By Fortune Editors
Fortune asked 18 business leaders, including ReD’s US Director Christian Madsbjerg, to write about their favorite titles. Their request was simple: “name the one book you read this year that altered your perspective on life or business.”
Christian Madsbjerg's choice was 'The Man Without Qualities' by Robert Musil:
"Musil’s book is about many different things. The difference between Germany and Austria, Idealism and pragmatism, for example. But for me there was one huge takeaway: It explains why the lives of humans can only be partially studied in natural science. Counting people and their response to questions is less efficient than reading our poetry and listening to music if you want to understand the world we live in. When he writes “It was a fine spring day in Vienna,” we understand exactly and in great detail what that feels like. You can measure temperature, pressure and wind as much as you like, but sometimes science only muddies our understanding of each other."
There's a cultural bias in business, tech and otherwise, against any information that can't be quantified—that is "soft," subjective, fuzzy. [...] But it is where good ideas come from—and while the data it relies on may not be reducible to numbers, there is actually nothing "fuzzy" about it.
The best CEOs can read a novel and a spreadsheet, Madsbjerg writes, while his overarching message is that we should not forget that companies are made up of people and their customers are people, too.
What Silicon Valley is missing is an understanding of people—what is meaningful to them, the way they live their day to day lives, what would make a difference for them on an ordinary Tuesday in Phoenix or Shanghai. There is a dearth of deep, nuanced cultural knowledge in tech. Luckily, there is an app for that: reading.
To understand Trump’s popularity, you need to understand the principles guiding life in rural America.
The New York Times explores how the energy world is changing and the reasoning behind the new company ReD helped Edison International launch.
For marketers, truly valuable customer data comes in two forms: thick data and big data. Combining the two approaches can solve many of the problems that each category of data faces on its own.
Christian Madsbjerg explains how Ford is in the midst of trying to design cars ‘inside-out’ (based on what engineers wanted) instead of ‘outside-in’ (based on what consumers want to experience).
Ethnographic studies have revealed that customers feel that their banks lack interest in their wellbeing, because they are being treated as numbers in a database rather than as actual people.
Christian Madsbjerg, Co-founder of ReD Associates, discusses how the Google Glass Explorer program, which enable people to record every moment of their lives, might influence our perception of privacy.
Fortune speaks with ReD’s Christian Madsbjerg about flawed business thinking, the arrogance of Silicon Valley, and why he prefers to hire anthropology majors at his consulting firm.