In the fast-paced, ever-changing world we live in, Whiplash aims to offer a helping hand on how to navigate the unpredictable slopes. Authors Ito andIn the fast-paced, ever-changing world we live in, Whiplash aims to offer a helping hand on how to navigate the unpredictable slopes. Authors Ito and Howe list down nine principles meant to introduce its readers to a different kind of thinking, one more open and less rigid than that which has seemingly been instilled in us by a rule-loving, academe-revering society.
A tad prescriptive but not at all restrictive, the book is written with the knowledge that the future is constantly being updated and the nine principles work around this. While Ito and Howe claim that the principles are “pro tips” on how to adapt to this new world we are living in, they address that the book cannot be taken as an instruction manual for such a world. They say that if the world is now operating on a new operating system, “there isn’t going to be an instruction manual, because honestly, even if the developers issued one it would be outdated by the time you got a hold of it.”
The principles are each described with a number of anecdotes from a variety of fields. The stories range from experiments in synthetic biology to coding for children to board games tournaments against AI. It is no doubt that the authors have done their research but the book seems to cater more to audiences who are already knowledgable in the innovations described. A good fraction of the book talked about bitcoins but after having finished the book, I still do not fully comprehend how bitcoins work. The authors also took on a writing style that jumped from one anecdote to another, and then back, and then back again. Perhaps this was done to build some sort of anticipation on each story but at times jumping back and forth in the stories left me confused. I did, however, appreciate when some stories were brought back as examples for the other principles. This further reinforced the idea of the nine principles working together towards an output.
While the book was an easy-read with a casual tone and visually appealing typography, I felt it lacked the whiplash effect I was expecting throughout. The nine principles were certainly intriguing and the many anecdotes supporting them were helpful but each chapter left me thinking, “So, what now?” With the book describing itself as a postcard from the future, I expected more of, well, the future. Instead, many of the anecdotes were examples from the past. These of course are relevant, especially as we get examples of both successes and failures (some even in the ventures of the authors themselves, which I liked), but perhaps a conclusion for each principle that is more towards a current innovation in progress or an on-going research would have made for a more inspiring end to each chapter.
Regardless, I appreciated the concept of the nine principles. They are simple, catchy and thought-provoking. They are not all novel or groundbreaking but they are forward thinking and they challenge the current structures in which society approaches itself. I could not help but wonder if the authors were slightly taking a jab at the academe for the old-fashioned, theory-based way of thinking their principles are countering. Still, it was refreshing (and a bit amusing) having it come from two established professionals respected both in the academe and in their respective industries. In a way, I suppose it is them making a critique and offering a different option for those willing to try another route. I worry, however, that some chapters encourage a little bit of recklessness in their advice. I understand the intentions of principles such as 'Risk over Safety' and 'Disobedience over Compliance' (and Ito did add a disclaimer at the end of the latter chapter because of a misconception by a colleague) but I felt the book needed to reiterate that these ideas are not meant to followed blindly. Achieving success and innovation does not only depend on the attitude you take and principles you embody, but also on circumstances and opportunities. The book addressed failure and resilience to this but I do hope that readers who take in the principles also have a sense of awareness and caution in approaching this tough world.
If you are interested in reading stories on teams' and companies' origins, successes and failures plus some guiding advice on how you can potentially achieve this in a rapidly moving society, then I would recommend the book. I would just advice not to get too excited in looking for something mindblowingly innovative in the narrative.
A book review in fulfilment of a Ravensbourne MA course
Whiplash: How to Survive Our Faster Future by Joi Ito and Jeff Howe (2016) Grand Central Publishing, New York...more