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

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