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From 21 Lessons For 21st Century to Being Mortal: 5 books that influenced Capgemini India CEO Ashwin Yardi

Mini

Books have taught me life isn't about avoiding problems but taking them head-on. They have ignited new thoughts in me and taught me lessons to lead an organisation as large as Capgemini. Here are some of the books that have influenced me greatly

From 21 Lessons For 21st Century to Being Mortal: 5 books that influenced Capgemini India CEO Ashwin Yardi
I love to read books on all topics. A diverse preference opens one’s mind to new ideas — there’s a lesson you derive from every book and can apply to different fields. A book on history may influence how we look at technology. One on culture can help us shape our planet for the future. Ultimately, that is the beauty of literature!
Here are some books that have influenced me:
21 Lessons For 21st Century – Yuval Noah Harrari, 2014
The book captures a wide range of topics — from the future of work to religion and God to nationalism — all relevant topics for the world today. What caught my attention was Hariri’s prediction that data will eclipse both land and machinery as the most important asset.
Hariri’s contention that “the problem of groupthink and individual ignorance besets not just ordinary voters and customers but also presidents and CEOs” is a lesson in corporate management and to leaders.
And finally, the recurring notion of “global solutions to global problems” he espouses has convinced me that as the world gets closer and smaller, “we are indeed all in it together.”
The Singularity Is Near — Ray Kurzweil, 2005
Imagine these predictions in 2005: Computers will pass the Turing Test by 2029; nanobots will cure any disease or heal any wound, including those in the brain.
That’s the singularity Kurzweil espouses the ‘merging point’ between machine intelligence and humans. And the most fascinating thing? Technology will enable understanding of the human brain to a degree where we can upload someone’s neural structure onto a computer or a robot. I can’t wait to see the outcome of this prediction!
For me, Kurzweil’s was arguably the best exposition of the law of accelerating returns — technology advances exponentially because every advance fuels the next.
Land Of The Seven Rivers — Sanjeev Sanyal, 2012
This book gave me the pride of belonging to this great country. It showed our country in a new light. It’s probably the best “history of geography” about India — our land, our majestic civilisations along our great rivers, and how it has shaped our people and history.
The book also details the expansion of Indian civilisation into countries like Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia. It illustrates the risk appetite for the entrepreneurial culture of Indians even in ancient times.
Nowhere have I found it more clearly stated or with more proof than in this book, that ultimately, despite differences in our colours, castes, or religions, all Indians are the same. One book that convinced me that to know the present, we should know our past!
Being Mortal — Atul Gawande, 2014
Seeing the turmoil unleashed by the COVID pandemic, I realised how right Atul Gawande was! He convinces us that there is more to medicine than routine treatments. And what stays during our last moments are our values and personal relations.
Though it was written long back, he has portrayed brilliantly the intricacies of doctor-patient relationships. Gawande’s turmoil — confusing treatment with care — isn’t limited to the medical field alone. It’s common and useful to professionals across most disciplines. A must-read for anyone who has to make decisions for others, not just doctors.
How To Avoid A Climate Disaster — Bill Gates, 2021
A corporate leader pitching for climate change isn’t new. What stands out is the balanced approach Gates adopts and the workable solutions he suggests, especially how sustainable growth and progress need not come at the cost of socio-economic growth.
What influenced me most was, Gates recognises that both morally and practically any solution to climate change must not penalise the less-well-off in the world. Most solutions getting publicity today (Tesla cars, push for vegetarianism) must ensure these practices are within the means of all societies and truly workable if they are to have an impact. That’s where our efforts should really be.
Conclusion:
Each of these books has impacted me greatly. They have ignited new thought processes about my own life, provided lessons on leading a large organisation, and generally about things around us and our future. The key takeaway is, life isn’t about avoiding problems but taking them head-on — the end result should be to make the world a better place.
—Ashwin Yardi is the CEO of Capgemini, India. Views expressed are personal.
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