Think at London Business School
Thursday 24 November 2022
As Britain heads into a long winter of discontent, with households squeezed and recession looming, what can business expect?
By Andrew Scott, Seb Murray
Had a long day? Here are eight good reads to help you recharge... and three great viewing suggestions.
Ageless: The New Science of Getting Older Without Getting Old by Andrew Steele
Fake History: Ten Great Lies and How They Shaped the World by Otto English
Recommended by: Costas Markides, Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship
Is it inevitable that as we get older, our bodies and minds will start to deteriorate? This is something biologists have been investigating for years. In Ageless, Andrew Steele explores cutting-edge research into every aspect of how we age – DNA, stem cells, our immune systems – and offers practical advice on how to live longer! It is very well-researched, and what could be more uplifting in these dark Covid days? And for those interested in how history is or can be manipulated, I recommend Fake History by Otto English. It will make you challenge everything you thought you knew!
Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe
Recommended by: Herminia Ibarra, Professor of Organisational Behaviour
Empire of Pain is many stories within a story. One one level, it’s a story about greed and incentive gone amuck leading managers to do anything to sell more oxycontin. It’s also a family saga in which the patriarch created the playbook for promoting dangerous drugs – in the early days, Valium – with impunity. And very importantly, it is also a story about failed government oversight and accountability a story that repeats itself again and again, with tobacco, with guns, now we’re seeing oil companies being called to account over what and when they knew about their industry’s impact on climate change. Ultimately therefore it is a story about something vital that we have to get right.
The Ends Game: How Smart Companies Stop Selling Products and Start Delivering Value by Marco Bertini and Oded Koenigsberg
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
Recommended by: Dafna Goor, Assistant Professor of Marketing
A great book for readers who are looking for marketing education, The Ends Game – by LBS professor Oded Koenigsberg and his co-author Marco Bertini – explains how companies can do well by selling the "ends" (the actual value or outcomes) rather than the "means" (products). The book provides interesting examples of actual companies and their revenue models. And these holidays I plan to read Ishiguro's Klara and the Sun, which examines concepts of loneliness and love in a futuristic AI and gene-editing era.
Recommended by: Aharon Cohen Mohliver, Assistant Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship
I just alternately read/listened to Kate Fox’s updated edition of Watching the English, and found it very informative and amusing. After reading this book I finally understood the microcosm of the English pub (and how I have been breaking nearly all of the local cultural taboos). Anthropology at its best gives you the insights to understand and tools to adapt to local cultures. This one comes in a fun and lighthearted package, with all the right science tools used the right way. In my area (strategy and entrepreneurship) we call this “relevant and rigorous”. When it comes to this book, I would add: “refreshingly fun”.
Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive By Giving More Than They Take by Paul Polman and Andrew Winston
Recommended by: Julian Birkinshaw, Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship
There are many books out there today talking about the need to build sustainable businesses. This one is different because its written by someone who has actually done it. Unilever, under Polman’s leadership, became the most admired large firm in terms of actually delivering on sustainable development goals. It is an inspiring read, because it reminds us that, whatever institutional and bureaucratic obstacles exist, fundamental change is possible!
Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
Recommended by: Selin Kesebir, Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour
Of all the books I read this year, this touched me the most. Based on extensive interviews, the author tells the stories of several North Koreans, who all manage to escape from the country. The stories are very human and the book has the resonance of a good novel. But they also depict North Korea as a true dystopia with depths of political brainwashing and material deprivation I never had imagined was possible. Reading about them made me realise how much I am beholden for my dignity to social systems that supply food, electricity, medicine, freedom – things that these North Koreans could not take for granted. Despite the harrowing nature of some of the contents, the book itself is a page-turner. If you would like to get informed about an enigmatic country, contemplate how differently your life would have played out had you been born elsewhere in this world, please consider this book.
Recommended by: Gary Dushnitsky, Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship
You might have not heard the name Ray Kroc, but I am confident you have heard of the business empire he built: McDonald's. This is an appealing drama that tells the story of a travelling salesman who spotted an opportunity and diligently pursued it to build the global fast-food restaurant chain we all know today. On one level, it makes for a pleasant lazy afternoon watch, probably with a side of fries. On another level, it will get all aspiring entrepreneurs to view in a new light the importance of the initial idea, what makes someone ‘a founder’, and what co-founder team dynamics look like more often than not.
Recommended by: Simona Botti, Professor of Marketing
I found this animation series by Zerocalcare really interesting to watch. It tells the story of a cartoonist in Rome, reflecting on the path he has taken in life with the help of an imaginary armadillo who acts as his conscience. As he and his friends travel outside the city, he thinks back on various formative memories, from being a teacher’s pet to counselling a teenage girlfriend; from the perils of tutoring children to his early struggles looking for work. Funny and moving and a refreshing change.
This is a vivid retelling of the years of the so-called Disney Renaissance, when Disney Animation went from being considered a dying branch to become once more Disney's artistic and moneymaking excellence. It is a story of creativity, endurance, and teamwork that proves how a company can turn its culture inside out and regain the magic that seemed lost.
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