Big conversations

I met Vikas Shah when I was working at the University of Manchester (where he is an honorary prof in the business school) and among his many impressive characteristics was that in his spare time from being an entrepreneur and suporting voluntary organisations and engaging with the university, he had a website, Thought Economics, where he posted interviews he conducted with a huge range of people. What’s more, the interviews were always very thoughtful: he brought out the best in the many people he talked to. The list includes novelists (eg Elif Shafak), business people (eg Steve Ballmer), academics (eg Noam Chomsky), astronauts (Chris Hadfield), philanthropists (eg Melinda Gates), politicians (eg F W de Klerk) sportspeople, poets…. an amazing cast list. I was so impressed that Vikas had just started doing this out of interest simply by emailing people to ask if they’d take part.

Now he has brought out a book, Thought Economics, which pulls out themes from the interviews, such as identity, injustice, democracy, leadership. Each is divided into several questions posed to a number of respondents, such as ‘How does adversity shape who we are’, or ‘Are leaders born, not made?’ It’s a really interesting read, focused on the ideas not the personality, and giving the selected answers space to breathe. I commend the website – Nitin Sawhney and Nicola De Benedetti are recent interviewees, for instance – but the book is a great way of catching up with previous interviews.