Books and articles that matter
By Dean Andy Boynton
All of us recognize that our business lives are more complicated today than ever before, mostly because technology makes them so. It is difficult to find the quiet periods when hard thinking can be done. I find that reading Henning Mankell’s detective series, featuring the Swedish policeman Kurt Wallander, somehow helps me break away from the urgent and focus on the important.
An international best-selling author, Mankell published the first book in the Wallander series in 1991 in Swedish; in 1997 it was printed in English. I learned about Mankell and the series a few years ago from my friend Dick Blackburn, who was my thesis advisor at the University of Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School. Well-written and thoroughly engaging, the books now total nine, and recently have been adapted into a BBC series starring Kenneth Branagh (well worth watching, especially after you’ve devoured the novels).
Mankell’s Wallander might best be described as a cross between Lieutenant Columbo, the stumbling detective of TV fame, and Sherlock Holmes, who was, in his own words, “the world’s first consulting detective.” It is Wallander’s Holmesian power of observation and deduction that most intrigues me. His approach to crime solving can be applied to everyday problem solving: he looks at the big picture, turns the picture upside down, walks away, and lets his mind work. Then, the creative insights come. In the course of circling the crime and creating distance, ideas percolate, he connects the dots, and he solves the mystery.
Wallander inspires me to try to do the same.
Our lives are cluttered, and sometimes difficult, which makes it more urgent that we find ways to see valuable ideas and fresh solutions. Creativity not only drives innovation, it drives progress. And those of us who are leaders need to find ways to allow creativity to thrive, within us and within those who work for us.