These consequences range from language, religion and technology to economic bubbles, bankers bonuses and the collapse of Sumer, Mayan and Easter Island civilisations.
:: Book title & groupthink
:: Change & challenge
:: Business relevance & the author
:: Will you like it?
BOOK TITLE & GROUPTHINK
The title - "The Blindfolded Masochist" - refers to our collective blindness to the damage each network - religious, political, economic, national, niche or indeed the human race - can do to its own interests. This can be in the area of banking culture, atrophying product platforms, climate change or any of the issues of the day.
"Groupthink" is introduced in chapter 4 as blind adherence to a network’s accepted wisdoms, which can range from the benign to issues that are critical to the network’s survival. The book suggests that maybe some choices don’t need to be binary - beyond either/or, there are more choices if the right questions are asked.
Bias plays a key role in the group blindness that the author analyses. For those who lack self-doubt, maybe time in the BM clinic to de-bias could reduce the risk of obsolescence…
CHANGE & CHALLENGE
The BM celebrates stunning achievements in science and technology, and heralds the current era as the greatest period of man-made change the world has ever known. It also rings a warning bell about the potential for decline and disaster.
Change - for better or for worse - will arrive with greater speed and with greater personal impact than at any time in our lifetimes. The question is - are you paying attention and do you understand the impact of your network’s perceived wisdom on your world? If so, should you challenge it?
BUSINESS RELEVANCE & THE AUTHOR
The book will be very interesting for anyone that is curious about where the world is going and the pitfalls and opportunities along the way.
Groupthink is a part of business decision-making and it’s difficult to see the weaknesses in our own business models. Asking more tough questions could help our survival.
Michael Baxter asks a lot of questions. He has been an entrepreneur and investor. He founded a PR business that was number 1 in its sector and was a founder shareholder in a company that floated on NASDAQ. He lost a lot of money in the dot com crash and is still – relatively – optimistic about the world. He is certainly wiser and shares his ideas in a daily blog for the Share Centre http://blog.share.com/author/michael-baxter and his own weekly blog http://www.investmentandbusinessnews.co.uk/ .
"The Blindfolded Masochist: Creation Versus Destruction: The Power of Economic Networks"
Part I - Theories
Part II - Human Tendencies
Past III - Human Networks
Part IV - Human Society
The book cites the power of cross-fertilisation in the development of world-changing ideas and is entertaining in the way it slaloms between these and other disciplines in order to draw its conclusions:
:: Society & Psychology - the madness of crowds; network theory and game theory; confirmation, hindsight and recency bias; induction; altruism, cooperation and egalitarianism; endowment effect; resistance to change; language (words, metaphors and stories); music (Beethoven to Beatles); Conformity, Education; Religion – unity, rules, punishment.
:: Economics & Finance - Adam Smith, Keynes and Hayek; efficient markets and trickle-down economics; rent seeking to bubbles; creative destruction; IMF, central bankers and quantitative easing; inflation and interest rates; market myths - property and equities; rich-poor divide; tyranny of the Baby Boomers.
:: Enterprise & Technology – risk-taking, luck and failure; innovation and patents; the internet, renewable energy and disruptive technologies.
:: Science & the Natural World – ants, bats, turkeys and sardines; water molecules and slime mould; evolution and emergence; the human brain and dinosaurs; Darwin, Newton and Craig Venter.
:: History – ancient Athens, the Crusades, the Industrial Revolution, golden age of innovation (1867 – 1914), the Great Depression, world wars, post war growth, Cuban missile crisis, Thatcherism / Reaganomics, dot com crash and 2008 credit crisis.
:: Cited sources – Richard Dawkins, Jared Diamond, Peter Drucker, Francis Fukuyama, JK Galbraith, Alan Greenspan, Stephen Hawking, Will Hutton, Daniel Kahneman, James Lovelock, Vaclav Smil, Nicolas Taleb and scores of others.
WILL YOU LIKE IT?
The book is a wake-up call about how to manage the future – through education, individualism, innovation and by tackling our own biases. It could help you and your network(s) to survive!
It has an accessible writing style that synthesizes the patterns of history and complex issues, making these relevant for the challenges that we face now and in the near future.
The book would benefit from a comprehensive index of contents at the back and I found its title a bit off-putting. Perhaps - paraphrasing part of the conclusion - something like "Managing the Future - Innovation, Change and Groupthink" would have captured the content more accurately. However, these small quibbles didn't affect my enjoyment of the eclectic, dazzling content and ideas inside it. Surprisingly, it's also a short and portable book at 160 pages long.
I read the book twice and bought 5 extra copies to give to other people. If you’d like a copy, you can buy one for about £9 at http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Blindfolded-Masochist-Creation-Destruction/dp/1906316953
Review by Ronan Bryan.
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