Vikas Shah MBE DL Interviews the world's leading thinkers, and the people shaping the century.

Ryan Holiday is one of the world’s bestselling living philosophers. His books & courses like The Obstacle Is the Way, Ego Is the Enemy, The Daily Stoic, and the #1 New York Times bestseller Stillness Is the Key appear in more than 40 languages and have sold more than 4 million copies. In his latest book, Courage Is Calling, Ryan breaks down the elements of fear, an expression of cowardice, the elements of courage, an expression of bravery, and lastly, the elements of heroism, an expression of valour. In a world in which fear runs rampant—when people would rather stand on the sidelines than speak out against injustice, go along with convention than bet on themselves, and turn a blind eye to the ugly realities of modern life—we need courage more than ever. We need the courage of whistle-blowers and risk takers. We need the courage of activists and adventurers. We need the courage of writers who speak the truth—and the courage of leaders to listen. In this interview, I speak to Ryan Holiday on how to conquer fear, resolve moral dilemmas, and practice courage in our daily lives.

Thought Economics

Gretchen Rubin is one of today’s most influential and thought-provoking observers of happiness and human nature. She’s the author of many books, including the blockbuster New York Times bestsellers; Outer Order, Inner Calm; The Four Tendencies; Better Than Before; and The Happiness Project. She has an enormous readership, both in print and online, and her books have sold more than 3.5 million copies worldwide, in more than thirty languages. On her top-ranking, award-winning podcast Happier with Gretchen Rubin, she explores happiness and good habits. She is also a CBS News contributor, providing weekly solutions for living a happier life. In this interview, I speak to Gretchen Rubin about how we can get happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative.

Thought Economics

Today humanity is reaching new heights of scientific understanding – and appears to be losing its mind. How can a species that doubled its lifespan, sequenced its genome, and developed vaccines for Covid-19 in less than a year produce so much fake news, quack cures, conspiracy theories, and “post-truth” rhetoric? In this interview, I speak to Professor Steven Pinker about rationality. We discuss how he rejects the cynical cliché that humans are simply irrational cavemen out of time saddled with biases, fallacies, and illusions (after all, we discovered the laws of nature, and set out the benchmarks for rationality itself). We discuss how we (as a species) think in ways that are sensible in the low-tech contexts in which we spend most of our lives but fail to take advantage of the powerful tools of reasoning we’ve discovered over the millennia: logic, critical thinking, probability, correlation and causation, and optimal ways to update beliefs and commit to choices individually and with others
. Steven also takes time to discuss how the rational pursuit of self-interest, sectarian solidarity, and uplifting mythology can add up to crippling irrationality in a society.

Thought Economics

We are living through the most prosperous age in human history, but we are hurtling toward destruction. People are more listless, divided, and miserable than ever, and our civilization faces numerous existential threats, any one of which could take us out – whether it’s climate change, a Carrington Event, a nuclear exchange set in motion by wealth inequality, a refugee crisis, or revolution. We modern humans have become a threat to our own existence, yet we are resting on our cultural laurels, lulled into a false sense of security while speeding toward disaster. In this interview, I speak to evolutionary biologist and professor, Bret Weinstein who- alongside his co-author, Heather Heying has done empirical work on sexual selection and the evolution of sociality, and theoretical work on the evolution of trade-offs, senescence, and morality. In this interview, Bret distils more than 20 years of research and first-hand accounts from the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth to offer a robust scientific framework for understanding ourselves – both as individuals, and in relationships with others – and why the novelty of the modern era is killing us.

Thought Economics

Digitisation is a massive and massively important trend – one accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic. But despite fervent preaching from the Silicon Valley faithful, it’s not the only kind of competency that matters. Silicon Valley veteran and Stanford lecturer Robert E. Siegel argues that amid the incessant drumbeat of digital transformation, too many leaders overlook and under-appreciate the traditional competencies of physical incumbents – things like logistics, manufacturing, customer service, and quality control. The rigid dichotomy between digital and physical is not only over-done, but dangerous to companies trying to succeed. Siegel bridges the gulf in his new book THE BRAINS AND BRAWN COMPANY: How Leading Organisations Blend the Best of Digital and Physical. In this interview, I speak to Robert E. Siegel about how companies that bridge the digital (brain) and physical (brawn) domains will develop huge competitive advantages. We discuss his ten-point framework for the digital and physical realms and look practically at how to put the framework into action by becoming a systems leader, skilled at blending the best of digital and physical, recognising emerging patterns, and making key decisions in a rapidly changing landscape.

Thought Economics

The challenges societies face today, from inequality to climate change to systemic racism, cannot be solved with yesterday’s toolkit. Solving Public Problems shows how readers can take advantage of digital technology, data, and the collective wisdom of our communities to design and deliver powerful solutions to contemporary problems. In Solving Public Problems: How to Fix Our Government and Change Our World, Beth Simone Noveck offers a radical rethinking of the role of the public servant and the skills of the public workforce, this book is about the vast gap between failing public institutions and the huge number of public entrepreneurs doing extraordinary things—and how to close that gap.
In this interview, I speak to about how we, as public servants, community leaders, students, activists and citizens, can become more effective, equitable and inclusive leaders to repair our troubled, twenty-first century world.

Thought Economics

Anil Seth’s quest to understand the biological basis of conscious experience is one of the most exciting contributions to twenty-first-century science. What does it mean to “be you”—that is, to have a specific, conscious experience of the world around you and yourself within it? There may be no more elusive or fascinating question. Historically, humanity has considered the nature of consciousness to be a primarily spiritual or philosophical inquiry, but scientific research is now mapping out compelling biological theories and explanations for consciousness and selfhood. Anil Seth is Professor of cognitive and computational neuroscience at the University of Sussex, co-director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science and in his new book, BEING YOU: A New Science of Consciousness, he argues that we do not perceive the world as it objectively is, but rather that we are prediction machines, constantly inventing our world and correcting our mistakes by the microsecond, and that we can now observe the biological mechanisms in the brain that accomplish this process of consciousness. In this interview, I speak to Anil Seth about the fundamental nature of consciousness, how we perceive the world around us, our selves, and how the science of consciousness is helping to unlock who we are.

Thought Economics

In 2001, Adam Neumann arrived in New York after five years as a conscript in the Israeli navy. Just over fifteen years later, he had transformed himself into the charismatic CEO of a company worth $47 billion. With his long hair and feel-good mantras, the six-foot-five Neumann looked the part of a messianic Silicon Valley entrepreneur. The vision he offered was mesmerizing: a radical reimagining of workspace for a new generation. He called it WeWork.
As billions of funding dollars poured in, Neumann’s ambitions grew limitless. WeWork wasn’t just an office space provider; it would build schools, create cities, even colonize Mars. In pursuit of its founder’s vision, the company spent money faster than it could bring it in. From his private jet, sometimes clouded with marijuana smoke, the CEO scoured the globe for more capital but in late 2019, just weeks before WeWork’s highly publicized IPO, everything fell apart. Neumann was ousted from his company, but still was poised to walk away a billionaire.
In this interview, I speak to Wall Street Journal reporter Eliot Brown on The Cult of We: WeWork and the Great Start-Up Delusion. We discuss WeWork’s extraordinary rise and staggering implosion, why some of the biggest names in banking and venture capital bought the hype and what the future holds for Silicon Valley ‘unicorns.’

Thought Economics

Listening, like any other communication skill, can be improved. Ximena Vengoechea has spent her career facilitating hundreds of conversations at Linkedin, Twitter, Pinterest and more. It’s her job to uncover the truth behind how people use- and think- about products and services, and she does that by deploying the art of listening. In Ximena’s new book, ‘Listen Like You Mean It: Reclaiming the Lost Art of True Connection’ Ximena offers an essential guide to listening for our times. She reveals tried-and-true strategies homed in her own research sessions, and drawn from interviews with marriage counsellors, podcasts hosts, life coaches, journalists, filmmakers, and other listening experts. In this interview, I spoke to Ximena Vengoechea about how we can listen better. We discuss how to quickly build rapport with strangers, how to ask the right questions to help unlock what people need to say, how to navigate conversations that have gone off the rails, how to set boundaries and protect ourselves from toxic conversations, and how to master the art of listening for deeper and more meaningful human connection.

Thought Economics

In The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain, acclaimed science writer Annie Murphy Paul explodes the myth that the brain is an all-powerful, all-purpose thinking machine that works best in silence and isolation. We are often told that the human brain is an awe-inspiring wonder, but its capacities are remarkably limited and specific. Humanity has achieved its most impressive feats only by thinking outside the brain: by “extending” the brain’s power with resources borrowed from the body, other people, and the material world. Annie’s research tells the stories of scientists and artists, authors and inventors, leaders, and entrepreneurs—Jackson Pollock, Charles Darwin, Jonas Salk, Friedrich Nietzsche, Watson and Crick, among others—who have mastered the art of thinking outside the brain. In this interview, I speak to Annie Murphy Paul on her ground-breaking work exploring how our minds work, how extra-neural resources play a role in our thinking, and how understanding the extended mind can give us ground-breaking insights into harnessing our potential.

Thought Economics

Dr. Robert Cialdini has spent his entire career conducting scientific research on what leads people to say “Yes” to requests. The results of his research, his ensuing articles, and New York Times bestselling books have earned him an acclaimed reputation as a respected scientist and engaging storyteller. His books, including Influence and Pre-Suasion, have sold more than five-million copies in 41 different languages. Dr. Cialdini is known globally as the foundational expert in the science of influence and how to apply it ethically in business. His Six Principles of Persuasion have become a cornerstone for any organization serious about effectively increasing their influence. As a keynote speaker, Dr. Cialdini has earned a world-wide reputation for his ability to translate the science into valuable and practical actions. His on-stage stories are described as dramatic and indelible. Because of all of this, he is frequently regarded as “The Godfather of Influence”. In this exclusive interview, I speak to Dr. Robert Cialdini, Renowned Scientist, New York Times Best-Selling Author and CEO of Influence at Work (IAW®) about the power of influence, how to build influence and the tools of the best influencers in the world.

Thought Economics

Dr. Maya Shankar is Senior Director of Behavioural Economics at Google and is the Creator, Host and Executive Producer of her brilliant new podcast A Slight Change of Plans which explores the question: What exactly happens when we find ourselves on the brink of change? Using her skills as a cognitive scientist, she delves into the incredible stories of a number of guests. She speaks to Tiffany Haddish on her transformation from foster care kid to Emmy-winning comedian; a former member of the extremist Westboro Baptist Church on her experience walking away from a cult; Kacey Musgraves on how psychedelics changed her perspective on art; a young cancer researcher who gets a diagnosis that changes everything; a Black jazz musician who convinced hundreds of KKK members to leave the Klan; and Hillary Rodham Clinton who was never willing to change in the way people wanted her to. In this interview, I speak to Maya Shankar about her transformation from being a musician to leading the White House Behavioural Science Team, and what she’s learned about change and transformation through her podcast, “A Slight Change of Plans.”

Thought Economics

In 2009, a St. Louis glassblowing artist and recovering computer scientist named Jim McKelvey lost a sale because he couldn’t accept American Express cards. Frustrated by the high costs and difficulty of accepting credit card payments, McKelvey joined his friend Jack Dorsey (the cofounder of Twitter) to launch Square, a start-up that would enable small merchants to accept credit card payments on their mobile phones. With no expertise or experience in the world of payments, they approached the problem of credit cards with a new perspective, questioning the industry’s assumptions, experimenting and innovating their way through early challenges, and achieving widespread adoption from merchants small and large. But just as Square was taking off, Amazon launched a similar product, marketed it aggressively, and undercut Square on price. For most ordinary start-ups, this would have spelled the end. Instead, less than a year later, Amazon was in retreat and soon discontinued its service. How did Square beat the most dangerous company on the planet? Was it just luck? These questions motivated McKelvey to study what Square had done differently from all the other companies Amazon had killed. He eventually found the key: a strategy he calls the Innovation Stack. In this interview I speak to Jim McKelvey, Co-Founder of Square and author of The Innovation Stack: Building an Unbeatable Business One Crazy Idea at a Time. We talk about how to build a pattern of ground-breaking, competition-proof entrepreneurship that is rare but repeatable. And how we can find the entrepreneur within ourselves and identify and fix unsolved problems–one crazy idea at a time.

Thought Economics

It’s a seemingly undeniable truth that ageing is inevitable. But what if everything we’ve been taught to believe about ageing is wrong? What if we could choose our lifespan? David Sinclair, PhD, AO, is a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School. One of the leading innovators of his generation, he has been named by Time as “one of the 100 most influential people in the world” and top fifty most influential people in healthcare. David’s eye-opening and provocative work takes us to the frontlines of research that is pushing the boundaries on our perceived scientific limitations, revealing incredible breakthroughs—many from Sinclair’s own lab at Harvard—that demonstrate how we can slow down, or even reverse, ageing. The key is activating newly discovered vitality genes, the descendants of an ancient genetic survival circuit that is both the cause of ageing and the key to reversing it. Recent experiments in genetic reprogramming suggest that soon we may not just be able to feel younger but become younger. In this interview, I speak to Dr. David Sinclair, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, and author of Lifespan about why we age, why we don’t have to. We explore the technologies and simple lifestyle changes that can help us live younger and healthier for longer, and discuss David’s bold new vision for the future of humankind where we could live healthy lives over many centuries.

Thought Economics

For over a century, anthropologists have immersed themselves in unfamiliar cultures, uncovering the hidden rituals that govern how people act. Now, a new generation of anthropologists are using these methods in a new context – to illuminate the behaviour of businesses and consumers around the globe. In Anthro-Vision, Gillian Tett – bestselling author, Financial Times journalist, and anthropology PhD – reveals how anthropology can help make sense of the corporate world. She explains how to identify the ‘webs of meaning’ that underpin consumers’ behaviour on the other side of the planet. She reveals why ‘sense-making’ can explain the most erratic behaviour of Wall Street bankers, and why concealed systems of barter shape our relationship with Silicon Valley. She delves into the cultural shifts driving investment in new markets and green issues. And she reveals what anthropology can tell us about our own workplaces, too: by identifying the hidden tribes within the office, or pinpointing which rituals are binding together a team. In this exclusive interview, I spoke to Gillian Tett about how anthropology can help us better understand the world, and why business leaders need to understand and apply anthropology to build successful organisations.

Thought Economics

Abigail E. Disney advocates for real changes to the way capitalism operates in today’s world. She has worked for thirty years with programs for low-income families, women’s rights, and global poverty. She is an Emmy- Winning Documentary Filmmaker and co-founder of Fork Films, a nonfiction media production company, which produces the weekly podcast “All Ears,” where host Abigail Disney interviews bold, solutions-oriented thinkers from the front lines of America’s urgent inequality and race crises. She is also the Chair and Co-Founder of Level Forward, a new breed storytelling company focused on systemic change through creative excellence, balancing financial and social returns. She also created the non-profit Peace is Loud, which uses storytelling to advance social movements and the Daphne Foundation, which supports organizations working for a more equitable, fair and peaceful New York City. I this exclusive interview I speak to Abigail E. Disney on her incredible career in the arts alongside her relationship with wealth, philanthropy, legacy, and success.

Thought Economics

Marianne Williamson is a bestselling author, non-profit and political activist, and spiritual thought leader. For over three decades Marianne has been a leader in spiritual and religiously progressive circles. She is the author of 14 books, four of which have been #1 New York Times best sellers. A quote from the mega best seller A Return to Love, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure…” is considered an anthem for a contemporary generation of seekers. Williamson founded Project Angel Food, a non-profit that has delivered more than 13 million meals to ill and dying homebound patients since 1989. The group was created to help people suffering from the ravages of HIV/AIDS. She has also worked throughout her career on poverty, anti-hunger, and racial reconciliation issues. She has advocated for reparations for slavery since the 1990’s and was the first candidate in the 2020 presidential primary season to make it a pillar of her campaign. In 2004, she co-founded The Peace Alliance and supports the creation of a U.S. Department of Peace. In addition, she advocates for a cabinet level Department of Children and Youth to adequately address the chronic trauma of millions of American children. In this exclusive interview, I speak with Marianne Williamson about spirituality, love, finding purpose and fixing our broken society.

Thought Economics

Federico Marchetti is a remarkable entrepreneur defined by the New York Times as “the man who put fashion on the net”, has revolutionised the fashion industry. Marchetti founded YOOX, the world’s first lifestyle e-commerce destination, in 2000, way before the launch of Facebook and the iPhone. YOOX was listed on the Milan Stock Exchange in 2009; today, it remains Italy’s sole “unicorn”. In 2015, Marchetti drove the game-changing merger of YOOX and NET-A-PORTER to create the world leader in online luxury and fashion. Today, the Group is a unique eco-system connecting more than 1 billion people every year with the joy of luxury and fashion that lasts a lifetime and beyond. Back in 2009 he launched YOOXYGEN, the sustainability platform with collaborations including Katherine Hamnett, Amber Valletta, Vivienne Westwood, Edun and Stella Jean. Around that time, Marchetti’s team developed YOOX’s “ECOBOX”, which is fully recyclable and plastic-free, and is now the standard across NET- A-PORTER, MR PORTER and THE OUTNET. In 2021 His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales invited Marchetti to take on the role of Champion of HRH’s Sustainable Markets Initiative Task Force on Fashion. This follows the success of The Modern Artisan project between The Prince’s Foundation and YOOX NET-A-PORTER, a first of its kind training programme invented by Marchetti, promoting sustainable luxury design and craftsmanship through the use of data and technology. Alongside sustainability, inclusion and diversity have been central to the ethical approach that Marchetti has adopted over the last twenty years. He runs a mentorship programme for aspiring entrepreneurs from backgrounds that are typically underrepresented in the industry and is a founding member of the Champions of Change Coalition Global Technology Group, which works to advance gender equality in the tech sector. In 2020 Marchetti became the first non-family member to join the Giorgio Armani S.p.A Board of Directors as Independent Non-Executive Director. In 2017 Marchetti has been recognized by the President of the Italian Republic who knighted him as a Cavaliere. In this exclusive interview, I spoke to Federico Marchetti remarkable entrepreneur defined by the New York Times as “the man who put fashion on the net,” on entrepreneurship, fashion, sustainability and luxury.

Thought Economics

In Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgement, Nobel Prize Winner, Daniel Kahneman together with co-authors Olivier Sibony, and Cass R. Sunstein show how noise helps produce errors in many fields, including medicine, law, public health, economic forecasting, food safety, forensic science, bail verdicts, child protection, strategy, performance reviews and personnel selection. And although noise can be found wherever people make judgments and decisions, individuals and organizations alike commonly ignore to its role in their judgments and in their actions. They show “noise neglect.” With a few simple remedies, people can reduce both noise and bias, and so make far better decisions. In these interviews, I speak to Daniel Kahneman (winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences and the National Medal of Freedom in 2013) and Cass R. Sunstein (Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard, where he is founder and director of the Program on Behavioural Economics and Public Policy). We talk about how noise impacts our decision making, how judgements are made, and why we need think about making decisions, much like washing our hands.

Thought Economics

Angela Duckworth is the founder and CEO of Character Lab, a non-profit whose mission is to advance scientific insights that help children thrive. She is also the Rosa Lee and Egbert Chang Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, faculty co-director of the Penn-Wharton Behavior Change for Good Initiative, and faculty co-director of Wharton People Analytics. Angela’s TED talk is among the most viewed of all time. Her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance is a #1 New York Times best seller. Angela is also co-host, with Stephen Dubner, of the podcast No Stupid Questions. In this interview, I talk to Angela Duckworth about the true nature of grit, passion and perseverance. We talk about what it takes to succeed in life, to achieve great things, and the importance of goals in reaching the pinnacle of accomplishment.

Thought Economics

Stay up to date. Signup to my newsletter.

We use cookies on our website to give you the best possible experience. By continuing to use our site, we assume you are OK with that.
Accept Privacy Policy
  Contact
Close Contact Form

To get in touch with Vikas Shah, author of Thought Economics, please use this contact form.