The Advancing Leadership Blog

December 2014 #Shelfie

IMG_0001_blogTORONTO TEC Chair BOB WESTROPE is our next contributor to the #shelfie series and shares reading recommendations from his bookshelf that inspire him as a business leader and mentor. Share your own #shelfie with us on Twitter @TECCanada


The Singularity is Near, by Ray Kurzweil

Every now and then, a book is authored that is seminal, a must read – this is one of them.  The central thesis of the book is that within the next 20-30 years the evolution of technology will be such that machine intelligence will overtake that of man enabling humanity to transcend to an epoch of abundance and immortality – the ’Singularity’.  This ‘science-fiction’ scenario could easily be dismissed were it not for Kurzweil’s bona fides. He is a very successful inventor/entrepreneur cum futurist, who now effectively heads strategic development for Google.  The meat of his thesis is to be found in his ‘Law of Accelerating Returns’, the premise that technological capability/capacity doubles while simultaneously halving in cost – with profound, transformational consequences. And he has the historical data to prove it.  Forget the Singularity, if Kurzweil is even 10% right about the impact of his ‘law’, then your business and our society is about to be utterly, profoundly transformed at a pace that is today not comprehensible.

Sensemaking in Organizations, by Karl E. Weick

This nearly impenetrable book is none-the-less worth the effort.  The professor/author defines sensemaking as a discipline that prepares us to better understand ourselves and our interactions with others while illuminating pathways of the possible that allow us to navigate through profound disruption.  It is the derivative of a school of thought that has evolved in North American and European universities over the last 50 years, and is currently practiced by such as New York’s ReD Associates (see below), Humantific and IDEO.  Weick makes the case that this is a powerful toolset precisely because it is NOT prescriptive.  It is not a one-size-fits-all doctrine that always provides a ‘red’ or ‘blue’ answer for a rainbow of scenarios, but rather is a way for you/me/we to author and target a thoughtful outcome based on a deliberative, action-oriented thought process that is agnostic and secular. Great gist for an Issue Processing session!

A Moment of Clarity, by Christian Madsbjerg and Mikkel Rasmussen

The co-founders of ReD Associates add to the conversation started by Weick (and others) noted above, by observing that sensemaking is an existential exercise that is by definition creative.  That to access and engage the touchpoints encountered through a sensemaking process we need to learn to trust our senses, our experiences, our instincts – ourselves.  That there is no right or wrong answer, because the context for that answer is forever changing.   And that the exemplars for enlightened discovery and exploration are NOT to be found in income statements, sales projections, focus groups or case studies, but rather in cultivating an understanding of the ‘humanity’ of ‘our’ context – our customers, shareholders, selves, family, employees, bosses, communities and societies.  It is the human sciences that should inspire and direct the engines of economic growth.  Controversial, thought provoking, fun.

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