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Kua Team, 20 May 2020

Four Books to Learn From

In recent weeks, Kua has been blessed with a little more reading time. Here are four books that have influenced our thinking in one way or another:

The Hidden Life of Trees by peter Wohlleben

The Hidden Life of Trees - Peter Wohlleben

Genre: Non-fiction > Science?

In-a-word: Trees

Reader: Bri (Impact)

I have always liked trees. My whole life I have clambered up them, sought shelter beneath their shady arms and wondered at their veiny and varied leaves. But, until I read 'The Hidden Life of Trees', I didn't truly appreciate or comprehend them.

In the novel, author Peter Wohlleben (a khaki-donning German forester) explores their secret and complex lives. He writes creatively about the ways that trees speak, listen, smell, support, remember, hurt, encourage and share with one another. It made me think a lot about non-human consciousness and the lessons that trees can teach us about community, humility and well, everything really.

Peter Wohlleben a khaki-donning German forester.
Peter Wohlleben a khaki-donning German forester.
Reinventing Organisation by Frederic Laloux

Reinventing Organisations - Frederick Laloux

Genre: Non-fiction > Business and Management

In-a-word: Teal.

Reader: Darcy (Leader)

No joke, this book shaped my perception of leadership. I’d call it Kua’s bible, but it’s laced with plenty of spiritual references already, so let’s just say ‘Reinventing Organizations’ is our well-thumbed handbook for all things decision making and team dynamics. Beneath the hoodoo voodoo is a new way to do workplace culture, and for us, it makes perfect sense.

Across 300 pages, Frederick Laloux experience-shares from a set of experimental business leaders who’ve done away with the top-down ‘power’ that traditionally comes as a CEO’s perk. Paradoxically, distributing decision-making with everyone creates more calm than chaos. Other side effects include happy people, productive discussions, (enthusiastic!?) meetings and an organisation built with resilience and a genuine sense of purpose.

Read this at your stand-up desk with a big jar of home-brewed kombucha and an even bigger stack of sticky notes. If your legs get sore, there’s also a short and sharp beginner version full of illustrations.

P.S. I balance Fred’s perspective with insights from Verne Harnish’s ‘Scaling Up’.

A Long Petal of The Sea by Isabel Allende

A Long Petal of the Sea - Isabel Allende

Genre: Historical Fiction

In-a-word: Life!

Reader: Digby (Creative)

I just finished A Long Petal of the Sea, by Isabelle Allende. I thought I would share a particular moment on which the whole story hinges. This is only a very small spoiler, but such a beautiful part of the novel (and history):

In 1939, Pablo Neruda, the Chilean Poet and diplomat, arranged for 2200 refugees from the Spanish Civil War to travel from squalid refugee camps in France to Chile. Despite limited funds and resources, Neruda, his wife Delia del Carril and friends prepared transport (the SS Winnipeg), provided visas, food and accommodation for each one of the 2000 plus people.

Neruda interviewed each refugee himself, ignoring his government's advice to select 'useful', practical workers and instead working to unite families and select people with creativity and passion. As a result, those who disembarked at Valparaiso in September 1939, were a diverse community of, artists, farmers, writers, musicians, doctors and many more. Many of these individuals went onto make a lasting impact on Chilean society and culture. On the night the Winnipeg set sail Pablo Naruda wrote:

'The critics may erase all of my poetry, if they want. But this poem, that today I remember, nobody will be able to erase.'

To me, this is such a beautiful moment in history, one that I had not heard of until now. Neruda, Delia and their friends, not only transformed the lives of 2200 refugees, but also the lives of many in Chileans with this single act of courage and compassion. Inspiration for governments, businesses and individuals alike.

If you wish to learn more you can google 'A Long Petal of the Sea', or 'SS Winnipeg'. Or otherwise, just read the book, it's wonderful.

The SS Winnipeg, a cargo steamer adapted to house the 2,200 refugees
The SS Winnipeg, a cargo steamer adapted to house the 2,200 refugees
Seeing Voices - Oliver Sacks

Seeing Voices - Oliver Sacks

Genre: Non-fiction > Psychology

In-a-word: Perplexing.

Reader: Hamish (Operations)

"... to be profoundly deaf is not just to live in a world of silence, but also to live in a world where the visual is paramount".

Seeing Voices is a book I picked up and put down for months. To be honest, it hurt my head. It forced me to stop, ponder, reread, reimagine, reread again. In his exploration of the deaf community, Sacks pushes you to fundamentally challenge what it means to communicate. He creates a feeling nearer to vertigo than contemplation, often going further than 'what is communication?' to 'what do people 'see' in their mind's eye when they communicate?'. Hurts, right?

Sacks describes that for the deaf the understanding of dialect and symbols is not only foreign to spoken language in action (signed rather than spoken), but is entirely different in thought and in meaning. A passage that stuck with me during my days hiding from Sacks comes from a quote by Vygotsky: "While in external speech, thought is embodied in words, in inner speech words die as they bring forth thought. Inner speech is to a large extent thinking in pure meanings".

An example that came to my mind to describe Sacks' interpretations is the concept of colour. I have often wondered what it would be like to have never experienced colour. If you had never 'seen' it, how do you think you would imagine colour? Or even more difficult to think about, what is it you would picture if not colour? For me, a similar confusion surrounds the experiences of pre-lingual deafness, that being a child who has lost there ability to hear before learning a spoken language. Without hearing, they construct their own understanding of language through vision alone.

I guess Sacks makes you challenge your own sensory perceptions, circling around the seemingly impossible task of making associations completely outside of our own understandings; truly making sense of the world as others see it.

We are interested in hearing about what you've been reading. Get in touch with ideas and recommendations.

Happy days,

The Kua team