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

A real life ‘Samantha’ from Sex and the City, Melanie Blake’s own incredible life story reads like the plot of an outrageous novel itself. From a working-class background, Blake pulled herself out of a life of poverty and homelessness as a teen by working as an extra on various film and TV sets. After declaring bankruptcy in her 20s, now 44, Blake has re-invented herself to become one of the UK’s most successful businesswomen. She is a self-made multimillionaire, property entrepreneur, and bestselling author. She went from being a TV extra to becoming one of the most powerful celebrity agents in the UK and an award-winning businesswoman. Alongside Jaqueline Gold CBE, the CEO of Ann Summers, Melanie Blake is also one of the UK’s most vocal champions of women in business. In this exclusive interview, I spoke to Melanie Blake about her life as a media entrepreneur, the challenges faced by women in the media & entertainment industry and why she’s chronicled her experiences in her bestselling novel, Ruthless Women.

Thought Economics

In this exclusive interview, I speak to Max Parker (Founder of Matchstick Group) and Danny Jones (Investor & one-quarter of the multiplatinum British pop rock group McFly) about managing talent in the digital era, and the mental health impact of public profile and fame.

Thought Economics

In his latest book Think Again, Adam Grant – Wharton’s top-rated professor and #1 bestselling author – offers bold ideas and rigorous evidence to show how we can embrace the joy of being wrong, encourage others to rethink topics as wide-ranging as abortion and climate change, and build schools, workplaces, and communities of lifelong learners. How shows us how international debate champion wins arguments, a Black musician persuades white supremacists to abandon hate, and how a vaccine whisperer convinces anti-vaxxers to immunize their children. Think Again is an invitation to let go of stale opinions and prize mental flexibility, humility, and curiosity over foolish consistency. If knowledge is power, knowing what you don’t know is wisdom. In this exclusive interview, I speak to Adam Grant about why we need to re-evaluate what we know, what we think we know, and how we know it.

Thought Economics

Nicola Benedetti is one of the most sought-after violinists of her generation. Her ability to captivate audiences and her wide appeal as an advocate for classical music has made her one of the most influential artists of today. Nicola is a dedicated, passionate ambassador and leader in music education reaching young people and connecting with teachers, supporting their practice, highlighting their essential role in society and encouraging collaboration and mutual learning. This commitment was underlined in July 2018, when Nicola took over as President of the European String Teachers Association and by establishing a charitable organisation: The Benedetti Foundation. Winner of the GRAMMY Award for Best Classical Instrumental Solo in 2020, as well as Best Female Artist at both 2012 and 2013 Classical BRIT Awards, Nicola records exclusively for Decca (Universal Music). Her most recent recording features premiere recordings of works written especially for her by jazz musician Wynton Marsalis: Violin Concerto in D and Fiddle Dance Suite for Solo Violin, for which she won her 2020 GRAMMY. Nicola was appointed a CBE in 2019, awarded the Queen’s Medal for Music (2017), and an MBE in 2013. In addition, Nicola holds the positions of Vice President (National Children’s Orchestras), Big Sister (Sistema Scotland), Patron (National Youth Orchestras of Scotland’s Junior Orchestra, Music in Secondary Schools Trust and Junior Conservatoire at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland). In this exclusive interview, I spoke to Nicola Bendetti CBE on her life in classic music, the beauty of the violin, and why music education matters.

Thought Economics

Nitin Sawhney CBE, recipient of the Ivor Novello 2017 Lifetime Achievement award, is one the most distinctive and versatile musical voices around today. Sawhney has recorded multiple albums, film soundtracks and compilations, encompassing over 60 film and TV scores and is established as a world-class producer, songwriter, touring artist, BBC Radio 2 and club DJ, multi-instrumentalist, theatrical, dance, videogame and orchestral composer and cultural/ political commentator.  He holds 6 honorary doctorates from various UK universities along with 2 fellowships and works as Ambassador for/sits on the board of multiple charities. He has received over 20 major national and international awards for his work and is a member of the academy of motion picture sciences (Oscars), BAFTA and the US recording academy (Grammys). Sawhney is also the new Chair of the PRS Foundation, the UK’s funding body for new music and talent development. In this exclusive interview, I spoke to Nitin Sawhney CBE on the fundamentals of why we make music.

Thought Economics

Sophie Ellis-Bextor is one of the UK’s best known singer songwriters. She first came to prominence in the late 1990s as the lead singer of the indie rock band Theaudience, and went on to achieve huge solo success with her unique blend of mainstream pop, disco, nu-disco and 1980s electronic influence. Her debut solo album Read My Lips went double-platinum, selling more than 2 million copies worldwide with her follow-up albums Shoot from the Hip, Trip the Light Fantastic,  Make a Scene, Wanderlust and Familia achieving significant success and critical acclaim. Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Instagram Live Kitchen Disco’s during the Covid-19 lockdown were a means of virtual escapism for many, and became weekly moments of united sequined catharsis for the hundreds of thousands tuning in (the concept was so successful that Sophie now has a tour and album of it). In this exclusive interview, I spoke to Sophie about the power of music & dance and why music has been such a powerful force for good during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

Thought Economics

Brian Eno is a remarkable man. He is a musician, producer, visual artist, theorist, activist and philosopher, a polymath who has become one of our world’s most significant artists. In this first of a new series of conversations around our biggest unanswered questions, I spoke to Brian and asked: Why do we make art?

Thought Economics

Seth Godin is the author of 20 books that have been bestsellers around the world and have been translated into more than 35 languages. He’s also the founder of the altMBA and The Akimbo Workshops, online seminars that have transformed the work of thousands of people. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything. You might be familiar with his books Linchpin, Tribes, The Dip and Purple Cow. His book, This Is Marketing, was an instant bestseller around the world. His latest book, The Practice, is already a bestseller. In addition to his writing and speaking, Seth has founded several companies, including Yoyodyne and Squidoo. His blog (which you can find by typing “seth” into Google) is one of the most popular in the world. His podcast is in the top 1% of all podcasts worldwide. In 2018, he was inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame. More than 20,000 people have taken the powerful Akimbo workshops he founded, including thealtMBA and The Marketing Seminar. In this exclusive interview, I spoke to Seth Godin about what it means to be creative, and how we can use the skills of creativity.

Thought Economics

Matthew McConaughey is an Academy Award®-winning actor and producer who has played starring roles in some of the most seminal, and commercially successful films in recent history including A Time to Kill (1996), U-571 (2000), the Wedding Planner (2001), Failure to Launch (2006), Magic Mike (2012), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), Dallas Buyers Club (2013), Interstellar (2014), The Dark Tower (2017) and The Gentlemen (2019). In 2009, Matthew and his wife, Camila, founded the just keep livin Foundation, which helps at-risk high school students make healthier mind, body, and spirit choices. In 2019, McConaughey became a professor of practice at the University of Texas at Austin, as well as Minister of Culture/M.O.C. for the University of Texas and the City of Austin. McConaughey is also brand ambassador for Lincoln Motor Company, an owner of the Major League Soccer club Austin FC, and co-creator of his favourite bourbon on the planet, Wild Turkey Longbranch. McConaughey has led a charmed and full life. His recent memoir Greenlights takes the reader along with him as he tries to work out this riddle called life but unlike most, he fills it with practical advice and lessons from his life to ours. As Matthew wrote his memoir, the process revealed a theme- an approach- to living that gave him satisfaction at the time, and still today. He calls this process, ‘catching greenlights’ and in this exclusive interview, I spoke to Matthew McConaughey about how we can apply the lessons from his life, to our own. As he says himself, “…hopefully, it’s medicine that tastes good, a couple of aspirin instead of the infirmary, a spaceship to Mars without needing your pilot’s license, going to church without having to be born again, and laughing through the tears.” 

Thought Economics

Throughout the world, capitalism and democracy are being challenged with great force. The world must change, but we cannot change it by throwing money at old ideas that no longer work. We need a new path to a new world where inequality is shrinking, where natural resources are regenerated, and people can benefit from shared prosperity. This is the world being created by the Impact Revolution. Sir Ronald Cohen is a preeminent international philanthropist, venture capitalist, private equity investor, and social innovator, who is driving forward the global impact revolution. He is Chairman of the Global Steering Group for Impact Investment (GSG) (which succeeded the G8 Social Impact Investment Task Force, of which he was also Chair); Chairman and co-Founder of The Portland Trust; co-Founder of Social Finance UK, US, and Israel; co-Founder of Bridges Fund Management UK, US, and Israel; and co-Founder of Big Society Capital. Each of the initiatives he leads today aims to shift the allocation of human and financial resources to creating positive impact. In 1972, he co-Founded what became Apax Partners Worldwide LLC, which he led as its Executive Chairman until 2005. Each day, he strives to live by a simple principle: Do Good, Do Well! In this exclusive interview, I spoke to Sir Ronald Cohen about the impact investment revolution, a fairer capitalist model, and how impact investors are tackling some of our world’s biggest challenges.

Thought Economics

Free market capitalism is one of humanity’s greatest inventions and the greatest source of prosperity the world has ever seen. But this success has been costly. Capitalism is on the verge of destroying the planet and destabilising society as wealth rushes to the top. The time for action is running short. Rebecca Henderson is an economist, and one of the world’s most influential thinkers in economics, psychology, and organisational behaviour. She is the John & Natty McArthur University Professor at Harvard and for more than thirty years, has worked with some of the world’s largest organisations around purpose-driven capitalism and the role that business leaders at every level can play in reimagining our current system. In her seminal book, Reimagining Capitalism, she debunks the worldview that the only purpose of business is to make money and maximise shareholder value. She shows that we have failed to reimagine capitalism so that it is not only an engine of prosperity but also a system that is in harmony with environmental realities, striving for social justice, and the demands of truly democratic institutions. In this exclusive interview, I spoke to Rebecca Henderson on whether our system of capitalism is broken and what can be done to re-imagine it for a better future.

Thought Economics

James Thornton is a remarkable individual who has dedicated his life to fighting for climate and environmental justice. As a Wall Street lawyer, he won over 80 cases to force the Reagan Administration to clean up polluted water. It was in 2007, when he moved to Europe that ClientEarth was formed with a mission to change the way environmental protections are made and enforced. Now operating globally, ClientEarth uses advocacy, litigation and research to address the greatest challenges of our time – including nature loss, public health and climate change. In the last decade alone, ClientEarth has led an EU-wide law banning illegally harvested rainforest timber, setup the Sustainable Seafood Coalition, won numerous cases against governments for failing to tackle air pollution, and forced many nations and corporations to create sustainable change in their policy and strategy for the benefit of the climate and environment. James and his team use the most effective tool in the arsenal for change, the law. In this exclusive interview, I spoke to James Thornton about how we can tackle one of the greatest challenges our species has ever faced, climate change.

Thought Economics

Kalki Koechlin is an extraordinary talent. She is an actress, writer, producer and activist who has received numerous accolades including a National Film Award, a Filmfare Award, MetroPlus Playwright Award and two Screen Awards. Born in Pondicherry, India, to French parents, Kalki studied her craft at Goldsmiths, University of London before returning to India, making her screen debut as Chanda in the drama Dev.D (winning her the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress). Her diverse career has led her to star in two of the highest grossing films in Bollywood history Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and iconic movies such as Margarita with a Straw, Shanghai and Gully Boy (with Ranveer Singh & Alia Bhatt). Kalki has also been a pioneer in web and streaming formats. She drew critical acclaim for her characters in Made in Heaven and Sacred Games and Zee 5’s original titled, Bhram. She is also an engaged and respected activist, promoting causes ranging from health & education, to the empowerment of women and gender equity. In this exclusive interview, I spoke to Kalki Koechlin about her life, her art and her advocacy. 

Thought Economics

Robert O’Neill is one of the most highly-decorated combat veterans of our time and the author of The New York Times best-selling memoir, The Operator: Firing the Shots That Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior. A former SEAL Team Six leader with the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, he deployed more than a dozen times and held combat leadership roles in more than 400 combat missions in four different theatres of war. A highly trained Navy SEAL, he led the military’s most elite and was involved in our nation’s most important campaigns. In this exclusive interview, I spoke to Robert O’Neill about the mission to kill Osama bin Laden, what it takes to be a Navy SEAL and what we can all learn from the SEAL mindset.

Thought Economics

Christiana Figueres is a Costa Rican citizen and an internationally recognized leader on climate change. She was Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from 2010 to 2016. During her tenure at the UNFCCC, Ms. Figueres brought together national and sub-national governments, corporations and activists, financial institutions and NGOs to jointly deliver the historic Paris Agreement on climate change, in which 195 sovereign nations agreed on a collaborative path forward to limit future global warming to well below 2°C, and strive for 1.5°C, in order to protect the most vulnerable. In this exclusive interview, I spoke with Christiana Figueres about her lifelong commitment to building a sustainable future for our planet.

Thought Economics

Jacqueline Gold CBE is Chief Executive of Ann Summers and Knickerbox and is renowned for managing a business run by women, for women. Jacqueline is an activist for women in business, championing female entrepreneurs and, through sharing her own experiences, aims to better the working environment for women. Her attitude towards female empowerment and gender equality inspires countless generations of women to pursue their dreams and celebrate their successes, not least her 11-year-old daughter Scarlett. In this exclusive interview, I spoke to Jacqueline Gold CBE about her incredible entrepreneurship journey with Ann Summers and her work empowering women in the workplace.

Thought Economics

In this exclusive interview, I speak to Professor Sir David Omand, one of Britain’s most senior ex-intelligence officers. He was the first UK Security and Intelligence Coordinator, responsible to the Prime Minister for the professional health of the intelligence community, national counter-terrorism strategy and “homeland security”. He served for seven years on the Joint Intelligence Committee. He was Permanent Secretary of the Home Office from 1997 to 2000, and before that Director of GCHQ.  We talk through the incredible tools In his new book How Spies Think: 10 Lessons in Intelligence and how the big decisions in our lives can be easier when using the frameworks used by British intelligence.

Thought Economics

Called the “closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience,” by The Atlantic magazine, Tristan Harris spent three years as a Google Design Ethicist developing a framework for how technology should “ethically” steer the thoughts and actions of billions of people from screens. He is now co-founder & president of the Center for Humane Technology, whose mission is to reverse ‘human downgrading’ and re-align technology with humanity. Additionally, he is co-host of the Center for Humane Technology’s Your Undivided Attention podcast with co-founder Aza Raskin. Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce notes that, “Tristan Harris is probably the strongest voice in technology pointing where the industry needs to go. This is a call to arms and everyone needs to hear him now.” In this exclusive interview I spoke to Tristan Harris about how the technologies of social media and the smartphone are destroying our society, and what we can do to pull it back from the brink.

Thought Economics

Jaron Lanier is a renaissance man, and one of the most profoundly important thinkers of our age on the relationship of technology to humanity. He is a computer scientist, composer, artist, and author who writes on numerous topics, including high-technology business, the social impact of technology, the philosophy of consciousness and information, Internet politics, and the future of humanism. He has been on the cusp of technological innovation from its infancy to the present. A pioneer in virtual reality (a term he coined), Lanier founded VPL Research, the first company to sell VR products, and led teams originating VR applications for medicine, design, and numerous other fields. Officially, Jaron is Microsoft’s “Octopus”, which stands for Office of the Chief Technology Officer Prime Unifying Scientist.. He was a founder or principal of startups that were acquired by Google, Adobe, Oracle, and Pfizer. In this exclusive interview, I spoke to Jaron Lanier about the very essence of the relationship between technology and humanity, and why we need to evaluate the ethics of our platforms and our relationship to social media.

Thought Economics

Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt is one of the world’s foremost computer scientists. He is chairman of the Open Data Institute which he co-founded with Sir Tim Berners-Lee. He is a leading researcher in artificial intelligence and was one of the originators of the interdisciplinary field of web science. He is Principal of Jesus College Oxford, a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Oxford and a visiting Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Southampton. In this exclusive interview, I spoke to Sir Nigel about open data and artificial intelligence are transforming humanity.

Thought Economics

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