We’ve all heard we should never eat alone, but how many
times have we been advised to eat with strangers? That’s part of Alan
Gregerman’s intriguing thesis in his new book, The Necessity of Strangers. Most of us are conditioned at an early age to beware the stranger. This book, by contrast, celebrates the rich
potential of engaging in the strange and unfamiliar.
Necessity takes us beyond simply having a beginner's mind (a Buddhist precept that I take to heart) to help us cultivate “a stranger-centric mindset.” Of course, it helps to find the right kinds of strangers, and those tips are here, too. I really enjoyed Stanford professor Carol Dweck’s book on “Mindset,” which explores how we approach uncertainty in many walks of life. This book functions like an extension ladder from Mindset that takes you further, up, up into innovation.
Gregerman has been called “the Robin Williams of innovation,” but that misses the mark for me, since I find Robin Williams annoying and I’ve never found Alan to be so. He is a friend and occasional collaborator. What I like about working with Alan is that he has a knack for reframing the familiar to show us what’s been hidden from view.
My practice when a friend writes a book is to buy two copies, read one, and give the other to someone who will appreciate it. Right now I’ve got two copies of Necessity on my desk.
Share a comment about a breakthrough insight you got from a stranger – and perhaps I’ll send you my second copy!