Book Review – The New Capitalist Manifesto: Building a Disruptively Better Business by Umair Haque

I’ve never been one to conform, and Havas Media Lab Director and HBR blogger, Umair Haque isn’t either. The radical re-imagining of economics and capitalism he proposes in The New Capitalist Manifesto is an idea for the 21st Century, rising out of the ashes of a still-burning post-Industrial economy. Illustrating his new economics through comparisons between old economics (and the companies living off it) and the new “betterness”-based economics, Haque argues extensively and convincingly that what organisations need to do in the 21st Century to continue to survive is focus on an operational model:

The twenty-first century capitalist’s agenda, in a nutshell, is to rethink the “capital”—to build organizations that are less machines, and more living networks of the many different kinds of capital, whether natural, human, social, or creative. And, second, to rethink the “ism”: how, when, and where the many different kinds of capital can be most productively seeded, nurtured, allocated, utilized—and renewed. What we need, then, is a new generation of renegades, laying deeper, stronger institutional cornerstones.

Haque’s argument resonates super-powerfully with me. While I certainly don’t have the chops to have written The New Capitalist Manifesto, it articulates many of the arguments I’ve put to people in the past 10 years; business today is no longer sustainable in the way it was before. It can’t go on cannibalising profits and circulating the same money (and making more and more “pretend” money that only exists in a computer somewhere. Business needs to act to add real social value and not only make money but make social goods as well, as Haque suggests, the paradigm needs a shift thus:

  • Loss advantage: From value chains to value cycles
  • Responsiveness: From value propositions to value conversations
  • Resilience: From strategy to philosophy
  • Creativity: From protecting a marketplace to completing a marketplace
  • Difference: From goods to betters

I can’t recommend The New Capitalist Manifesto strongly enough, and also highly recommend Umair Haque’s new, short ebook, Betterness, which extends his articulation of some of the themes in this book. If it was mathematically possible to give a book 6/5, I would give it here.

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