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Photo by Kid Circus on Unsplash

For the past 50 years, innovation has largely been driven by our ability to cram more transistors onto a silicon wafer. That’s what’s allowed us to double the power of our technology every two years or so and led to the continuous flow of new products and services streaming out of innovative organizations.

Perhaps not surprisingly, over the past few decades agility has become a defining competitive attribute. Because the fundamentals of digital technology have been so well understood, much of the value has shifted to applications and things like design and user experience. …


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Image: pxfuel

Every era has its own ideology that creates assumptions and drives actions. At the turn of the century, titans like J.P. Morgan believed that monopolized industries provided stability against the disruptive influence of competition. More recently, the end of the Cold War was supposed to usher in a new era of capitalism and democracy.

It didn’t work out that way. Instead we got oligarchy, authoritarian populism and we lost trust in the institutions that used to govern our society. In America, even competitive capitalism has been greatly weakened. …


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Image: Flickr — Flickr- JD Lasica

Techno-optimism may have reached its zenith in 2011, when Marc Andreessen declared that software was eating the world. Back then, it seemed that anything rooted in the physical world was doomed to decline while geeky engineers banging out endless lines of code would own the future and everything in it.

Yet as Derek Thompson pointed out in The Atlantic, the euphoria of Andreessen and his Silicon Valley brethren seems to have been misplaced. A rash of former unicorns have seen their value plummet, while WeWork saw its IPO self-destruct. …


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Image: Unsplash — John Gibbons

Humans tend to think in a linear fashion. If something is growing, we expect it to keep growing. If it is decreasing, we expect it to continue to decrease. We are natural trend watchers and instinctively look for patterns. Yet it is often the discontinuities, rather than the continuities, that have the biggest impact.

The mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot referred to this cycle of continuity punctuated by discontinuity as “Noah effects and Joseph effects.” Joseph effects, as in the biblical story, support long periods of continuity. …


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Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

I still remember the feeling of triumph I felt in the winter of 2005, in the aftermath of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. During the fall, we readied ourselves for what proved to be a falsified election. In November, when the fraudulent results were announced, we took to the streets and the demonstrations lasted until new elections were called in January.

We had won, or so we thought. Our preferred candidate was elected and it seemed like a new era had dawned. Yet soon it became clear that things were not going well. Planned reforms stalled in a morass of…


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Image: Pixabay

The industrial revolution of the 18th century was a major turning point. Steam power, along with other advances in areas like machine tools and chemistry transformed industry from the work of craftsmen and physical labor to that of managing machines. For the first time in world history, living standards grew consistently.

Yet during the 20th century, all of that technology needed to be rethought. Steam engines gave way to electric motors and internal combustion engines. The green revolution and antibiotics transformed agriculture and medicine. In the latter part of the century digital technology created a new economy based on information.


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Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

I first became interested in transformation in the fall of 2004. I was managing a leading news organization in Kyiv, Ukraine when the Orange Revolution broke out. It was an amazing thing to witness and experience. Seemingly overnight, a habitually dormant populace suddenly rose up and demanded change.

One of the things that struck me at the time is how no one really knew what was going on or what would happen next — not the journalists I spoke to in the newsroom everyday, not the other business leaders and certainly not the political leaders. …


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Photo by Cade Renfroe on Unsplash

In 1973, in the wake of the Arab defeat in the Yom Kippur war with Israel, OPEC instituted an oil embargo on America and its allies. The immediate effects of the crisis was a surge in gas prices and a recession in the west. The ripple effects, however, were far more complex and played out over decades.

The rise in oil prices brought much needed hard currency to the Soviet Union, prolonging its existence and setting the stage for its later demise. The American auto industry, with its passion for big, gas guzzling cars, lost ground to the emergent. …


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Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

It’s interesting how often books seem to reflect the zeitgeist, or at least our perception of it. As I prepared this year’s list, I began looking through earlier versions and was struck by how each seemed a remnant from a different age. Undoubtedly, some of that is a product of my own curation, but I do feel that books tap into important undercurrents.

I wrote some years ago that 2020 was shaping up to be a pivotal year, although I had no idea the extent to which it would be. I think it’s safe to say that we all got…


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Image: Unsplash

16 year-old girl Gracie Cunningham created a firestorm recently when she posted a video to TikTok asking “is math real?” More specifically, she wanted to know why ancient mathematicians came up with algebraic concepts such as “y=mx+b.” “What would you need it for?” she asked, when they didn’t even have plumbing.

The video went viral on twitter, gathering millions of views and the social media universe immediately pounced, with many ridiculing how stupid it was. Mathematicians and scientists, however, felt otherwise and remarked how profound her questions were. Cornell’s Steve Strogatz even sent her a thoughtful answer to her question

Greg Satell

Bestselling Author of Cascades and Mapping Innovation, @HBR Contributor, - Learn more at www.GregSatell.com — note: I use Amazon Affiliate links for books.

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