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Posted Oct. 15, 2010 4:12 a.m. by 800-ceo-read
What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly, Viking Books, 416 pages, $27.95, Hardcover, October 2010, ISBN 9780670022151
Business changes. We don’t do business today in the same way we did it at the turn of the century—either 1900 or 2000. And though it’s not specifically about business, the inevitability of change is why you should pick up Kevin Kelly’s latest book, What Technology Wants.
Kevin Kelly has written big idea books before, most notably Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, & the Economic World, which we chose for The 100 Best Business Books of All Time. And like Out of Control, What Technology Wants is vast in scope. It attempts to break down old ways of thinking by clarifying a large, hard-to-grasp-in-its-entirety issue—technology.
This isn’t the first book this year to try to tackle the subject holistically. In Linchpin, Seth Godin challenged us to redefine work, to give up the industrial era mindset that new technologies have made obsolete. The Shallows by Nicholas Carr and Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus both looked at the way technology affects the very way we think. But Kelly takes it a step further, defining technology as part of our thought process, as a natural extension of evolution and a natural, living system. In fact, technology is not a sufficient word for what Kelly is trying to grasp, so he’s coined a new word—the technium.
For the rest of this book I will use the term technium where others might use technology as a plural, and to mean a whole system (as in “technology accelerates”). I reserve the term technology to mean a specific technology, such as radar or plastic polymers. For example, I would say: “The technium accelerates the invention of technologies.” In other words, technologies can be patented, while the technium includes the patent system itself.
He then traces the technium back to our hunter-gatherer past to document how it evolved to its current state.
The technium gains immense power not only from its scale but from its self-amplifying nature. One breakthrough invention, such as the alphabet, the steam-pump, or electricity, can lead to further breakthrough inventions, such as books, coal mines, and telephones. These advances in turn lead to other breakthrough inventions, such as libraries, power generators, and the internet.
The technium is “human extended,” something we’ve been building and evolving since we have been building and evolving. It is the “extended body for ideas.” And to be in business today, to truly innovate, it is important to have a grasp on that “extended body for ideas”—to know that the answer to your business’s troubles isn’t to get on Twitter, but to understand the changing environment that bred it. You won’t find any immediately applicable business solutions in What Technology Wants, but you will find something that could much more important to your business—a new way of looking at the world.
An Embarrassment of Riches
Posted Oct. 6, 2010 4:38 a.m. by jack
In - 800 CEO Read Blog
In 1997, Sebastian Junger wrote a great book called The Perfect Storm. The phrase, “a perfect storm” is used when multiple things come together to create an extraordinary experience.
I didn't want to like Freedom, due to the hype, but it is totally worthy of all the praise it has been getting. I don’t read a lot of contemporary fiction, but this is a brilliant story told brilliantly.
In the biography genre, I am reading Ron Chernow’s fantastic Washington, A Life. I have been a fan of Chernow for years, and in fact, his classic Titan about John D. Rockefeller was included in The 100 Best Business Books of All Time.
In the business genre, I am reading Steven Johnson’s fascinating book about innovation called Where Good Ideas Come From. Johnson is one of the best writers of “big idea” books, books that look at a common subject and use unpredictable stories combining history and science and the like to illuminate the subject a different way. In the process, we as readers, learn to look at business more holistically...and enjoyably.
In the many years I have been in the book business, I can’t remember a time when I so looked forward to sitting and reading books from multiple genres at the same time. These three books have ignited a passion for reading that I haven’t felt in a long time.
For all the talk of the decline of publishing, this embarrassment of riches reminds me that there is plenty of life left in the industry.
Posted Sept. 24, 2010 11:04 a.m. by dylan
In - 800 CEO Read Blog
➻ The new edition of the Penguin Business Beat has been released. This month's episode focuses on performing under pressure and includes Paul Sullivan, author of Clutch: Why Some People Excel Under Pressure and Others Don't, and CNBC host Maria Bartiromo, who recently released of The Weekend That Changed Wall Street. As always, Jack took a look inside one of The 100 Best Business Books of All Time, going with Never Give In!: The Best of Winston Churchill's Speeches for this occasion.
The Business Beat also shares views from inside the publishing house, with Portfolio publisher Adrian Zackheim giving some book suggestions on performing (or not) under pressure, including Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. And this episode introduces a new segment, "Books at Work." This month, Viking publicist Gabrielle Gantz discusses Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark.
➻ Todd Sattersten, our former president and co-author of The 100 Best Business Books of All Time has published "a 150-page custom book entitled Everything I Know About Business Books" in preparation for this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair. Todd was kind enough to share a free sample of the book with Ed Nawotka and Publishing Perspectives.
➻ Callie Oettinger recently interviewed Michael Bungay Stanier at Steven Pressfiled Online. He discussed his book, Do More Great Work, published earlier this year, and the big ideas contained therein.
➻ Bob Sutton's Good Boss, Bad Boss is now available, but he has accepted the fact that no matter what else he writes, he is and will forever be "The Asshole Guy." He tells us why in On Being The Asshole Guy: [The] New Chapter in The No Asshole Rule:
Regardless of anything I ever wrote or said about management, or ever will, I am condemned to be that guy for the rest of my life. This book was first published in North America in February 2007. The No Asshole Rule has sold over 125,000 copies in the English language, plus over 350,000 copies translated into other languages (especially Italian, German, and French). I have given hundreds of media interviews and received thousands of emails filled with stories, studies, questions, compliments, and insults from readers—or from people who haven’t read a page but instantly love or despise the book based on the title alone.
The No Asshole Rule was just released in paperback for all you out there yet to read it.
➻ Oronte Churm (a.k.a John Griswold, author of The Democracy of Ghosts) wrote recently about how the greatest service we can provide a writer we're critiquing is Squinting at the Stories, and then he digressed into something altogether different and wonderful concerning poverty.
➻ And speaking of poverty, Julien Smith—co-author with Chris Brogan of Trust Agents—blew my mind last week when he pondered a big question, Where the Poor Go. It's a post about gentrification, condos, Facebook getting into location based social software, European immigration to America, angel investors, and the "force exerts its influence wherever you are on the chain." All in 401 words.
➻ Banned Books Week begins tomorrow, which leads us to the obvious question: Which book would you like to see banned? I'm going with The Boz by Brian Bozworth and the menu of the International House of Pancakes.
➻ "It's taken years to make a beautiful shroud." —Nathaniel Rateliff
Jack Covert Selects - Still Surprised
Posted Sept. 9, 2010 10:24 a.m. by dylan
Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership by Warren Bennis with Patricia Ward Biederman, Jossey-Bass, 272 Pages, $27.95 Hardcover, August 2010, ISBN 9780470432389
When you look at the greatest business thinkers from the second half of the last century, Warren Bennis would have to be in the conversation. When you focus on the field of leadership, he would have to be on the top of that list. In the past fifty-plus years, Bennis has written some of the seminal books on leadership. We included On Becoming a Leader in The 100 Best Business Books of All Time because, as we said in the book, “Bennis treats leadership with a certain gravitas that is perspective changing.”
Now, after writing twenty-seven books on business thought, he tells us his leadership story. It begins when, as a 19-year-old second lieutenant, he commanded a platoon during the final days of the Second World War in Europe and was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. It was his first real lesson in leadership:
I had been changed and enriched by the advance course in leadership the war had thrust on me. It is no accident that the war produced so many authentic leaders in the second half of the 20th century. Nobody who has to make choices that result in the deaths of others takes leadership lightly.
He then used the G.I. Bill to go to college at Antioch, a small “free-thinking institution that championed both learning and social justice” in Ohio where he met Douglas McGregor, who would become his early mentor. He went on to do his graduate work at MIT. These two experiences in higher education would transform his life:
One of the first and most critical things those two institutions did for me was radically alter my definition of work. … Work—paid work at that—could be the activity of an engaged mind or a group of minds collaborating to solve a worthy problem.
So inspired, he has spent the rest of his life in higher learning. As he recounts his journey, we meet an incredible group of people—like Nobel Prize winner Paul Samuelsson, counter-culture guru Werner Erhard and writer Norman Mailer. We also find out how Bennis developed his beliefs surrounding team-focused leadership instead of the hierarchical leadership model. All of this along with the tale of a life well lived. There are no new theories here, just great stories. But, like all of Warren Bennis’s books, it finds the heart of leadership.
Listen to The 100 Best Business Books of All Time
Posted July 7, 2010 3:41 a.m. by jon
In - 800 CEO Read Blog
Jack Covert and Todd Sattersten's book, The 100 Best Business Books of All Time: What They Say, Why They Matter, And How They Can Help You was published by Portfolio last year. Since then, it's been translated in nine different languages.
Now, it's available as an audio book (in English) through Audible.com. For this version, Jack and Todd spent eight hours reading the book from cover to cover, and it's just as fascinating to listen to as it is to read (maybe more!). Check out the audio sample and more about the version here.