Kevin Kelly has put his book New Rules for the New Economy online – readable for free. Personally, I find nearly everything that Kelly writes worth reading, but this book in particular is essential. It’s pretty easy to discount a book written about the ‘new internet economy’ written over 10 years ago – it’s a class of books that hasn’t aged well at all. However, New Rules is the exception.
Kelly does a superb job of identifying the most important issues raised by the internet, which makes this book just as crucial now as it was when it came out. Some of the issues that he addresses are: the impact of sharp increase in the availability of many things (but especially information); the impact of the steady decrease in price caused by this; the difficulties of controlling things within an evolving complex economy (a section that includes a great description of fitness landscapes); and the importance of generating ideas that create new opportunities rather than simply aiming to improve efficiency. All of these are critical issues in the management of innovation. Every time I read this book, I find one or two ideas that surprise me or that suggest a new way of approaching things in each chapter.
One key issue with books like this though are what do you do with it? As Seth Godin asks, when you encounter big ideas like Kelly’s, do you act on them? Innovations are discovered in action. For me, one of the best ways to implement new ideas is to make new connections through reading – but the ideas don’t count for anything until they are turned into action. So here’s my suggestion for today – read Kelly’s book, make a new connection, then do something about it.