Mind-expanding books for CEOs

Pete Trainor, CEO of VALA Health, shares a reading list to make you future-fit.

by Adam Gale
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2019
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Food for thought

There is a temptation to sensationalise the imminent impact of technology on business. Modern capitalism never existed in a steady state, and there is debate over whether the changes wrought by digital tech today are more profound than, say, the impact of steam power, replaceable parts, electricity, mass communication or antibiotics in years gone by.

What is hard to argue against is that the changes are happening faster than before. Smartphones may or may not have been more historically significant than pesticides or power looms, but they spread much more quickly. 

Such frantic times demand from leaders adaptability, resilience and open-mindedness above all, which, paradoxically, requires them to slow down and think. It’s not for nothing that so many of the chief executives Management Today encounters are avid readers (mostly in print, it might be added - ebook sales having plateaued several years ago).

One such CEO is Pete Trainor from London-based VALA Health, which is focused on delivering affordable primary care using ethical applications of data-driven technology. Prompted by conversations on the future of business and humanity at the Fast Forward Forum in Venice, he shares his reading list for getting future-fit.  


"Much in the same way that technology fundamentally up-ended the banking and transport sectors, it's not going to be long before our health is also disrupted - and managed - by AI, machine reasoning and data. 

"In The Future of Healthcare: Humans and Machines Partnering for Better Outcomes, Dr Emmanuel Fombu takes a balanced look at how data can help us make more informed decisions about how to better manage our health and wellness. It's a brilliant book that is as much a guide for the technology industry as it is for healthcare practitioners.

"But as we all know, the road to data-driven utopia is going to be littered with the bodies of those that got it wrong, and in Mindf*ck: Inside Cambridge Analytica's Plot to Break the World we get a critical drubbing of the now-infamous psychological-targeting story. 

"This book is nothing shy of brilliant, a warning for how companies who wield so much power also have a duty of care to make sure we're all treated with respect. In a world where we give so much of ourselves away, the social media giants have acted like medieval priests selling our deepest confessions to the highest bidder. That can’t continue.

"Which leads nicely into Lucie Greene's book Silicon States: The Power and Politics of Big Tech and What It Means for Our Future. Lucie goes some way to answering the big questions by taking a look at the tech giants (and their CULTures) that were set up to replace the very corporate beasts they have now become. It's a brilliant read, I’m glued to it.

"If that’s got you worried about the future, I recommend The Multi-Hyphen Method by Emma Gannon and  Fear Hack by Hilary Gallo. Two cracking reads about resilience and work cultures in a time of great uncertainty.

"How to Get to Great Ideas, by Dave Birss, is a scientific look at how to frame a problem. I'd highly recommend reading it alongside Creative Superpowers, which is a primer for the language of creativity. Packed full of insightful perspectives from the industry's finest, it's an accessible, well-written book to pull off your shelf when you need to kick-start some inspiration.

"I have to give a notable mention for Sam Conniff Allende's Be More Pirate which is frankly just a remarkable little piece of joy. In his book, Conniff uses pirates as the perfect analogy for today's challenges. 

"They didn't just break the rules, they rewrote them. They didn't just reject society, they reinvented it. When faced with a self-interested establishment, a broken system, industrial scale disruption and an uncertain future, they zigged rather than zagged. We could all use a bit of pirate to survive today's complicated world!"

Image courtesy of Nemo Roberts (all rights reserved).

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