ethical dilemmas that will fundamentally impact our freedom to understand, shape, and define ourselves.

‘A Terribly Serious Adventure: Philosophy at Oxford’ by Nikhil Krishnan 

This title tells the story of the heyday of linguistic philosophy at Oxford, when those including A.J. Ayer, Gilbert Ryle, Isiah Berlin and Bernard Williams achieved notoriety. What are the limits of language? How to bring philosophy closer to everyday life? What is a good human being? These were among the questions that philosophers wrestled with in mid-twentieth-century Britain, a period shadowed by war and the rise of fascism. In response to these events, thinkers such as Gilbert Ryle, J. L. Austin, Elizabeth Anscombe and Iris Murdoch aspired to a new level of watchfulness and self-awareness about language. Being vigilant about their words was their way to keep philosophy true to everyday experience. Far from being stuck in a world of tweed, pipes and public schools, the Oxford philosophers drew on their wartime lives in creating their greatest works, works that are original in both thought and style, true masterpieces of British modernism. Together, they stood for a compelling moral vision of philosophy that is still with us today.

‘Once upon a Time World’ by Jonathan Miles

An ideal title to consider for the beach, this book illuminates the glitz and glamour of the French Riviera, and is perfect in its mix of rich, name-droppingly famous and talented people having fun in the sun. For nearly two centuries of creativity, luxury, excess, scandal, war and corruption, the dark and sparkling world of the Riviera was a temptation for everybody who was anybody. Often frivolous, it was also a potent cultural matrix that inspired the likes of Picasso, Matisse, Coco Chanel, Scott Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, James Baldwin, Catherine Mansfield, the Rolling Stones, Sartre and Stravinsky. This book presents a remarkable story of the small strip of French coast that lured the world to its shores.

Selbey Labs
Selbey Labs
Foresight & Innovation

Selbey Labs, part of the Selbey Anderson Group, is a foresight and innovation practice focused on helping brands see and respond to opportunities and threats.

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