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."
Would you use a driverless car if your chauffeur was your status symbol? Tech’s unspoken hurdles
Madsbjerg argues that unless companies take pains to understand the human beings represented in their data sets, they risk losing touch with the markets they’re serving.
Christian Madsbjerg speaks to Manuela Saragos about why human intelligence is still a vital component in analysing all our data.
"We need people who can develop medicine, and we need the people who can figure out how to get people to take their medicine. We need both” - Madsbjerg on NPR's The Takeaway.
Data is important, but with Madsbjerg’s approach to sensemaking, we have a better chance of putting it in the proper context and using it to enrich our lives and our understanding.
Christian Madsbjerg discusses Sensemaking and Big Data in this segment of The Economist Radio.
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.