By Steven Johnson
Plenty of books offer useful advice on how to get better at making quick-thinking, intuitive choices. But what about more consequential decisions, the ones that affect our lives for years, or centuries, to come? Our most powerful stories revolve around these kinds of decisions: where to live, whom to marry, what to believe, whether to start a company, how to end a war.Full of the beautifully crafted storytelling and novel insights that Steven Johnson's fans know to expect, Farsighted draws lessons from cognitive science, social psychology, military strategy, environmental planning, and great works of literature. Everyone thinks we are living in an age of short attention spans, but we've actually learned a lot about making long-term decisions over the past few decades. Johnson makes a compelling case for a smarter and more deliberative decision-making approach. He argues that we choose better when we break out of the myopia of single-scale thinking and develop methods for considering all the factors involved.There's no one-size-fits-all model for the important decisions that can alter the course of a life, an organization, or a civilization. But Farsighted explains how we can approach these choices more effectively, and how we can appreciate the subtle intelligence of choices that shaped our broader social history.
Forged in Crisis
By Nancy Koehn
'A close analysis of five gritty leaders whose extraordinary passion and perseverance changed history . . . a gripping read on a timeless and timely topic!'Angela Duckworth, bestselling author of GritTen years in the writing, Forged in Crisis, by renowned Harvard Business School historian and Davos and Aspen Institute speaker Nancy Koehn, presents five remarkable life journeys-those of polar explorer Ernest Shackleton; President Abraham Lincoln; legendary abolitionist Frederick Douglass; Nazi-resisting clergyman Dietrich Bonhoeffer; and environmental crusader Rachel Carson. What do such disparate figures have in common? Why do their stories speak to us so powerfully today?Koehn begins each of the book's five sections by showing her protagonist on the precipice of a great crisis: Shackleton marooned on an Antarctic ice floe with no hope of rescue; Lincoln on the verge of the collapse of the Union; Douglass threatened with a return to enslavement; Bonhoeffer agonizing on what a man of faith should do when faced with absolute evil; Carson racing against the clock-and the cancer ravaging her-in a bid to save the planet. Koehn then reaches back to each person's early years to show the individual blooming into the force he or she would ultimately become. Through their confronting of obstacles, we begin to glean an essential truth: leaders are not born but made, and the power to lead resides in each of us.In a time when the highest offices in the land are occupied by the inexperienced and untested, the great question pressing on all of us is: What set of skills is required to lead in crisis, and can history give us answers? Whether it's read as a repository of great insight or as exceptionally rendered human drama, the riveting Forged in Crisis stands out as a towering achievement.
Farmer Buckley's Exploding Trousers
In August 1931, New Zealand farmer Richard Buckley hit the local headlines - or rather his trousers did. One minute they were drying in front of the fire; the next there was a huge blast and a ball of flames. Farmer Buckley's trousers had exploded. The culprit? A popular pesticide of the day, which when combined with clothing fibres unexpectedly formed a highly combustible compound. This incendiary story is a striking example of how scientific advances meant to improve people's lives can sometimes backfire. Contrary to the widespread belief that science and technology move steadily on from one discovery to the next, the fascinating stories in this entertaining collection present some of the unfamiliar characters and events that litter the path of scientific progress. Based on the New Scientist's weekly 'Histories' column, Farmer Buckley's Exploding Trousers shows how setbacks and mishaps are the norm, and breakthroughs are the exception.