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

Ranjay Gulati is the Paul R. Lawrence MBA Class of 1942 Professor and the former Unit Head of the Organisational Behaviour Unit at Harvard Business School. In his new book, Deep Purpose: The Heart and Soul of High-Performance Companies, he argues that companies must embed purpose more deeply than they currently do, treating it as a radically new operating system for enterprise. At a time when many have become cynical about purpose, Gulati documents the vast performance gains that purpose-driven companies achieve as well as the social benefits they deliver. In this interview, I speak to Professor Ranjay Gulati about deep purpose, leadership, and his field research in organisations including Etsy, Lego, Warby Parker, Mahindra, Microsoft and the Seattle Seahawks. Gulati discusses how long-term value and short-term performance need not conflict but rather, when leaders go deep on purpose, high-performance and durable profits typically follow, delighting all stakeholders. Deeper engagement with purpose holds the key, not merely to the well-being of individual companies, but to humanity’s future.

Thought Economics

Glenn Hubbard is the Dean Emeritus of Columbia Business School and former Chairman of the US Council of Economic Advisers. In The Wall and the Bridge, Hubbard proves that walls never lead to prosperity and almost always portend collapse. While change can be extremely difficult, it is inevitable. Ultimately, the only way to propel ourselves towards tremendous technological, cultural, and economic progress is to build bridges—accessible to and created by all. Bridges level the playing field by preparing those needing the skills for the new economy while providing the infrastructure for them to reconnect with today’s workplace. It is because walls delay needed adaptations to the ever-changing world, they are essentially backward-looking and ultimately destined to fail. In this interview, I speak to Glenn Hubbard about our economic model, why we need to build bridges instead of walls, and how we can create an inclusive economy that allows everyone to flourish and grow.

Thought Economics

Renzo Rosso founded the Diesel brand in 1978 and made it an alternative lifestyle icon all over the world. Today he is the president of OTB, the group controlling brands Diesel, Maison Margiela, Marni, Jil Sander, Viktor & Rolf, Amiri and companies Staff International and Brave Kid, with over 6,000 employees worldwide and a 2019 turnover of over 1.5 billion euro. Through his personal company, Red Circle, he invests in companies and sectors that share a strong drive for innovation (Depop, ICONIQ Capital, Cortilia, Masi Agricola, Planet Farms, med-tech companies and more). Red Circle also owns the Pelican Hotel in Miami, the Chiltern Firehouse Hotel in London, and the Hotel Ancora in Cortina D’Ampezzo. Through the OTB Foundation, which he founded in 2008, he has invested in over 250 social projects around the world, from the restoration of the Rialto Bridge in Venice, to the support of communities affected by natural disasters, to programs helping women, young people, and integration. In the Covid emergency, OTB Foundation was among the most concretely active realities in Italy. In this interview, I speak to Renzo Rosso, President of OTB Group, about his life in entrepreneurship, creative vision, what it takes to build iconic, global fashion brands and why philanthropy & sustainability matter.

Thought Economics

Robert Greene is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction, The 33 Strategies of War, The 50th Law, and Mastery. In addition to having a strong following within the business world and a deep following in Washington, DC, Greene’s books are hailed by everyone from war historians to the biggest musicians in the industry (including Jay-Z, Drake, and 50 Cent). In this interview, I speak to Robert Greene on power, mastery, success & understanding human nature.

Thought Economics

Tim Leberecht is a German-American author and entrepreneur, and the co-founder and co-CEO of the House of Beautiful Business, a global think tank and community with the mission to make humans more human and business more beautiful. In this interview, I speak to Tim Leberecht on how we can make business beautiful.

Thought Economics

Mr Noor ul Owase Jeelani is a world-renowned neurosurgeon, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. With a surgical career spanning 20 years, he is currently Consultant Paediatric Neurosurgeon at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), world leader in craniopagus twin separation, and Founder of Gemini Untwined. In this interview, I speak to Owase Jeelani about what we can learn from the mindset of surgery, how to make decisions in life and death situations, and how to overcome our biases to enable better strategic thinking.

Thought Economics

The Arctic Circle is a remote, beautiful, and critical part of our planet. Covering one sixth of the Earth’s surface, and over twenty-four time zones, this region is home to more than four million people, and is critically important to keeping our world’s climate, weather, and oceans in balance. Like most everywhere in the world, the Arctic is being shaped by the forces of globalisation and is seen as a frontier of new economic opportunity, but perhaps more than anywhere on Earth, the Arctic is at the front-line of climate change. In this interview, I speak to H.E. Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson (Chairman of the Arctic Circle; President of Iceland, 1996-2016) on the crucial role of the Arctic Circle in the future of our planet, why we need to act now on climate change, and the huge economic, social, and cultural opportunities presented by the region if we engage in dialogue and cooperation.

Thought Economics

All of us face challenges, rough patches and struggles in life. During these times we are often our own worst enemy, experiencing unwelcome emotions, thinking and behaviours. Professor Steve Peters is author of the bestselling book, The Chimp Paradox, which has sold over 1.4 million copies since release in 2012. In his latest book, A Path Through the Jungle, he has created a practical self-development program to help readers and listeners attain psychological health and wellbeing and to find empowerment, robustness and resilience. In this interview, I speak to Professor Steve Peters on The Chimp Paradox, A Path Through the Jungle, how we can focus and empower ourselves, be better leaders, and find a path to robustness and resilience.

Thought Economics

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

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