Books April 2016 – Exponential Organizations +2

by Dave Michels

Books completed this month.

The Giver by Lois Lowry: Technically a book for young readers, but like Watership Down it’s really for adults. It takes place in a future in a society that is nearly perfect. Seems like most future books are dystopian. This little and simple book says a lot. It can also be classified as a coming of age book. The main character turns 13 and begins career training, and discovers the cost of his perfect community. Jonas learns the burden of history. It’s a good, thought provoking read, but I wasn’t a fan of the ending. Perhaps that’s because it didn’t really end. To be fair its titled Book 1. The Giver is a series which I may have to explore.

Exponential Organizations by Salim Ismail:  This was my favorite book this month. I can’t recall how many times Uber and/or AirBnB are cited as examples of fast and innovative companies. While certainly true, so what? This book gets into a little more detail about what’s really changed and why these types of companies will become the new normal. We are all familiar with Moore’s law and computing power, but it’s actually not his law. Moore’s Law applies to computer chips, but the concept of exponential growth applies broadly to technology and goes much further back that Moore. In a larger sense it applies to information., and as organizations becoming information-based (digital), exponential growth can occur. Uber and AirBnB are the poster kids of the much larger transition of digitization (some prefer digitalization). It’s happening to many more firms and entire industries that share many characteristics covered in this book. Through this lens, the concept applies to many more companies (startups and established firms), and entire industries such as medicine, genetics, and drones. The CO organization also applies to enterprise communications.  Twilio today, and Cisco and ININ are working hard to transform their offers and methods.


The Player of Games by Ian Banks: This book was on recommended readings lists of both Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk. It is book about life told through the metaphor of game play. The main character is a master game player and is recruited to play a very complex game on different planet he is a Yoda meets Bobby Fisher type. The science fiction is a bit too strong – lots of complex names and many of the characters are drones. However, if you can manage that the game itself is so complex (takes years to learn) that’s never really explained. Instead the game play is what matters. The book starts on Earth in the future – in a post-scarcity society. There is no concept of losing it all because everyone has what they need which contracts sharply with the barbaric planet where the game takes place. The book has some surprising twists similar to Ender’s Game.