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Book review: The Upside of Turbulence

“Before I die, I hope someone will clarify quantum physics for me. After I die, I hope God will explain turbulence to me.” Albert Einstein

By Donald Sull . 07 February 2012

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Einstein might have been more confused today: turbulence, in all its manifestations, is on the rise.


Financial markets gyrate. Commodity prices zig and zag. New technologies disrupt long-standing businesses and entire industries. Scientific discoveries overturn historical truisms. Dirty bombs and pension busts, natural disasters and flu pandemics, add to the tumult. We live in a world beset by turbulence.


We often respond to turbulence by accelerating activities that worked in the past. We lapse into inertia when we should adapt with agility, and we cling to rigid dogmas when we should improvise. But throughout history, volatility has not only dethroned incumbent leaders, it has also created untold possibilities to create economic value. Turbulence has an upside, and companies that seize the opportunities arising out of seething markets will become tomorrow’s champions.


Based on more than a decade of research, The Upside of Turbulence draws lessons from companies that have consistently spotted and exploited opportunities that rivals have missed. The book explores realms ranging from improvisational comedy to the US Marine Corp’s combat doctrine. The result is a series of provocative insights that defy conventional wisdom. The book also introduces practical tools, which have been field-tested by executives around the world, to wrestle triumph out of turmoil.


The Upside of Turbulence: Seizing opportunity in an uncertain world by Donald Sull is published by Harper Business

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