ISIS emerged from connection. As did the subprime financial crisis. We shouldn’t expect this process to end anytime soon. In fact, it will accelerate.
Joshua Cooper Ramo, The Seventh Sense
I recently posted about the summer reading lists of 14 CEOs, as complied by McKinsey. The Seventh Sense is the only book selected by more than one of the CEOs – and it appears as a selection by four different CEOs. This is an important, much-discussed book! (Read my post: 14 CEOs with their Summer Reading Lists – a Chart from McKinsey).
Mr. Ramo’s historical sweep adds much to the value of this book. He includes stories from China; Great Britain; France; Germany; and, yes, the United States. It is a reminder of some of the great thinkers and leaders across the centuries and across cultures…
I began my synopsis presentation with my three reasons for why this book is worth our time:
#1 – Because we are in the midst of a true, genuine, abiding change – The Seventh Sense is what we need to develop to understand, and function in, this new world.
#2 – This new world is all about connections and connectivity. And, we are at only the beginning stages. And, some of us may have no chance of even or ever understanding this world.
#3 – Because, there are times when we need to take a great big step back, and tackle the genuinely big picture issues. This book helps us do that.
Here is a key line the book:
The Age of Network Power — In which the Seventh Sense reveals a fundamental insight: Connection changes the nature of an object.
So, what is the “seventh sense?” Mr. Ramo has plenty of descriptives, but I think it boils down to this: since everything is connected, or seen will be, a person with this seventh sense sees the world as a perpetually connected world, and knows how to understand the power, grasp the economics, and survive, in the midst of connections/connectivity. From the book:
This book is the story of a new instinct, what I have called the Seventh Sense. …the Seventh Sense is meant for our new age of constant connection.
An entrepreneur with the Seventh Sense looks at a spare bedroom and sees the possibility of a network to unseat hotels. A financier looks at a currency and sees a way to make it algorithmically alive. A new and young discipline called “network science” will give us a framework for thinking about this because it shows how systems as different as the human brain and Facebook in fact follow similar patterns.
The Seventh Sense is defined first by this intuitive feeling for just how power is being re-geared.
The Seventh Sense demands grasping the nature of a connected age and seeing how it might be used to further, not erode, the things we care most about.
I remember reading Technopoly by Neil Postman many years ago. Mr. Postman described the coming world of all-pervasive technology as a “technopoly.” I think Mr. Ramo adds to that element the ever-connectedness within our modern “technopoly.”
Here’s how I summarize the book for my synopsis:
Connectivity/ Connections – there are more and more and more connections.
And each connection changes the connected.
Understanding the nature and the reach of this connectivity, using it wisely, being very wary of the dangers that come with such connectivity – these are the challenges of this new age.
I included his description of a “Grand Strategy.” (There are tactics; there are operations; but over them all is a “Grand Strategy”):
Grand strategy is a basic stance toward the world. If it works, it liberates the creativity and energy of a nation. It sets a clear direction. It protects against the steep price of surprise. Grand strategy holds, in a single concept, the nature of an age and our plans to use that nature for the aims—security, prosperity—that decide a nation’s future. Like it or not, we all live under the umbrella raised by grand strategic choices.
Mr. Ramo divides the book into three major sections:
Part One: The Nature of Our Age
In which the revolutionary character of our era is explained. The need for a new instinct is introduced. The historical stakes are weighed.
Part Two: The Seventh Sense
In which we regard the world with a new sensibility. Connection, we discover, changes the nature of an object.
Part Three: Gateland
A guide to power in the world that becomes newly apparent with the Seventh Sense.
(from the book: It’s less that the United States will be “buried” but that the country certainly will be enmeshed. Are you the gatekeeper or the gatekept?).
(I strongly recommend that you read this book. But, at least, read his short descriptives of each chapter in his table of contents. It will get you thinking!).
And, here are my five lessons and takeaways from the book:
#1 — Connectivity/Connections—these are the power sources of today, and tomorrow.
#2 — Connectivity/Connections will make everything better. It will accelerate, and enhance every kind of knowledge.
#3 — Connectivity/Connections will make everything more dangerous.
#4 — Connectivity/Connections creates a zero to one — the only one — world…
#5 — In the midst of Connectivity/Connections, we are in great need of a return to the liberal arts to inform the new technology masters and users who will shape our future. We need humane citizens!
In my own thinking, I picture a category of books that I call the “Big, Big Picture” books. This one is very much a big, big picture book. I think it is worthy of moving pretty close to the top of your summer reading list!
For further reading: read Mr. Ramo’s article from Fortune: For Apple, Facebook and Amazon, ‘Network Power’ Is the Key to Success.
My synopsis of this book will be available soon on our companion site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com. Each synopsis comes with my multi-page, comprehensive handout, and the audio recording of my presentations.