Just in time for your holiday shopping, the Highlands Forum 2008 Reading List features thirty books (mostly nonfiction, but including four works of fiction this year), covering biography, management, economics, history, information technology, techno thrillers, science fiction, comparative politics and sociology, contemporary conflict studies, and current events. Among these, we have six books recommended by guest reviewers. Our panel of guest editors this year includes Henry Crumpton, Peter Schwartz, Michael Nelson, Carol Dumaine, Nat Irvin II, and Elizabeth Churchill.
The 2008 Highlands Forum Reading List, as always, consists of several categories. Most titles are new; some are classics worth discovering for the first time. They have been selected both for their topics and for their capacity to broaden our understanding of emerging issues and inform the way we think about things. We began compiling an annual list in 2000, and it is a continuing work - additional titles are added during the year and compiled at the end of each year in a larger list. peruse our reading lists.
Ambassador Henry A. "Hank" Crumpton is the President of the Crumpton Group (CG), providing advisory services for companies investing in international markets. With the rank of Ambassador-at-Large, he was the Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the U.S. Department of State from August 2005 until February 2007. Working directly for the Secretary of State, he developed, coordinated, and implemented U.S. counterterrorism policy. Ambassador Crumpton joined the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1981 as a Clandestine Service operations officer. For most of his 24-year career he operated in the foreign field, including assignments as Chief of Station. In Washington, he served at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as Deputy Chief of the International Terrorism Operations Section, 1998-1999. He was Deputy Chief (Operations) of CIA's Counterterrorism Center, 1999-2001. He led CIA's Afghanistan campaign, 2001-2002. Some of his achievements have been portrayed in the best-selling books Bush at War, American Soldier, First In, Jawbreaker, and At the Center of the Storm. He was Chief of the CIA's National Resources Division, 2003-2005. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and an honorary member of the OSS Society. Ambassador Crumpton is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the CIA's highest award for achievement. Hank recommends A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, by Daniel Pink, and tells us:
"Daniel Pink describes how America encourages and rewards left-brain thinkers (LBT), but he believes that the rapidly shifting nature of our society will demand more right-brain thinkers (RBT). He asserts that we are moving from an Information Age to a Conceptual Age. RBTs are the creative, nonlinear, contextual, empathetic, intuitive, simultaneous, metaphorical, aesthetic, holistic people who are often 'shortchanged by organizations and neglected in schools'. LBTs are the opposite. They prefer categories, details, and singular solutions. They thrive in big organizations that demand sequential, literal analysis and computer-like reasoning. They score high on the SAT and other tests of exactitude.
Pink offers self-improvement guidance for individuals but does not explore how RBTs, or more appropriately, 'whole new mind' thinkers, can help in the national security arena. Yet, we should. Witness the success of empathetic American warrior leaders who build networked relationships with indigenous forces in counter-insurgency conflicts. This is in contrast to conventional military officers, steeped in decades of linear doctrine. Or, FBI agents drilled to focus on the facts admissible in court. Or, diplomats rewarded only within the parameters of Washington-dictated policy and protocol. We need more national security professionals, at all levels, employing broader vision and deeper sensitivity, asserting greater creative leadership in a global society increasingly operating in networks, not hierarchies. We need warriors, spies, and diplomats pondering principles more than doctrine, blending hard power with soft power, and seizing unstructured opportunities rather than adhering to conventional process. Pink tickles our right brain, but how will we and our predominantly left-brain national security culture respond?"
Peter Schwartz is cofounder and chairman of the Global Business Network (GBN), a Monitor Group company, and a partner of the Monitor Group, a family of professional services firms devoted to enhancing client competitiveness. An internationally renowned futurist and business strategist, Peter specializes in scenario planning, working with corporations, governments, and institutions to create alternative perspectives of the future and develop robust strategies for a changing and uncertain world. His current research and scenario work encompasses energy resources and the environment, technology, telecommunications, media and entertainment, aerospace, and national security. Peter is also a venture partner of San Francisco-based Alta Partners, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a member of the board of trustees of the Santa Fe Institute, the Long Now Foundation, and the World Affairs Council. From 1982 to 1986, Peter headed scenario planning for the Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Companies in London. Peter is the author of The Art of the Long View, considered a seminal publication on scenario planning and translated into multiple languages. He is also the co-author of The Long Boom, Inevitable Surprises, When Good Companies Do Bad Things, and China's Futures. He publishes and lectures widely and served as a script consultant on the films The Minority Report, Deep Impact, Sneakers, and War Games. We recently were visiting Peter in San Francisco when he told us that we absolutely needed to read a new book, self-published, titled Daemon by Leinad Zeraus (a.k.a. Daniel Suarez). Peter says:
"It is rare to encounter a techno-thriller that truly breaks new ground, but Daemon does. It presents a scenario rooted in the present for a new network phenomenon that we humans would experience like an artificial intelligence. In fact it is simply an assemblage of interacting software bots programmed and set in motion by a deceased game designer in the form of massive online games. Bots are those bits of software you interact with when you order a prescription on the telephone. They are bits of software designed to carry out a particular task when you interact with it, e.g., change the conversation to Spanish. In Daemon these bots have been taught to kill and to interact in such a way that they are defeating the humans at every turn, gradually taking over the world. What makes the scenario scary is that no new theory of cognition or sense of how the brain works is needed to get this outcome, just a very clever programmer with evil motives. It is the most original future scenario I have seen in a long time.
Note: the book was self-published because publishers thought the book was too geeky, but Daniel refused to dumb it down and he was right. There are only a few copies left on Amazon, but after it became an underground sensation in the tech community, a mainstream publisher and a film studio picked it up. Now a mainstream version will come to market in January."
We agree with Peter. This is a wonderful addition to our previously recommended Halting State by Charlie Stross (see below). While most books on our list are works of nonfiction, we highly recommend this work of fiction (or is it?).
Elizabeth Churchill is a research scientist working on the design and use of communication technologies and social software. She currently works as a social computing researcher at Yahoo! Research. A psychologist by training, for the past 15 years she has drawn on diverse areas to consider how to design effective communication situations â€“ both face to face and technologically mediated. She has studied and written about mobility and mobile work, distributed collaboration, interaction in graphical and textual virtual spaces, and the augmentation of public spaces with digital artifacts. Influences on her work include psychology, sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, architecture, and film studies. Applications developed and/or evaluated include cell phone interfaces, textual and 3D graphical environments, interactive digital poster boards and animated interface personas. Until recently she worked at PARC, the Palo Alto Research Center in Palo Alto, California. Before that she was the project lead of the Social Computing Group at FX Palo Laboratory, Fuji Xerox's research lab in Palo Alto. Her education was in Experimental Psychology and Intelligent Knowledge Based Systems and her Ph.D. research was in Cognitive Science at the University of Cambridge and was carried out at the Applied Psychology Unit and the Xerox Research Centre in Cambridge (formerly EuroPARC). This research was concerned with designing, developing and evaluating computational models of user-device interaction. Elizabeth recommends The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution by Deborah E. Harkness. She says:
"Ronald Hutton sums it up pretty well: 'without her little people (the people who supported the work of scientists and made discoveries possible), the giants of early modern science could never have accomplished what they did, and yet it is the discoveries of those giants that marked the truly heroic strides towards modernity.' Personally I like a rethinking of histories, so it is not surprising that this is one of my favorites, along with The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson. This text also really shows how the day-to-day explorations in vernacular science were part and parcel of the 'scientific' revolution â€“ she accepts that our historical records highlight key figures that were of course important, but she also shows that, without the network of vernacular practices and interested 'everyday' folk, the 'revolution' would not have existed.
I think there are some lessons and parallels to today's world of networked citizen journalism, open source developer communities, and DIY/craft/hacker sites â€“ so many unsung heroes/heroines are quietly going about the daily business of making the social life of the Internet and providing the building blocks for the socio-communicational revolution of the near and long term. This nicely written text shows us some ways to think about what is going on now, just as it shines a light on what was happening then."
Nat Irvin II is the Strickler Executive-in-Residence and professor of management at the College of Business, University of Louisville. His groundbreaking demographic research has created new paradigms for the future of African Americans in business and has made traditional stereotypes of black consumers obsolete. Among the profiles of emerging archetypes he has identified are "thrivals", a new breed of forward-thinking, globally tuned African Americans who bring a "no-limits" approach to doing business. Advertisers and other media use Irvin's findings to identify new demographic groups and target them with customized messages and opportunities. At the College of Business, Irvin teaches change management, leadership, and future studies. In 1996, he founded Future Focus 2020, a nonprofit think tank dedicated to examining the impact of upcoming, permanent changes in business, social, and economic cultures. The organization continues to bring futurist thinking to urban America and minority communities. He also is a frequent guest commentator on news and issues programming, including National Public Radio broadcasts. Prior to joining the College of Business in 2007, he was assistant dean for MBA student development and executive professor of future studies at the Babcock Graduate School of Management at Wake Forest University. Nat has recommended The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Nat tells us:
"I chose this book because of the times in which we live. Day in and day out, a mixture of electronic and print media pundits would have one believe that given the current financial crisis we are facing â€“ some calling it the financial Armageddon â€“ one could easily fall into a state of despair about the future and our ability to survive in what may come. McCarthy's The Road proves otherwise. McCarthy creates a post-apocalyptic world in which a father and son three years hence are living, where not only has the financial system as we have known it collapsed, but a Jared Diamond Collapse environment also has emerged â€“ a world where the few people who are left are reduced to searching for something to eat by day and to trying to stay hidden at night from those who would kill them. In this dreary, gray-skied novel of man against man, man against himself, man against his memories, and man against his sense of the future, the novel treads on the human desire to live on the ethers of hope.
Yes, hope springs eternal and it is something that is imprinted within our genes and transmitted through our memes. And what makes this story so remarkable is that it illustrates the depths to which we will go to maintain our optimism for the future. Even in the worst of times, hope springs eternal and it springs from within our very soul! Something dramatic has happened to the world as we know it and now a father and son are in a desperate struggle to survive in this world where everything once taken for granted no longer is. Through a series of the most simple, unflinching and unrelenting vignettes between a father and young son, we are forced to reconsider over and over again our most basic human instincts, sometimes discovering ourselves lunging between our utter barbarity and the mysterious desire to offer kindness to a stranger who might do us harm.
But this story is personal. It is a compelling journey of small intimate conversations forcing the reader to choose. You cannot read the book without looking deep inside wondering what it is that makes us human. Who are we? What sustains our identity? And even when everything today leads one to believe that tomorrow will be worse than today, why do we persist in our hope and optimism? The Road offers so many intimate peeks into the human soul that many readers may be surprised at what they discover about themselves."
Carol Dumaine serves as the head of a newly created directorate, the Energy and Environmental Security Directorate, in the Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence at the U.S. Department of Energy. Prior to this, she served as director of the CIA's Global Futures Partnership, a strategic "think-and-do tank" that undertakes unclassified global outreach on strategic issues facing the intelligence community today and in coming years. She was a 2007 Service-to-America National Security Medal Finalist for spearheading the Global Futures Forum initiative, a multinational network linking representatives of intelligence services with leading thinkers from academia, business, strategy, and other nongovernment sectors in communities of practice focused on transnational security issues. Prior to this, Ms. Dumaine served as an analyst and manager in the CIA's Directorate of Intelligence since the early 1980s. She has lived in Austria, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Russia, and Taiwan, and has degrees from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service and Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies. Carol recommends The Medici Effect: What Elephants and Epidemics Can Teach Us About Innovation by Frans Johansson. Carol says:
"How did termite mounds inspire the design of a naturally air-conditioned commercial/retail office complex which uses less than ten percent of the energy consumed by other buildings of its size? How would inserting a spider's silk-producing gene into a herd of milk-producing goats enable a material five times stronger than steel? How could electrodes implanted on a monkey's brain demonstrate the ability to move objects, such as prosthetic limbs, by thoughts alone? What these examples have in common is what author Frans Johansson calls the 'Medici Effect', the remarkable potential for creativity and multiple groundbreaking ideas that comes from stepping into an intersection of fields, disciplines, and cultures. The phrase 'Medici Effect' recalls 15th century Italy's wealthy Medici family, whose patronage of a wide variety of artists created an explosion of new ideas known as the Renaissance. Johansson distinguishes such 'intersectional ideas' â€“ which leap forward into entirely new possibilities â€“ from 'directional ideas' that evolve along a particular path within a distinct field. Successful execution of intersectional ideas does not come from planning for success, but from planning for failure: keeping resources in reserve for new iterations is essential at the intersection.
This book has high relevance for those concerned about finding rapidly scalable solutions in time to address multiple energy and environmental security challenges in the 21st century. It emphasizes methods for breaking down the associative barriers that inhibit the ability to think broadly. It also presents research demonstrating that extrinsic rewards kill our creativity. People are less creative when they are under serious time pressure and stay within their original fields and professional networks. Creators often are experts in one field but can be found innovating at intersections where no one has any expertise. Innovators at the intersection are risking their reputations, good will, contacts, and careers, Johansson writes, but by stepping into the intersection they also are positioned to be leaders. With a still unfolding global financial crisis at hand, far faster-than-expected impacts of climate change already visible, and mounting resource scarcities threatening more frequent and widespread outbreaks of conflict and disease, our abilities to adapt and innovate must be second to none. Books such as this one, and the innovators they describe, deserve our urgent attention. This is no time to stay on the sidelines: get into the intersection!"
Mike Nelson is a professor of Internet Studies in the Communication, Culture, and Technology Program at Georgetown University. Prior to joining the faculty at Georgetown, Dr. Nelson was the Director of Internet Technology and Strategy at IBM, where he helped define and implement IBM's Next Generation Internet strategy. In 2003 he was selected as the Internet Society's Vice President for Public Policy. Prior to joining IBM in 1998, Dr. Nelson was Director for Technology Policy at the Federal Communications Commission. There he helped craft policies to foster electronic commerce, spur development and deployment of new technologies, and improve the reliability and security of the nation's telecommunications networks. Before joining the FCC in 1997, he was Special Assistant for Information Technology at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), where he worked with Vice President Al Gore on telecommunications policy, information technology, encryption and online privacy, electronic commerce, and information policy. Mike writes:
"The book (and YouTube video) that had the greatest impact on me in 2008 was The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. Although there have been hundreds of news articles about Randy Pausch and his unsuccessful battle with pancreatic cancer, it took me five months to find the time to watch the YouTube video of his last lecture at Carnegie Mellon. But the time I spent watching it â€“ and discussing it with others â€“ turned out to be some of the most meaningful hours I spent this year. The video and his book convey his contagious love of life, the joy he found in technology, his commitment to teaching and mentoring, and several very useful life lessons. It's easy to see why Randy Pausch is remembered as a secular saint on the Carnegie Mellon campus."
By James McPherson
James McPherson is widely acknowledged as America's dean of Civil War authors. His remarkable Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Battle Cry of Freedom, served as the touchstone for Highlands Forum XXVI: Transition from Crisis, during which he led us on a memorable tour of the Gettysburg battlefield. With the approach of Abraham Lincoln's bicentennial birthday, McPherson's newest book, Tried by War, offers readers an in-depth look into one of the most important, yet least studied, aspects of Lincoln's presidency: his role as Commander-in-Chief. In Tried by War, McPherson first looks at how a civilian with no military experience taught himself military strategy and operations while simultaneously seizing and defining the Presidential role of Commander-in-Chief. Lincoln's indomitable nature changed the political goals, as well as the very nature, of the Civil War, and his dynamic handling of the war's policies and strategies provided the unwavering leadership that ultimately saved the Union. Finally, McPherson demonstrates how the precedents set by Lincoln during our nation's greatest trial continue to reverberate even today. More than just another history of the Civil War, Tried by War offers poignant lessons on the role of government and of the Commander-in-Chief during times of extreme trial. Although Tried by War paints Lincoln in a new light, our nation's 16th president shines just as brightly, and his wisdom rings true even in today's incredibly complicated world.
By Dexter Filkins
"They led the man to a spot at the middle of the fieldâ€¦a soccer fieldâ€¦there was a special section for the handicapped on the far side, a section for women. The orphans were walking up and down the bleachers on my side selling candy and cigarettes. A couple of older men carried whips. They wore grenade launchers on their backs." The scene is the harsh punishment of a thief and the public execution of a convicted killer by the Taliban. So begins the compelling, visceral tale of life in Taliban Afghanistan and insurgent Iraq by its witness and sometime unwilling participant, Dexter Filkins of the New York Times. It is unsurprisingly titled The Forever War. Filkins has an eye for the mundane which becomes magnified and sometimes tragic in seven years of reporting from both Afghanistan and Iraq. The little things do not escape his gaze and he makes sure that they do not elude the reader either. He reports on the battles, to be sure, often much too close to the action for his own safety or the safety of the men that must protect him as they go into battle. But he also spends a great deal of time helping us to understand what people on all sides of these wars are thinking and feeling. From Taliban leaders to underworld figures to teenaged Marines going into terrifying firefights for the first time, you sense their fear, their anger, and their hope. There is the Marine on the rooftop at nighttime looking for the sniper, who, in between sweeps for the target, unburdens himself to Filkins about his girlfriend back home. There is the air of risk as Filkins tries to get access to the worst figures in Iraq's insurgency through a less-than-scrupulous go-between â€“ is he being set up for kidnapping, which is becoming a national sport? Filkins uses the stories and people he describes with exquisite skill to explain the different strategies of the insurgents and of the Sunni and Shia leaders jockeying for prominence. An Iraqi government minister unflinchingly says of the American troops and political leaders: "I take their money, but I hate them." Filkins writes beautifully and personally, taking us on a dark journey of revelation in The Forever War.
By Fitzroy MacLean
This was an unknown delight, suggested by our own MichÃ¨le Ledgerwood. Fitzroy MacLean's classic work, Eastern Approaches, takes the reader back to a simpler time; one where Nazis were the bad guys, the Russians were good Communists, and British Foreign Officers took their gin with a twist of lime. Drawing on a diverse set of experiences gathered through an early career as a Foreign Officer in Moscow, as a founding member of the British Army's Special Air Service (SAS), and as Winston Churchill's Chief of Mission to Marshall Tito and his Yugoslav Partisans, MacLean thrills the reader with tales of his (often unsanctioned) travels through the Soviet Union in the late 1930s, daring behind-the-lines raids against Rommel's forces in the deserts of North Africa, and guerilla warfare against well-equipped Nazis in the mountains and forests of Yugoslavia at the end of World War II. Written by an individual bitten by an insatiable wanderlust, MacLean's book grabs the reader on page one, and leads him by the hand through an often tragic, but ever-optimistic world. Part travel diary and part war journal, MacLean combines the best of Marco Polo and Rudyard Kipling to delight with one of the most simply enjoyable books we read all year.
By John Arquilla
John Arquilla is one of America's preeminent military historians and analysts, and is always on the leading edge of the social, technical, and organizational forces that shape the way we view security writ small and large. His books, many previously co-authored with his writing partner David Ronfeldt, have graced our Web site and informed many Highlands sessions since the beginning, 14 years ago. Arquilla's latest book, Worst Enemy: The Reluctant Transformation of the American Military, offers readers a thoughtful argument on how American armed forces are no longer structured to prevail in post-9/11 conflicts such as the Global War on Terror. As a professor at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School and insider to the defense community, Arquilla adroitly analyzes the main schools of thought presently shaping American armed forces and offers a set of sweeping reforms required to empower our military to win the nation's 21st century wars. Arquilla identifies two competing forces vying for preeminence in today's military: traditionalists and military transformers, and examines each branch of the military in the light of the growing trend of "netwars". His provocative conclusion calls for drastic changes to the structure and role of each service in order to create a leaner and more deployable force. Refocusing the central mission of the military is the first step required in Arquilla's transformation; our forces need to focus on global intervention aimed at ameliorating humanitarian crises. In this role, small, networked forces would not take a side, they would simply position themselves to best prevent human suffering, embodying Arquilla's concept of "minimum mass, maximum purpose". For anyone serving in or familiar with the military, this book will challenge many dearly held beliefs. You may disagree with him, but anyone with a professional or personal interest in United States defense and foreign policy should read this book to form your own view as we restructure our military for the future.
By Alexander O. Exquemelin (Translated by Alexis Brown)
Pirates of the Caribbean, indeed! If you want the real thing, look no further than this classic â€“ The Buccaneers of America â€“ written in the late 17th century by a willing participant and chronicler of the buccaneers, Alexander O. Exquemelin, who set sail from Havre de Grace in 1666 on his way to Tortuga. We thank Professor Virginia Lunsford of the U.S. Naval Academy, a professor of history and piracy, for this suggestion. This is a fascinating first-person account of life among the buccaneers, including the infamous Captain Henry Morgan, by a surgeon in service to the pirates. This marvelous first-hand account reads like a novel and is the major surviving story of the pirates who fought with unbridled exuberance detailed in several blood-chilling episodes. The Library of Congress has made this book available for inspection online in its original form; for a treat witnessing history, examine the original text and engravings.
By Piers Brendon
In this massive (and massively informative) and entertaining history, Piers Brendon takes us across the globe and the centuries to observe the stirring and proud expanse of the British Empire, and then watch it all come undone. In The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 1781-1997, Brendon traces the watershed moment of the beginning of the end to the surrender ceremony at Yorktown, as the British regiment retreated from the field with the pipers playing "The World Turned Upside Down". The final date of this proud history/tragedy is the handover ceremony in Hong Kong in 1997. In between those two centuries of decline (and the duration of the empire actually might be measured at 500 years) is the stuff of legends, with amazing personalities and stories to illustrate. Brendon does a remarkable job on characterization and setting the context in each case, so that cardboard impersonations of neither the British nor any of the people they ruled are allowed to emerge. One does get a sense of inevitability that the empire is coming to an end, even though it took several centuries. Whether it was the American Revolution or the Indian Mutiny almost one hundred years later, the loss of trust between ruler and ruled began to show in the fissures of the Empire's foundation. World Wars I and II certainly stretched Britain's resources and its legitimacy and accelerated the end. Once India gained independence in 1947, the trickle became a flood. Laden with remarkable characters and fascinating anecdotes, this history of the British Empire will be the one to read.
By Jeff Howe
Clay Shirky put us onto Jeff Howe's writing in early 2007. Howe, a journalist and author, had written about the application of open-source principles to fields beyond software. He called it "crowdsourcing". Howe coined the term in a 2006 article in Wired magazine, and he was really onto something. He saw tasks that, instead of being outsourced to one person or expert, were outsourced to a crowd. The process used the group's intelligence to come up with the best ideas, and then distributed the tasks to the people most suited to perform them. Now comes the book, based on his excellent research, Crowdsourcing, about how to put the wisdom of crowds to work. It is related to collective intelligence, in which groups of individuals act collectively in ways that seem intelligent, citing centralized-collaboration and decentralized-collaboration efforts by Google and Wikipedia, respectively. Examples abound in this well-written book; as a case in point, Howe shines a light on InnoCentive, which seeks actual innovations across fields ranging from chemistry to policy to management. InnoCentive anonymously connects "seekers" â€“ who need a problem solved cheaply or outside their normal research-and-development efforts â€“ with "solvers" who may tackle any posted problem, regardless of their qualifications. Both seeker and solver remain anonymous to one another until the seeker accepts a particular solution. InnoCentive relieves seekers of the risk of high or uncertain R&D expenditures while solvers (160,000 and counting) absorb that risk in exchange for a posted bounty. In doing so, InnoCentive accesses a labor pool much larger than that of most private companies, and to date has found solutions to roughly 300 of 800 posted problems. This is a fascinating book and Howe's writing makes this an enjoyable journey to discover new social and technology trends that may come to exert broad influence in our emerging world.
By Richard Ogle
Richard Ogle's 2007 work, Smart World, brings together the major developments in the fields of network science, technological innovation, and neuroscience to create a fascinating model for explaining a truly worthy topic: creative breakthroughs. In a world where the knowledge economy is quickly being replaced by a system that values creativity, Ogle describes a how each of us will innovate by tapping into the embedded knowledge intrinsic in everything around us (what he calls the "global mindscape"). Smart World uses nine fantastic historical examples (think Guttenberg's printing press, the discovery of DNA, the iPod, and even Barbie!) to give the reader a sense of what stimulates the truly creative leaps that change history, and provides recommendations for how each of us can improve our creative abilities. Grounded in network science, Ogle's work boldly creates a "science of ideas", and will certainly be the subject of countless future discussions among creative and intelligent people in many different fields.
By Chip Heath & Dan Heath
What was the last book you read about how to do [insert any task that is part of your daily life here] better? Was it that one about the guy using the colorful parachute to develop eight essential habits for successful leadership while eating chicken soup? Fortunately, Made to Stick is not that book. In this delightful work, Chip and Dan Heath explore why some ideas "stick", while others don't. Drawing upon years of professional experience, research, and just plain good senses of humor, Made to Stick explores the six basic principles they have identified that generally apply to "sticky" ideas: Simplicity, Unexpectedness, Concreteness, Credibility, Emotions, and Stories. In an easy and fun-to-read style, Chip and Dan use familiar examples from everyday life to demonstrate their profound concepts, and warn the reader of the evil villains (The Curse of Knowledge) that seek only to prevent us from getting our ideas across. Sprinkled with clinics to ensure understanding and provide the reader with their own "ah-ha" moment, this is not your everyday better leadership through targeted, strategic communications book, but rather a breath of fresh air in an already overcrowded genre. Made to Stick is simply a fun book to read that will constantly make you stop and think, "Wow, these guys are on to something!"
By Ruth Wageman, Debra Nunes, James Burruss, Richard Hackman
In our 2002 Highlands Forum Reading List we recommended Leading Teams: Setting the Stage for Great Performances by Richard Hackman. At that time we said: "Hackman, one of the world's leading experts on group and organizational behavior, argues that the reason that many teams fail or reach unsatisfactory conclusions is rooted in flawed thinking about team leadership. It is not a leader's management style that determines how well a team performs, but how well a leader designs and supports a team so that members can manage themselves." Leadership is a major theme this year in our book list, with additional volumes from Joseph Nye and Sandy Pentland reminding us of the importance of teams to solve really complex problems, especially in a networked environment. Now Hackman has published a new book on the subject that probes even deeper: Senior Leadership Teams: What it Takes to Make Them Great. Hackman argues in this sequel that in today's world of high-velocity, changing environments, executives must turn to their enterprise's senior leaders for help. Yet many CEOs stumble when creating a leadership team. One major challenge is that senior executives often focus more on their individual roles than on the top team's shared work. Drawing on their study of 100+ top teams from around the world, they explain how to create a clear and compelling purpose for a team, and answer a number of key questions. As a new administration team is forming around a group of strong, experienced people, and the complex problems they will be facing likely will require multi-agency and multi-disciplinary approaches, Hackman and his colleagues would be a good first stop to figure out how best to make their plans and processes work.
By Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Given the current state of the global economy and the cascading failures of international markets due to their interconnectedness, Nassim Taleb's The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable speaks presciently of the danger of networked and tightly coupled financial systems, among many other topics. It is a must read for anyone interested in the highly unlikely, yet potentially devastating "once-in-a-century" scenarios that seem to happen more and more often in this age of networks. In this work, Taleb writes clearly that the bell curve does not explain the events we have to deal with, but rather the power law is where we need to search. His message for investors and for the Department of Defense (DoD) alike is to "look for ways to foster serendipitous developments while preparing broadly for disaster."
In 2003, Taleb made a fascinating presentation at Highlands Forum XXIII: Risk in a Networked Environment. His bestselling book at the time, Fooled by Randomness, was the stepping-off point for his talk at the Bellagio Hotel, a talk he cheekily titled "Gambling With the Wrong Dice". Taleb told us: "When we don't know how much we don't know, no mathematics will ever yield a meaningful answer. Power laws and the law of large numbers do not work when we have fat tails. Alternatively, but no less viciously, the tail may settle, but too slowly to run the law of large numbers. We refer to this as the 'fourth moment' â€“ i.e., the variance of the variance â€“ which is how much we don't know what we don't know. I have been studying this since 1987, and I do not believe that anyone knows anything about the incidence of rare events. Nothing works." He referred to "Black Swan events", highly improbable occurrences that are unpredictable, carry a massive impact, and for which, in hindsight, we rationalize an explanation that makes them appear less random than they were.
In that same Highlands session, Taleb presciently spoke of the danger of networked and tightly coupled financial systems: "The idea of using networks is dangerous in finance. Networks have the ability to explode â€“ they are scale-free, meaning that there is no upper limit on how much can be centered on one node, and the probabilities of hitting that node go up dramatically. This causes clustering. So the whole system can go down at once, together. Several years ago, one piece could have gone down and the others would have been unaffected. Long-Term Capital Management (LTCM), a hedge fund, went down in 1998 and brought several other funds down with it. But that was easy to address. The Federal Government intervened to make sure that it didn't happen again, that there weren't more funds out there like LTCM. The problem in the financial world is that you are dealing with aggregates. In finance, things are much more interrelated than they would be elsewhere. If Citibank is bankrupt, other banks don't collect money. If Google goes down, on the other hand, we can go around it. The contagion effects of networks are a critical issue â€“ everyone ends up doing the same thing because of information cascades. This is a real problem."
By Judy Estrin
Information technology (IT) industry leader Judy Estrin was our keynote speaker at a Highlands Forum Enrichment Session earlier this year on "Innovation". Estrin is an extremely well respected and successful businesswoman who has written a thoughtful new book on the state of innovation in America. In Closing the Innovation Gap, her concerns stem from what she sees as problems with the "innovation ecosystem" of the United States. The ecosystem includes ongoing research (with added emphasis on long-horizon, blue-sky basic research), development, and application. Estrin sees trouble in the U.S. innovation ecosystem, where we have "root rot" in our tree: while the tree may still look green, it is dying at the core. Sustainable innovation requires a balance of planting and harvesting. Estrin maintains that our business world is driven by shortsighted metrics such as the daily or weekly stock price of the firm or short-term, less risky deliverables from research to application. Government is not immune from her criticism on the latter count and she cites misplaced priorities. Our national ecosystem requires balance, and we are out of balance. To correct this, Estrin points to leadership and the cultures created and nurtured by leaders, and identifies five core values that leaders must embrace and personify: questioning, risk, openness, patience, and trust. Beyond this Estrin highlights the need for changes to the educational system, immigration policy, and tax incentives. One theme that comes through clearly is the need for national leadership to take on the role of challenging the public and the business sector to think and dream big ideas. During the recently concluded presidential campaigns, we heard from the candidates about the need for innovation in solving extraordinarily large and complex problems. Closing the Innovation Gap should be a starting point.
By Yossi Sheffi
Highlands Forum XXXV: The Network Resilience Challenge (the proceedings of which will be posted to our site next week) was held in the Fall of 2008; we discussed how in a complex network, resilience of the network to cope with unexpected perturbations becomes paramount. Our keynote speaker was Dr. Yossi Sheffi, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he serves as Director of MIT's Engineering Systems Division and the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics. He is an expert in systems optimization, risk analysis, and supply chain management. Supply networks are among the most complex networks we might examine. High levels of interconnectivity have transformed commerce, supply chain nets, capital flows, crime, and conflict. They certainly will impact how DoD operates. In The Resilient Enterprise, Sheffi, a world leader in the study of supply networks and resilience, shares his insights with us in a series of remarkable stories that clearly illustrate the problems that organizations can experience â€“ unless they are prepared, as Nokia was when the worst of all possible cases hit them. He explores high-impact/low-probability disruptions, focusing not only on security, but also on corporate resilience â€“ the ability to bounce back from such disruptions â€“ and how resilience investments can be turned into competitive advantage. A seminal book on this topic.
By Ori Brafman and Rod Beckström
Over the years, the Highlands Forum has explored the power of networks across many dimensions â€“ whether looking at terrorist cells; disparate groups responding to complex humanitarian emergencies; command and control in military and crisis response operations; or patterns of risk in private enterprise. In our discussions, we have returned frequently to the theme of decentralized organizations and the efficiencies that can be unleashed when hierarchies are flattened. This year, for Highlands Forum XXXV: The Network Resilience Challenge (posting next week), we revisited a book that we actually recommended in 2007, and featured Rod Beckström as one of our presenters. In The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, Beckström and co-author Ori Brafman visit several of these themes in a book that is both conversational and entertaining. The authors spent many years engaging CEOs involved in conflict resolution and economic development projects around the world. In the process, they discovered trends in how this circle of leaders â€“ operating without hierarchies or rigid structures â€“ not only was effective in accomplishing its goals, but also was reflective of larger changes occurring across multiple industry sectors.
By Clay Shirky
The convergence of technology and social forces is on display in Highlands Forum participant Clay Shirky's timely new book Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. Just in time for the presidential elections of 2008, this work provides the reader a glimpse of the technology that is allowing and encouraging a new way of organizing, campaigning, and raising money, particularly among a new generation that has embraced and furthered the application of new social technologies. What Shirky tell us impacts societies broadly, and not just for the electoral process; Tip O'Neill told us that all politics is local, but what we learn from Shirky is that everything is becoming political and connected, making the process for those who engage in it continuous, collaborative, and collective. Here Comes Everybody tells us, "We are living in the middle of a remarkable increase in our ability to share, to cooperate with one another, and to take collective action, all outside the framework of traditional institutions and organizations." The march from the printing press to the telegraph and telephone to broadcast to digital technologies has infected and affected social connectedness of local communities, creating global communities. This is a foundational work often cited by authors seeking to explain the forces shaping the emerging landscape and is one of the most important books of the year.
By Alex (Sandy) Pentland
At the nexus of biology and the emerging field of network science lies an understanding of how we communicate with each other. In a new work titled Honest Signals, Dr. Sandy Pentland of MIT suggests that we can understand people in the context of their social networks "rather than viewing them as isolated individuals". At a time when social networking is changing our organizations and relationships to each other, Pentland's findings become all the more important. The basis for Pentland's work is the unconscious signaling and cues that we give off, elements of communication that are just as important as what we actually say. These "honest signals" are often better indicators of our intentions, meaning, and values than words might be. Pentland's research over the past five years with instrumented groups has several important findings that range from group dynamics to collective intelligence to "reality mining". His work demonstrates the importance of knowing which structure to use in a variety of circumstances; for example, if you are looking for options, you need to have a flat communication structure, and when decisions are necessary, leadership becomes paramount. A good leader knows how to navigate between the two. Pentland helps us to see "how honest signals influence critical activities such as negotiation, group decision making, and project management.and how powerful and pervasive this form of communication is in our lives." What does this mean for decision-making? Humans as a group can process information and make decisions far better than any single group member can and the signaling dynamic becomes essential. This is the lead-in to collective intelligence that actually documents the territory beyond the wisdom of crowds. Our problems are only getting more complicated and complex, and applying the work and intelligence of groups to them is likely to be critical. This is an important book about how sensing technology will change business and the sciences, and what that will mean for our growing social networking and collaborating within groups.
By Charles Stross
British author Charles Stross has created a fascinating world in Halting State, a compelling near-future story about a heist in a virtual gaming space (think of a virtual bank robbery in Second Life). At once it is a heist caper, a police procedural, a spy story, and a near-future techno thriller. Good stories like these rely on interesting worlds to draw the reader in, and in Halting State we are drawn both into the gaming world (which is wonderfully depicted) and into a "real world" of the near future â€“ perhaps ten years out â€“ which marvelously blends mixed culture/architecture/IT generations in a Gothic Scottish setting in which the future is grafted onto the past. It seems that the best and the worst of the past and present are brought forward to a near-recognizable future in Edinburgh and Glasgow, with Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) signs overlaid on cold Gothic stone structures and layer upon layer of IT infrastructure replacing what came before, just as in an archaeological dig. IT is pervasive, embedded, and transparent.
Stross takes the world a step farther, delving into the meta-level of global power relationships that govern states' actions. And yet, Stross creates a curious blending in which it is difficult to see what part of life is governed by states and what goes on in spite of the state in a parallel world. Halting State is told through the eyes of three main characters, each in the second person perspective: Sue, an Edinburgh policewoman drawn into a world and a crime that she has no experience in; Elaine, a forensic accountant with an active online life who is brought in to investigate for the investment company because of her experience in gaming; and Jack, a computer coder, hacker, and game creator who is asked to guide Elaine through the investigation. An exciting and most interesting story on its own, with a set of well-realized worlds (local, global, and virtual) for the action to span, Halting State gives us a great deal to think about in the emerging spectrum of collaboration, competition, and conflict.
By Joseph S. Nye, Jr.
Four years ago, on the eve of the last American presidential election, we reviewed a new book by Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics. Nye steps forward again at this critical juncture of global financial crisis and political change in Washington with an important addition to his view of power: The Powers to Lead. Nye's ideas have been an essential part of the conversation on power among policymakers and leaders of both parties as he co-chaired the 2007 CSIS Commission on Smart Power with former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. This bipartisan commission met at the Center for Strategic and International Studies with the aim of shaping the political debate in the 2008 presidential campaign.
In The Powers to Lead, Nye distinguishes between soft power â€“ the ability to obtain favorable outcomes through attraction â€“ and "hard" or coercive power. He thinks of leadership as a process with three component elements (leaders, followers, and contexts) together constituting the process of leadership. Context is essential: "One of the key issues is for leaders and followers to understand how to expand and adapt their repertoires for different situations." Nye adds to his seminal work by incorporating a new context for leadership in an era of increased social networking. "Long-term trends in the economy and society such as globalization and the information revolution are increasing the importance of networks and changing the context of leadership.causing a long-term secular shift in the context of postmodern organizations â€“ a shift along the continuum from command to co-optive style. Network organizations (and the interdependent institutions and global problem sets we are now facing routinely â€“ Highlands Forum comment) require a more consultative style." Nye lays out a compelling case for a new style of leadership and use of power in a post-election world that features challenges of extraordinary scope and scale. We all should be listening to this remarkable and thoughtful voice. Joe Nye has added a valuable volume to his body of work on power and it is right on time.
By Morley Winograd and Michael Hais
In their new book, Millennial Makeover, Morley Winograd and Michael Hais have focused on a distinct case: the use of social group-forming technology by the millennial generation. In this work, the authors have carefully researched presidential elections from the Civil War to the present day and have concluded that "American electoral politics have been characterized by a persistent pattern of relatively long periods of great stability in electoral outcomes, lasting about forty years, interspersed with shorter periods of sharp and decisive change.America is now primed for its next political realignment." The authors next cast their glance on the young people who are thronging into politics and swelling the electorate today: the millennials (those born between 1982 and 2003). They describe the millennials as "the most ethnically diverse generation in American historyâ€¦more positiveâ€¦more tolerant.desiring to find 'win-win' solutions.adept at using peer-to-peer technologies." Winograd and Hais observe that this networked generation is group-oriented, with groups constantly forming and changing. Their numbers are growing rapidly, and by 2012 "the first half of the entire millennial generation, approximately 42 million young Americans, will be eligible to vote." With this growth also comes new networking technologies that will change societal and organizational relationships, just as the telegraph, telephone, radio, and television did, except now the users are going to be more in control of content than ever before. In conclusion, Winograd and Hais assert, "The end result will be major changes in the style, tone, and structure of America's government, politics, and society."
By Paul Collier
In The Bottom Billion, Paul Collier, an accomplished expert in the economies and growth of developing countries, concentrates on the four traps that keep so many of the "bottom billion" mired in what seems like permanent poverty: conflict, natural resources, uncooperative neighbors, and bad governance. Collier spends a bit more than half of his book on the problem and thus less on potential solutions. In the last parts of the book, however, he identifies four paths out of his four traps â€“ better use of international aid, military intervention when needed, revamped international trade policies that would help reverse the degree of marginalization of failed states, and the creation of new legal mechanisms, especially in those failing states where most of the bottom billion live. This highly important book addresses critical issues that are steadily moving to the front of any discussion on peacekeeping and conflict resolution, and demands the attention of any person studying "human security".
By Ashraf Ghani and Clare Lockhart
Ashraf Ghani and Clare Lockhart's latest work, Fixing Failed States, focuses on a major source of global poverty: state failure, specifically "failing" rather than totally failed governments. Ghani and Lockhart have offered their ideas for discussion at several Highlands Forum events and here they have matured their ideas to argue that without an effective state, economic development or escape from the crushing poverty holding back developing countries remain impossible tasks. They propose building effective states that can promote virtuous rather than vicious circles that place strong governments at the top and allow citizen-based initiatives to flourish below. Such states provide tangible benefits that average citizens can see in their daily lives, with a resultant growing support for one's state. Ghani and Lockhart argue that people become supporters of democracy and/or of the state because it provides tangible benefits to all of its citizens. They argue that a once-failing state needs to create institutions, rules, and the like that will produce concrete results that citizens will see, and which will imbue a sense of trust in the government. Ghani and Lockhart believe that effective states can be built faster than most of us think, and this is evident in their outstanding new book.
By Philip Bobbitt
As one of America's most insightful thinkers and writers at the juncture of strategic rethinking, Dr. Philip Bobbitt's latest book Terror and Consent examines the new world order brought about through the rise of globalization and international, open markets, and concludes that the 20th century industrial nation-state has been incapable of coping with the 21st-century-oriented market state. Bobbitt examines not only the characteristics of the market state, but also the phenomena of ultra-violent market-state terrorism, warfare, resilience, and deterrence in a market-state age, and the ramifications on U.S. and international legal codes necessitated by these profound changes. One part detailed historical analysis, one part legal review, and one part urgent cry for change, Terror and Consent is a provocative work that will challenge the reader's most basic understandings of the world in which we live. Bobbitt concludes, "We must reform our ideas about terrorism, war, and the war aim if we are to win the wars of the 21st century in order to preserve the states of consent and prevent the triumph of states of terror." This work will contribute to shaping national security policy in the years to come.
By Dr. Jerry Post
Dr. Jerry Post has told us in past Highlands Forum discussions: "It is not going too far to assert that terrorists are psychologically 'normal' in the sense of not being clinically psychotic. They are neither depressed nor severely emotionally disturbed, nor are they crazed fanatics. In fact, terrorist groups and organizations screen out emotionally unstable individuals â€“ who represent, after all, a security risk. There is a multiplicity of individual motivations. For some, it is to give a sense of power to the powerless; for others, revenge is a primary motivation; for others still, to gain a sense of significance. Rather than individual psychology, then, what emerges as the most powerful lens through which to understand terrorist behavior is that of group, organizational, and social psychology, with a particular emphasis on 'collective identity'." Now, in his latest book, The Mind of the Terrorist: The Psychology of Terrorism from the IRA to al-Qaeda, Post traces individual groups and movements to explore the individual and the collective and he ends with a view of the changing face of terrorism. His conclusion is disturbing in that he finds them to be "normal", and he tracks these cases to help identify how and why these people go on to become purveyors of terror. Post lays out recommendations on ways to cut the supply of those willing to kill and/or die, and soft power plays a large role. Post's latest work is a valuable resource for those who wish to know more about "who and why".
By Pamela McCorduck
As a well-respected and prolific writer, Pamela McCorduck's new work of fiction, The Edge of Chaos, dives into the emerging science of complexity. This work is an intellectual and educational smorgasbord that drops in on the lives of an intricately connected group of people who find themselves in the historic crossroad of Santa Fe in the late 1990s. The title refers to a term associated with complexity theory describing the boundary between predictable, static order and utter randomness, the "sweet spot" where complex adaptive systems exist. It is where learning and change are possible, however messy and painful, and it is where McCorduck's characters find themselves, particularly the main protagonists: Dr. Judith Greenwood and Jack Molloy. From their chance meeting at a dinner party, Greenwood and Molloy engage and evade each other, excite and antagonize, their encumbering emotional baggage and private fears never far from the surface. As these two formidable figures conduct their complicated pas de deux, they engage with a cross-section of Santa Feans, among them a gallery owner with an absent husband and a leukemia-stricken son, an archeologist struggling to balance his ambition and passions, and Judith's best friend, a dying fellow scientist. All are animated by a question Molloy innocently posed at his introductory dinner party â€“ "Why are you here?" â€“ and all search for the existential answer that fits their situation. At its core The Edge of Chaos is about the search for answers to our most elemental, personal, and challenging questions: "How do you get through life?"