Challenge your assumptions, read science fiction

Aug. 9, 2017  |  Linda Wedul

I recently read the book, "Seveneves," by Neal Stephenson. It’s promoted as an "exciting and thought-provoking science fiction epic," which, I admit, is not my go-to genre when selecting books. However, this title kept showing up in my recommendations, so I finally took it as a sign to read it. 

"Seveneves" starts with the moon blowing up. The physical impact to earth isn't immediate; scientists determine it will be two years before the earth is barraged with a rain of fire. But, the psychological and social impacts are instantaneous: priorities change, power shifts, fear and survival instincts kick in. All basic assumptions about day-to-day life and the not-too-distant future change.

The author explores the science, politics, social and psychological impacts of a catastrophic event. What makes the book compelling is not its ending, but rather the many layers of problem solving (both scientific and relationship issues) that drive the story.

So, why am I going on about a science fiction novel?

Reading the book didn't strike me as notable until I read a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, "Why business leaders need to read more science fiction,” in a recent B&I e-newsletter. The HBR article calls out how science fiction allows the mind to break free of its assumptions and expand its thinking. While the settings may be vastly different, the concepts of overcoming unforeseen challenges and complexities are not much different, whether you’re planning annual reports or the human race’s survival.

Much of our focus these days is on data analytics. We have more data than ever! But, all that data comes from the past. While looking back is an important component, it’s equally valuable that business leaders challenge their assumptions when solving complex problems. Don’t be afraid to use your imagination and creativity. The future of the human race may not depend on it, but your clients and company do.

If your summer reading list still has some room on it, add the HBR article (it’s about a five-minute read) and a science fiction book (OK, this will take longer than five minutes, but still worth your while). While you’re at it, share any of your science fiction recommendations in the comments below.

As Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “A mind, once expanded by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.”

Topics: Management, Personal development

Linda Wedul

Linda Wedul is president and CEO of the MNCPA. She’s usually spotted at MNCPA events, introducing herself to members with a warm smile and memorable laugh. Mixed among the Footnotes, accounting journals, leadership books and three monitors in her office, you’d be surprised to see a dog kennel. Her unpaid job is volunteering as a foster family for service dogs in training through Can-Do-Canines. She and her husband have two adult children and live in Farmington. Linda can be reached at 952-885-5516 or

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