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> My agenda > Books

What’s influencing my thinking? Here are a few books that have taken my fancy over the last few months. Don’t forget to check out the ‘Friends’ section for more titles authored by friends I’ve read.

CAP OnlineAnholt: Brand New Justice: the Upside of Global Branding. Oxford: Butterworth–Heinemann 2003.

The year has gotten off to a fine start if we have Simon Anholt’s book. This is one of the most significant to be written about the branding industry and reading it is like seeing where my own thoughts might be if I were as well-read as Simon. He recognizes that the economic miracles of many countries have not come about by free trade, but the development of exported branded products. The aims of Brand New Justice are economic democracy and humanitarian capitalism, which I endorse heartily. If you plan to get only one branding book this first half of the year, make it this one.
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Evrard and Auckenthaler (tr. Carion and Carion): What If? Insights into Brand Trends and the Birth of New Target Sectors. Paris: Passion4Brands 2002.
The English-language edition of Evrard and Auckenthaler does not disappoint and I had no hesitation in recommending it and lending it out to close friends who wanted to do some outside-the-box thinking. What If? is an eye- and a mind-opener.
   The two brand experts not only write about branding, but the future trends that might emerge. But this is no mere book on futurology. The authors give colourful examples, many of which are based on emerging trends happening now. They are extrapolated further, prompting the reader to ask, ‘What if?’ It’s done marvellously well and of all the books on this page, most lavishly presented.
   The closing pages are the most breathtaking in content terms, because Evrard and Auckenthaler leap 25 years into the future and paint optimistic scenarios that they say they will revisit in the next edition of the book in May 2027. This is the stuff that the Gerry Anderson world is built on and which we don’t see enough of. Given the authors’ backgrounds, you can bet on them considerably more than Cmdr Straker’s car.
   Visit their site at www.experts-consultant.fr, from where you may order additional copies.

Matthews and Wacker: The Deviant’s Advantage: How Fringe Ideas Create Mass Markets. New York: Crown Business 2002.

Slightly tougher to get through but the premise is clear from the beginning. Still at the early chapters for me, but essentially Matthews and Wacker discuss how ideas surface on the fringe and become mainstream over time. And today, the fringe is being coopted by the establishment, because it realizes that’s where new things emerge.

Lewis: Next: the Future Just Happened. New York: W. W. Norton 2001.

Perhaps simplistic at times, Lewis shows how some—usually the young—have overcome limitations of age and class to realize their potential thanks to the internet. In it is the story of Jonathan Lebed, the teenager who bought and sold stock online and earned $800,000 in the process—by understanding that share prices are largely cobblers based on no fact at all. Drags a little toward the end, but little gems pop out to inspire you. Hard to put down for me, finished in about three sittings. And that’s the schedule of a CEO.

Mittelman: The Globalization Syndrome: Transformation and Resistance. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press 2000.

The best book on globalization I’ve ever come across, Prof Mittelman has provided properly researched, yet immensely readable and accessible, information on his topic. Still one of my top references on the topic—and it’s darned hard to disagree with this level of research and clarity on the subject. Worth every penny for anyone wanting to enter the globalization debate; without it, folks are just street thugs. An ebook is now available.

Brenner: The Force of Finance: Triumph of the Capital Markets. New York: Texere 2002.

In a frank fashion, Brenner traces the roots of democracy and globalization, and while the latter has been covered better elsewhere (Mittelman's The Globalization Syndrome, for instance), his style is more accessible. Singaporean investments into Indonesia have benefited both countries, not because of capitalism, but because mobility and the transfer of talent allows citizens to be fulfilled in their endeavours, creating a global class. This can be done because both the traveller and the host country have a mutual duty.
   The best chapters are where Brenner analyses financial principles—and courageously and rightly debunks much of the outright lies governments and reserve banks tell about economies. When economies do not work, government's first instinct is to mask the trouble through rhetoric. There is institutionalization, including in education (and specifically, the education of economics), that prevents progress but solidifies power bases which may have become irrelevant; innovation can be helped instead by capital that comes from diverse sources. In saying this, Brenner puts a historical context on even more recent happenings such as the dot-com boom. And provides a basis for the return of the word agelaste, originating from the Greek and meaning someone with no sense of humour. There are many out there preventing modern progress.
   Brenner exposes the truth, making The Force of Finance a must-read for anyone who wishes to cut through them. As a service to the reader, Brenner goes beyond this central topic, providing useful pointers on policy and potential avenues for countries to follow in the future. Those comments make for good reading in any discipline, which can undoubtedly draw parallels to many of the things that Brenner discusses.

The book reviews’ page at CAP Online

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Some of the books that friends have authored
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Don De Palma’s Business without Borders site
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