Bookshelf | November 2020


“In any crisis there is opportunity; the greater and more disruptive the crisis, the greater the opportunities,” writes New York University’s Scott Galloway in this riveting and hard-hitting book. “However, my optimism on the second point is tempered by the first—many of the trends the pandemic accelerates are negative and weaken our capacity to recover and thrive in a post-corona world.” Once the virus is vanquished, he expects the big winners to be major tech firms and big-cap companies that were already doing well; similarly, wealthy individuals will thrive. The losers will be those companies—and people—who were already struggling. “Sixty percent of jobs that pay over $100,000 can be done from home, compared to only 10 percent of those that pay $40,000,” he explains. “Post corona, the benefits for increased flexibility that come with remote work alternatives will flow to the already well off.”

He expects a similar split to play out in higher education, where the elite schools will recover, but mid-level schools might fail—particularly higher-priced mid-level universities. “Schools that offer an elite-like experience, with elite pricing, but without the credential, are about to experience a reckoning,” he predicts The good news? Technology will greatly expand the reach and scale of higher education, allowing schools to target a vast network of potential students who would be willing to pay a greatly reduced price for online classes. If world-class universities partner with companies like Google or Amazon, they could deliver two-year degrees to learners at any age around the globe. Writes Galloway, “This provides the potential to correct one of the great inequities of the last half-century—the artificial scarcity of elite education.” His deconstruction of how business will fare after the pandemic is equally compelling. (Penguin/Portfolio, 25 USD)



While business professionals understand that networking is useful, they don’t always realize just how important it is. According to Marissa King of the Yale School of Management, “People who use their personal contacts to find their next job spend less time searching and end up in higher paying and more prestigious occupations.” In addition, acquaintances within a network often can provide more useful advice than close friends or family members, she writes. “Our weak ties are likely to give us our next great idea or business opportunity and to get our community on board with a new initiative. … We will often seek out advice from people with experience or expertise, rather than someone we feel emotionally close to.”

Yet people find it distasteful to use their networks in “a purposeful manner,” King points out. “Thinking intentionally about relationships can be morally disconcerting.” She encourages readers to combat this feeling by bringing their authentic selves to relationships—and to remember that they have as much to give as to gain. She writes, “The fundamental building block of social relationships is reciprocity. It is the currency of social exchange.” She offers tips about how to become a more effective networker, describes the styles of master networkers such as Vernon Jordan and David Rockefeller, and generally illustrates how networks function both at work and in society. (Dutton, 28 USD)



It’s not necessarily the smartest people who are the most successful, but those who are most open to new ideas. Wharton’s Adam Grant tells the story of Mike Lazaridis, inventor of the BlackBerry, who refused to believe that customers would be willing to give up keyboards in favor of touchscreens and browsing capabilities. Even Steve Jobs initially dismissed the idea of the multifunctional iPhone, but he was willing to be convinced, and the rest is history.

Why do people resist changing their minds, even as contrary evidence piles up? Some are afraid of questioning their beliefs and losing their core identities. Some are overconfident, like armchair quarterbacks who think they know more than professional coaches. As Grant says, “According to what’s now known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, it’s when we lack competence that we’re most likely to be brimming with overconfidence.”

But is it any better to be crippled by the impostor syndrome, in which even highly qualified individuals doubt their own abilities? The goal is to develop “confident humility,” writes Grant, “having faith in our capability while appreciating that we may not have the right solution or even be addressing the right problem.” Individuals with that attitude tend to think like scientists, he says, always testing their hypotheses and pivoting when their original ideas don’t pan out. Not surprisingly, these are the types of people who make the best entrepreneurs—and often enjoy the most success whatever their careers. (Viking, 28 USD)



The trend is clear: As machines automate more jobs, humans will be forced to re-evaluate their relationship to work, writes Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation. But while many people view this trend with alarm, Merisotis views it far more favorably. For example, he shares the story of an assembly line worker who welcomes his company’s deployment of collaborative robots, or “cobots," to perform difficult or repetitive labor such as bending down repeatedly or working with dangerous chemicals. This frees up workers’ time to do more complex, meaningful work based on their talents, passions, and values.

“The preoccupation with job loss in much of the writing about the future of work is misplaced,” Merisotis writes. “Technology has always created jobs even as it destroys them, and in the past it has tended to create more jobs than it eliminates.” He predicts that the new jobs that will be created will involve what he calls “human work." Merisotis divides these jobs into four categories: Helpers (such as healthcare providers and customer service representatives); Bridgers (such as sales managers and IT professionals); Integrators (such as social workers and teachers); and Creators (such as video game developers and artists).

To prepare students for these jobs, he says, schools at all levels must abandon the traditional, linear “school-college-work” educational trajectory and instead create pathways that engage students in “wide learning”—purpose-driven lifelong learning that hones skills that AI cannot replicate, such as creativity, empathy, and innovation. “We must create new approaches that offer people the opportunity to use their talents in service to their communities and the society,” he writes. “I believe building the systems that support human work offers a way forward.” A cautionary yet hopeful look into the future of work. (Rosetta Books, 25.99 USD)


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