Finally, 2021 has arrived, and with it the promise of a new year, a return to “normal,” and if we are honest with ourselves, especially after some reflection, more new perspectives on old thinking. Pre-pandemic, of course, doing the same thing tomorrow as we did yesterday was simple, but inertia becomes a choice in itself, and through the adversity of the last 10 or so months, we now have the chance to see and implement a few innovative and positive strategies for ourselves, our companies, and our communities. Best of all, many are outlined in a few good business books.
First, start with you and treat yourself to a new take on an old problem and read New York Times contributor Kate Murphy’s recent book You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters, in which she examines how our constant focus on “listening” to everything online, all the time, often means we don’t hear anything at all, much less one another, leaving so many of us lonelier, more isolated and less tolerant. Her simple, easy-to-remember-and-follow tips on listening at work and at home are thoughtful and entertaining, and the subtitled chapter “Why People Would Rather Talk to Their Dog” will stay with you for a while.
Next, for some professional development, spend time with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his new book, Invent & Wander, a collection of writings that include shareholder letters, a commencement speech, and his interesting take on strategy, execution, climate change, and the challenge and necessity of space exploration. Bezos is a true visionary and the story of how he created the juggernaut of Amazon Web Services from what otherwise was a draining cost center is the stuff of business legend. (If you bought Amazon at $6 during the dotcom bust and held onto it until now, you are a visionary too.) The book left me wanting to learn more about what’s next for this mercurial entrepreneur, especially given his focus on Career Choice, an expansive employee tuition-reimbursement program for lifelong learning, and his perspectives on innovation and the future of work.
For more on the topic and its implications for our communities, you’ll need to read Long Life Learning, by writer and workforce strategist Michelle Weise, which examines current education policy and business trends while asking the searching question: Is a four-year college education enough to sustain a 100-year career? Short answer: No. Weise is a knowledgeable, thorough and skilled writer on the issues and if you are looking for that one book on community workforce challenges and creative solutions, this one is well worth your time. So, too, is The Deficit Myth, the provocative, engaging, and thoroughly readable new book on modern monetary theory, economic policy, and job creation by SUNY economics professor Stephanie Kelton, who does a masterful job of challenging conventional wisdom with new facts, trends and data. You may not end up agreeing with her, but Kelton most certainly will make you think.
This new year, like the last, will bring plenty of challenges — and more time for contemplation, at least until we all can line up for a vaccination. Let’s use that time to develop a more informed, fresh and positive perspective that comes from reading a few worthwhile new books.
Authors & Innovators is an occasional column by Larry Gennari, a transactional lawyer, law professor, and chief curator of Authors & Innovators, an annual business book and ideas festival. Gennari also teaches Project Entrepreneur, a business fundamentals bootcamp for returning citizens, at BC Law School.