We present marketing, business, and cultural inspirations from across the past year. Which books and articles to read, which podcasts to listen to, and which authors on social media to look out for? The list is based on a survey conducted on nearly 1000 participants in November and December 2022 and enriched with suggestions from the editors.
The report is festooned with inspirations for 2023 recommended by people from the world of design, technology, and business.
All graphics framing the report were generated by artificial intelligence (DALL-E). The executive summary was compiled by Jakub Müller of “Marketing przy kawie” and the English version was edited and adapted by Marcin Kręcioch.
What a year it has been
Writers talk about the fetish of the first sentence. Something that surprises the reader and draws them into the story. Two journalists from the American technology magazine Wired decided to start their Gadget Lab podcast with a word that sums up the eventful year of 2022. Lauren Goode reached into the dictionary and suggested the rare English word inauspicious, translated as “not very promising; not promising success”.
This alone says quite a lot about the passing year. As does the fact that the other author of the podcast, Michael Calore, suggested starting with ‘Elon Musk’. The name has appeared in a variety of contexts: big business (Tesla), geopolitics (Starlink satellites over Ukraine), debates about polarisation, and freedom of speech threatened by tech corporations (Twitter). Calore does not intend to set anyone as a role model for Musk himself, as he is a highly controversial figure. But he can be seen as a symbol of the ever-deepening interdependence of world events and how crises and unrest from far-flung areas are increasingly clearly driving each other. This is why we present inspirations from a variety of seemingly distant fields.
The word inspiration comes from the Latin spiritus meaning spirit, breeze, as well as breath and wind. Freshness and a change from the existing system. The last one is important because, as humans, we are designed to operate in the same way all the time, as long as it ensures our survival. Some theories say that this reinforcement of the same neural connections, speaking and behaving in ways that have been proven in the past, is simply a survival mechanism at the lowest possible energy cost.
But to be effective in a highly competitive environment requires thinking outside the box.
By offering the same solution to successive problems, we do not gain new opportunities. It is useful to be inspired by areas with which we have nothing in common on a daily basis.
One of the participants in our survey, a manager from the medical industry, drew attention to a report in Clinical Leader magazine describing the hermetic field of clinical research – far removed from marketing and other business functions. However, this is not a consideration of medical complexities, but a language problem. The formalistic name of so-called decentralised clinical trials can affect their implementation. Such studies affect the lives of millions of people years later. However, they are increasingly complex due to the development of technology. Research institutes must take care with the naming of innovations because these will otherwise be rejected by patients.
People to watch
Inspiration does not mean abandoning established patterns and working at the grassroots. Every walk of life has them and they are called differently in each. Sports coaches talk about building a ‘base’, i.e. fitness, and strength, without which there is no point in training technical elements. The basis of daily work is the right habits. They ensure efficiency, protect against burnout and guarantee recovery.
In this context, it is worth observing Andrew Huberman, a professor at Stanford University’s Faculty of Medicine.
He conducts research in the field of neuroscience and also records podcasts in which he and guest scientists share insights and advice on everyday functioning:
– how to improve the quality of your sleep;
– when is the best time to leave the house after waking up;
– how to improve concentration;
– how to build the right habits at work or eliminate feelings of anxiety and tension.
Closer to the world of technology is the highly recommended PIVOT podcast featuring Kara Swisher and Professor Scott Galloway, who comment unabashedly on events from the worlds of IT, business, and politics.
Books worth reading
Trainers talk about the “base”, in other fields people talk about the “canon” – a set of principles that enable you to move on to more advanced stages in different kinds of activities. When looking for novelty, it is sometimes worth going back to these basics. A kind of constitution for every designer is Simon Sinek’s unageing book Start With Why.
How not to miss important elements of business development is described by Jim Collins in Good to Great. Although both of these books are a few years old, they are popular and have won accolades in the survey.
Improving productivity is the focus of Cal Newport, professor of computer science at Georgetown University. Author of the term Deep Work and a book of the same name, he hosts the Deep Questions podcast.
In the world of narrow specialisations, it is increasingly the case that the most interesting inspiration for a particular industry will be found in someone who does not work in it at all. The EDISONDA survey results in feature authors of books that have been stimulating thought for many years:
– Daniel Kahneman: ‘The Traps of Thinking. On thinking fast and thinking slow’ (2011 edition);
– Barry Schwartz: ‘The Paradox of Choice. Why more is less’ (2004 ed.);
– Peter Thiel: “Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future” (2014 ed.).
All books by Nassim Taleb and Malcolm Gladwell were also mentioned. In addition, their comments on current events on social media are worth watching.
However, the name most worth paying attention to in the new year is Rory Sutherland. Vice chairman of the Ogilvy agency, the advertising man he talks about in the On Brand podcast, columnist for the “Spectator” weekly, and, above all, author of books on the intersection of advertising, business, and behavioural economics. With his out-of-the-box thinking, combining different disciplines (sometimes bizarrely), he is quintessentially British.
His latest book – Transport for Humans: Are We Nearly There Yet – presents transport from a different angle than engineers see it.
Instead of quantifiable metrics such as speed, journey time, or efficiency, he shows that we choose modes of transport for reasons of habit, status, convenience, or diversity.
The problems of transport or clinical trials are part of a wider phenomenon. As a result of increasing complexity, projects often take longer to complete than planned, and we cannot estimate how much they will cost. In the 1930s. Empire State Building was completed after 410 days, three months ahead of schedule.
The same was true of many bridges, airports, skyscrapers, or halls for world exhibitions, the progenitors of the Expo. Since then, however, the number of factors that need to be taken into account in projects has increased. We are talking about supply chains, analysis, consultants, and IT saturation. In 2011, the new 120km English railway line was expected to cost £300m and be ready in 2019. By 2021, after numerous design changes, the line was still not ready and the cost had risen to £10bn.
That’s why it will be worthwhile to consult Bent Flyvbjerg’s just-published book: “How Big Things Get Done”, which describes how to deal with managing modern projects: from home renovation to space exploration.
Most significant event
In global terms, the results of the survey were dominated by the war in Ukraine.
There is energy dependence on Russia and, at the same time, probably an opportunity for a fundamental turnaround in the context of non-fossil energy.
Capital has a nationality, and history has not ended. The war in Ukraine has reminded us that force is the source of law. This will have far-reaching consequences: a greater focus on the military spending of military spending by states versus everything else, and a greater focus on military innovation.
The world order we have been building in Europe for decades is more fragile than we think. If we thought there was an ‘end of history’, we were wrong.
This has translated into indications of foreign policy content, once treated in a low-key manner, but today also encompassing technology and social change.
Psychological and philosophical inspirations
Human beings are not adapted to constantly receive information about further misfortunes. Fatigue with uncertainty and a psychological crisis is evident in the responses of those interviewed, from which an interest in well-being in the broadest sense, minimalism, anti-perfectionism, and localism is born. Inspirations from this trend worth squeezing out of 2022 are:
– ‘Meditations’ by Marcus Aurelius;
– ‘Four Thousand Weeks’ by Olivier Burkeman.
The last one – a British writer and journalist – takes a look at ways to manage time from a philosophical and psychological perspective. He explains why the main challenge in managing one’s time is not at all about increasing productivity, but about deciding what to give up.
Finally, instead of a summary, inspiration from the world of series. The Apple TV+ series ‘We Crashed’ is worth squeezing out of 2022. It shows the mechanics of pumping up start-ups: even founders with interesting ideas have to live the lifestyle of Hollywood stars, styling themselves like Steve Jobs and making unrealistic promises to create a technology company. All in order to generate media interest and attract more investors.
Through the eyes of EDISONDA’s designers
The world of business design is becoming more and more conscious. It is undergoing a continual transformation from methods for realising projects to specific tools that help make them happen. There is a growing trend associated with building working tools based on no-code and low-code platforms. This means a clear reduction in implementation time.
How to design in this era, writes Mateusz Jędraszczyk. It seems to be just a grain of sand on a whole beach to which the era of artificial intelligence can be compared. The latter is increasingly boldly entering professional applications.
With technology so complex and often no longer reproducible for humans, it is worth listening to the voice of philosophers and futurologists who talk about the possible scenarios ahead. It is worth seeking out writers who specialise in discussing inter-civilisational contact, including the Polish sci-fi genius Stanisław Lem in his book Fiasco
When looking for new perspectives on business, it is valuable to seek out non-obvious sources that teach us new thought patterns, such as ‘The Dawn of Everything‘. We also need to be able to look critically at the world around us, trying to understand it better not only from the perspective of opportunities but also the not-always-visible frictions and psychological blockages highlighted by
David Schonthal and Loran Nordgren in their book The Human Element: Overcoming the Resistance That Awaits New Ideas.
Inspirations for 2023
When the world is spinning, I need calmness and clarity of vision to pick out the important things from the noise of information and make good decisions. My discovery – for many years now – has been meditation.
Many people at first associate meditation with something that is the opposite of management. It lacks the action, dynamism, and fast-paced reactions – that a manager’s job is associated with.
And this is where the power of meditation lies. There is the ability to stop the race of thoughts, to quiet the mind, and to seek harmony. There is energy. There is clarity of vision. There is peace of mind. What we so sorely lack in turbulent times.
„Zero to One”, Peter Thiel
Although the book was published nearly 10 years ago, this is paradoxically its advantage. Every year, there are plenty of new business books that everyone quickly forgets about. Peter Thiel’s reflections were originally a course for start-ups that the author taught at Stanford University. They deal with competition (“capitalism and competition are opposites”), running a company (“a start-up company with poorly organised foundations cannot be fixed”), and marketing (“there is a blind spot between personal selling and traditional advertising”). As a book, it has passed the most important verification: the passage of time.
Marketing przy Kawie
It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent – Charlie Munger
The quote from partner Warren Buffett never ceases to inspire me to keep improving the basics rather than looking for miracle prescriptions. The solutions to most problems are within our reach. It’s an encouragement to build healthy, universal habits that pay off in the long term. Focusing on the foundations is the best way to achieve anti-fragility.
Admired Leadership Field Notes
Good leadership is especially important during turbulent times, such as the ones we currently live in. My go-to inspiration for improving my leadership craft in 2022 has been Admired Leadership Field Notes – a daily newsletter that regularly goes well beyond popular, cliche advice and focuses on time-tested insights, which to me often touch the core of what leadership is about. I’m certainly continuing the subscription in 2023.
Kraków Site Leader
„The gift of anger”, Arun Gandhi
We refer to our times as the information age. Unfortunately, it could just as accurately be called the era of aggression. Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson literarily invited me to my grandfather’s ashram, a world devoid of violence and destructive anger. I felt good there. Returning to reality, I took with me the conviction that my choice was: whether I would transform the anger that accompanies every human being into service to people or aggression against them. Gandhi urged that one should oneself be the change one wishes to see in the world. I, therefore, take myself to harness the gift of anger, and I encourage you to visit the pages of this book.
Grant Thornton Poland
„Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention”, Johann Hari
Lately, a topic of focus and distraction was taken seriously and with depth. This is a book about mental well-being, addictions, and about companies making money by chaining us to device screens. I love it when someone shows the complexity of the problem, rather than cheap tricks that work for a week. And on top of that, I burst into laughter a few times while reading. That’s appreciated 🙂