Book review: The Connected Age

I’ve always been a diehard optimist, believing that the world has hope for redemption, in spite of the destructed path that it is hurtling along. Sudhakar Ram, CEO and co-founder, Mastek, not only echoes my views but also provides a master plan for the reinvention of the world and its future in his expertly crafted book ‘The Connected Age’.

There is no dearth of armchair philosophers but when a philosopher comes armed with a solid plan for the execution of his ideals, the world has to sit up and take notice. The Connected Age suggests steps that organisations, governments, societies and individuals can take to create a more sustainable world. By the end of the book, the author almost has you convinced that you can be the change you wish to see in the world.

According to Sudhakar, the world’s continued existence depends on its inhabitants realising one irrefutable truth – we are all co-dependent on each other. And ‘we’ doesn’t allude to humans alone; it includes all the animate and inanimate dwellers of this planet. As long as man continues to consider himself as ‘master of everything on the planet’, we will never achieve peaceful and productive co-existence. In Sudhakar’s words, ‘We all need to connect, collaborate, and co-create the world we intend to leave behind.’ Anyone who is even remotely interested in making a positive impact on the world must read this book and apply the principles that they identify with.

The only problem with Sudhakar’s vision is the assumption that mankind is indeed motivated to achieve such a noble goal. What about the selfish exploiters who don’t care whether they hew a tree or kill a tiger in their pursuit for transient personal wealth? What about the average apathetic citizen who will not lift a finger to extend the lifespan of the planet? The answer according to my own reflections is that even if one individual out of a thousand aspires to take proactive action to improve the state of the world and if that individual has access to this book, then perhaps the author’s job is done.

At first glance, the book may appear to be too cerebral for the average reader but I assure you that it’s immensely readable and gripping. Once you move past the initial chapters, you will be extremely intrigued and eager to arrive at the part where you get to do something about the degeneration of our societal and economic set-ups. If nothing else, the book makes you think about the way you lead your life and leaves you with an abundance of positive energy.

It’s all very well when thinkers utter wise words for the benefit of the intellectuals. But when entrepreneurs and professionals engaged in the regular nitty-gritty of life decide to present their wisdom to the world, it transforms Utopia into an achievable ideal. Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline writes in a foreword to the book, ‘This is one reason I find this book so interesting – a book about transforming Industrial Age thinking and practices over the coming decades, written by a manager working to do just that amidst the day-to-day pressures of managing a successful company.’

Sudhakar says that our lives are ruled by seven constructs that drive our attitudes and actions. These are success, learning, work, consumption, wellness, governance and globalisation. The Connected Age deals with new mindsets and structural constructs that will remedy the existing ones. Sudhakar cites relatable examples from his own daughter’s life to familiarise the reader with these concepts. 

According to him, the three enablers of a connected age are subsidiarity, free market mechanisms and optimal governance. I found the concept of subsidiarity to be extremely logical and interesting; the principle advocates performing as many functions as possible at local levels and having a central authority intervene only when a certain task can be better executed at a higher level. Thus, while decentralisation assumes that power is focused at the top and must be distributed to the bottom, subsidiarity assumes that power is focused at the bottom and must be devolved to the top when required.

An idea that I’ve come across earlier in a training workshop as well is the need to wield personal power and focus on what we can control (circle of influence) over what we cannot (circle of concern). Why do we assume that it Is only the people in influential positions who possess power? In fact, their power is not their own; it can be taken away at any time, along with their positions. Personal power on the other hand, is ours to use and control and we wield it through the choices we make and the decisions we take.

Lifelong learning, following one’s true calling and responsible consumption are other ideas that are discussed at length in the book. Most interestingly, Sudhakar advises even organisations to find and follow their true purpose. One observation that I’m not entirely convinced about is his belief that the future belongs to small organisations with the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. In my opinion, if growth is possible, it will definitely occur. And no organisation with the potential to grow will remain small forever.

A significant recommendation made in the book is to replace income tax with property tax, based on Henry George’s idea of ‘land value tax’ propounded in his book Progress and Poverty. I hope a copy of this book finds its way to our Finance Minister’s desk. Sudhakar also advocates the concept of a ‘global earth tax’, which should serve as a sufficient deterrent to elements of society that are hastening the depletion of our natural reserves. The suggestion for a world currency also sounds highly rational to me and it would be interesting to have finance experts debate on these ideas.

Incidentally, the book is a product of Sudhakar’s widely successful collaborative blog ‘The New Constructs’. Sign up for their newsletter to get daily articles on improving your life and career in your inbox.