The Infinite Staircase: A Technology Strategist Investigates the Business of Living
August 03, 2021
Geoffrey Moore's new book offers a wealth of insight and understanding, perhaps even a strategy for living, but his very writing of it is a thankful reminder that we don't have to be just one thing.
The Infinite Staircase: A Technology Strategist Investigates the Business of Living by Geoffrey A. Moore, Benbella Books
Geoffrey Moore has written some of the most influential and bestselling books on business strategy that exist—the choice pick being his 1990 effort, Crossing the Chasm. But like many business leaders and leading business thinkers, he began his professional life elsewhere. After earning a PhD in English literature, he taught literature, conceptual models, and writing. He wrote his dissertation on Edmund Spencer’s The Faerie Queen, and the strategies for living he found within it, long before he got into teaching business strategy in the high-tech community. His new book, The Infinite Staircase, returns to that earlier concern—not in literature, but in understanding the world around us and our place in it as human beings. The common thread is that, like his books on business strategy, his focus here does come around to strategy. But instead of figuring out what is happening in the business world, his aim is to understand—as best we can—what is going on in the larger world, indeed in the universe. The “infinite staircase” is his framework for answering that query. Documenting what is knowable from the physical sciences, social sciences, and the humanities, he then asks:
If this is indeed what the world is actually like, what does that mean for how we should act? What … should be our strategy for living?
Moore’s answer offers nothing less than a “contemporary take on secular metaphysics and ethics.” It is a secular book, but deeply spiritual. It is about good and evil—and how we can advance the former and curtail the latter. It is about kindness, fairness, being and Being, about the spiritual support for life on Earth and the spiritual strength necessary to lead an ethical life ourselves upon it. It eschews the philosophical divide between Materialists and Idealists to take in the whole picture of existence—physical, social, spiritual—and give each level its importance and due:
Both groups [Materialists and Idealists] are at odds with the core thesis of this book: the fundamental basis of reality does not reside on any one stair but rather in the staircase itself. It is the phenomenon of levels that matter most. We need to honor each level in its own right while at the same time seeing it in relationship to all the others.
When we changed our company name from 800-CEO-READ to Porchlight Book Company two years ago, we made a deliberate decision to expand our coverage of books beyond the business category. We did so for a few reasons. One was that authors and publishers outside the business category were increasingly finding the services we’ve developed for business books over the years useful, and we now sell a lot of books outside the category, so it simply reflects our business more accurately. Another was that reading in other genres, from history and biography to fiction and memoir, gives us all a greater understanding of people and the world around us, an understanding that is essential for success in business, so it made sense to us to cover those books. But it also just reflects our own interests, and who we are as people. And who we are as people is how we’ve built our company. Moore’s Infinite Staircase helped remind me of that fact and reinforce that the services we offer—in his case business strategy—stem from who we are and what we’re interested in, that the value we provide is rooted in our value and values as people who work together every day. Hit intent and ambitions for the book are greater than that, and I’m hoping to apply the insights and understanding he offers more broadly as I continue reading and re-reading the book. But for now, I’m thankful for that reminder and reinforcement.