Atlas Shrugged

By | October 29, 2014

Atlas-Shrugged-Art-2In my two preceding posts I highlighted a book in each that I think are as relevant to today’s business world as they were when written: Lou Gerstner’s ‘Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance’ which tells the story of IBM’s reinvention (something many companies are having to consider as we move to the Third Platform and  Cloud ubiquity), and Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm which focuses on marketing segmentation and the technology adoption life-cycle.

The final influential book I have chosen isn’t a business tome at all but a novel, however I think it speaks to entrepreneurs and business leaders alike and has some important messages contained therein.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand is a tour-de-force that is pretty familiar to American baby boomers, many of whom had to study it at school. It didn’t really make it across the Atlantic and isn’t well known in Europe, but the messages are as applicable in my opinion.  So, it isn’t a business book per se, but it is about industry and the complex relationship between the creators of wealth and the consumers in society.  This book can be read either as a relatively simplistic tale of unwarranted greed from untalented bureaucrats on the make, who are milking the producers of wealth through taxes and legislation (whilst wrapped up with a romance between high powered industrialists), or as complex analysis of a dystopian society in which America collapses as the men of ideas and the leaders of production withdraw their labor and brains from society in order to show the world that the grabbers and shysters cannot survive without them. The latter level involves a hefty slug of economics, philosophy and governance.  Rand was a republican and had trenchant views on man’s role on earth to produce, and that from ideas flow products which make society richer and more fulfilled. Therefore to tax and curb those who have the ideas, those who invent, those who build great companies, is destructive for society as a whole. Whether you subscribe to this viewpoint or not, this treatise will continue to be seen as important in the future for promulgating the role of innovation – something we in the tech industry are acutely aware of.

No doubt you have your own list of entirely different business books that you see as seminal and I’d be curious to know what those are and why they will shape business into the future. For me, a business case study, a marketing theory and a dramatic novel cover the bases!

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