What to Read, Part 2

What to Read, Part Two and my conversation with Mohammed Massaquoi

I write weekly newsletter about how the new forms of social, cultural, and environmental capital change brand strategy. If you enjoy this issue, please like it above, share it with anyone you think may find it useful, and subscribe below:

Thanks to a well-received recommendation list from the other week’s newsletter, I decided to compile another list, with more deep cuts. Here’s what to read, part two, and in case you missed the original list, you can find it here.

All recommended reads below are part of my global journey on what consumers value today and what they want to pay for, and how this transforms business and brand growth. What consumers value and what they decide is worth paying for makes the modern aspiration economy. In contrast to traditional economy, where consumers collect commodities, Instagram followers, airline miles, and busy back-to-back schedules, in the modern aspiration economy consumers collect knowledge, taste, communities, and influence.

Companies are also really good at creating business models and brand strategies around economic value. They have a lofty goal of building a brand so strong that everyone would want to wear a t-shirt with its logo on it, yet are still trapped in the manufacturing mindset, focused on monetization, efficiency, and productivity growth. There’s a disconnect in the value they aspire to create and the value they’re actually creating. 

This disconnect changes the way businesses and entire markets operate, yet the modern aspirational economy is still an understudied area in business and culture. My book, The Business of Aspiration, which aims to change that (pre-order it here), and in the meantime peruse below:

Value/Values: The Commercialization of Intimate Life, Priceless: On Knowing the Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing, The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, The Land of Too Much, Tsukiji: The Fish Market at the Center of the World, The Creation and Destruction of Value: The Globalization Cycle, Valuing the Unique: The Economics of Singularities, Auctions: The Social Construction of Value, Textual Poacher: Television Fants & Participatory Culture,

Social/Cultural: Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity, Pricing Beaty: The Making of a Fashion Model, Dealing in Desire, The Algorithmic Self, Subculture: The Meaning of Style, Is Justin Timberlake a Product of Cumulative Advantage?, Social Change Relies More on the Easily Influenced than the Highly Influential, The storytelling animal, Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past, Chorizo Burrito, Public Announcement, SIC by Ben Dietz, Critical Mass.

Business/Organizations: It's the Romance, not the Finance, that Makes the Business Worth Pursuing, Capital in the 21st Century, Theories of Markets, Theories of Society, Productive Friction: How Difficult Business Partnerships Can Accelerate Innovation, No-Collar: The Humane Workplace and its Hidden Costs, Improvisation as a Mindset for Organizational Analysis, Making Meaning: How Successful Businesses Deliver Meaningful Customer Experiences, Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days, Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation, A Narrative Approach to Organization Studies, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, Unicorns, Cheshire cats, and the new dilemmas of entrepreneurial finance, The Essential Advantage: How to Win with a Capabilities-Driven Strategy, Competing for the Future, Wargaming for Leaders: Strategic Decision Making from the Battlefield to the Boardroom, Leading Change, Content Commerce Insider.


In Episode 9 of the Business of Aspiration, I spoke with Mohamed Massaqoui. Massaqoui is a former NFL player and a founder of management consultancy Vessol, which "helps organizations use human change to become the best version of themselves." Based on his own experience of unexpected and sudden change (he had fingers on his left hand amputated) , Massaqoui works with companies seeking lasting change. “Change is a great gift. Mindset, team culture and essential capabilities must improve an before an inflection point to take advantage of change. Vessol is a strategic partner to help organizations, executives, and teams prepare to thrive in these areas” - from Vessol site. Mohamed and I talked about why humans are wired to resist the unexpected, about identity and diversity, how to overcome our Neanderthal brains in responding to the world, and about how organizations often unknowingly suppress diversity by putting wrong people in wrong roles. Watch below.


I have a book coming out on October 27th, about what happened to taste, communities, and social influence when the economy shifted from manufacturing things to manufacturing aspiration and how this changes what we find valuable and worth paying for. You can pre-order here or check out the book’s website here.