Ten Steps Ahead: What Separates Successful Business Visionaries from the Rest of Us

Author(s): 
Release Date: 
March 16, 2011
Publisher/Imprint: 
Portfolio
Pages: 
256
Reviewed by: 

What makes the mind of a business visionary—someone like Richard Branson or Steve Jobs—different from everyone else? Can science peer behind the veil and explain the process of how these successful business builders think and make the leaps that propel them forward? In Ten Steps Ahead: What Separates Successful Business Visionaries from the Rest of Us, former Wall Street Journal correspondent Erik Calonius explores the lives of such luminaries through the lens of psychology and cognitive science.

To many, the workings of the mind—and the science that seeks to explain it—is a mystery too convoluted to comprehend. But with the use of metaphor, simile, analogy and anecdote, Mr. Calonius deftly explains modern mind science and how it can illuminate the process that business visionaries go through to make leaps such a Virgin Galactic and the iPad.

To start, Mr. Calonius gives the reader a firm base for understanding how psychology and cognitive science got to where it is now. He shares the pertinent historical landmarks that paved the way to the modern comprehension of the mind, helping the reader appreciate the stepping-stones that lead to our current understanding of how the mind works.

Then he takes that base and builds on it, alternating between explanations of scientific understanding and real-world stories of business visionaries illustrating those points. Mr. Calonius draws from personal experience interviewing many of the entrepreneurs discussed, as well as a wealth of other writings about and by people such as Richard Branson, creator of Virgin Records, Virgin Airlines, and Virgin Galactic; Carlo Rubbia, Nobel Prize-winning physicist; and Steve Jobs, the visionary behind such world-changing products as the Apple computer, iPod, and iPad.

In addition, Mr. Calonius synthesizes the abundance of knowledge about the human mind and how it works, from neurotransmitters that influence and control our emotions, to childhood experience that shape the way we see the world, in a way that is accessible and easy to understand.

Mr. Calonius also covers the limits and failures of vision: how as much as it can take entrepreneurs to grand success, it can also lead them down a rabbit hole. Having vision is not a guarantee of success every time; many visionaries have had setbacks or made false moves.

Finally, after detailing all the ways that visionaries are special and process information differently than most, Mr. Calonius gives the reader hope. Visionaries aren’t freaks of nature, anomalies that ordinary folk can’t possibly hope to emulate. No, vision is something we can all cultivate and learn to harness in our own lives.

Ten Steps Ahead is an engaging read for both lovers of good science writing and business biographies. Mr. Calonius writes with a strong personal style that is immensely readable and feels like a conversation with a friend.