The first part of my publishing career was spent working for a science fiction publisher, and there was a time that the genre was a big part of my life. In recent years I’ve read very little SF, though that is not so much a slight on the genre as having read predominantly (overwhelmingly) non-fiction for years. So it felt nostalgic and exciting to do a piece of work for a client this week that touched on SF, like revisiting a city where you once lived and seeing the mixture of the familiar and the new. (Coincidentally, a day later a business associate I was meeting for the first time spotted the row of Iain M. Banks books on the shelves that make up my Zoom background, an instant ice-breaker.) These things made me think I should read more SF, so I ordered a couple of recent(ish) novels (A Memory Called Empire and Ninefox Gambit). Besides any personal or nostalgic motivations, this HBR piece makes a good business case for me doing so, and why you should do the same:
By presenting plausible alternative realities, science fiction stories empower us to confront not just what we think but also how we think and why we think it. They reveal how fragile the status quo is, and how malleable the future can be... Science fiction isn’t useful because it’s predictive. It’s useful because it reframes our perspective on the world. Like international travel or meditation, it creates space for us to question our assumptions.
In the present, most of the week was spent on publisher outreach for Xigxag, commercial discussions with a new client, and on finalising the strategy workshop I am delivering next week, including really helpful feedback from a couple of colleagues and a run-through with the client. I’m pleased with how it has come together. If you’re interested in finding out more about strategy workshops and how they could be useful for your organisation, please book a call with me and I’ll be glad to talk you through it.
I finished reading Mariana Mazucatto’s new book Mission Economy: A Moonshot Guide to Changing Capitalism, which I found provocative and inspiring. Mazzucato argues that a class of ‘wicked problems’ such as the climate crisis and social inequality require a different sort of approach from government—indeed, a different way of looking at the role of government and how it spends money. Her alternative looks more like NASA’s Apollo programme than more recent public-private partnerships. The book is particularly strong on explaining the organisational, financial and technological characteristics of the moonshot, and how from computing to home insulation, the spillovers from Apollo R&D became parts of every day life. I recommend it. In its place I’ve started A Memory Called Empire.