Tag Archives: podcast

Podcast Reviews – Business Podcasts

There are any number of business related podcasts out there and more every week.  Many are too pompous to listen to: universities use them to advertise expensive masters degrees and consultancies use them as infomercials.  Me, I like more grounded company on my drive to work.  

Here are are some of the regulars I spend a couple of hours with each week.  

Lucy Kellaway

5 minutes of infuriatingly intelligent common sense.  Lucy Kellaway writes for the FT and is a bright cookie with a degree in Philosopy, Politics and Economics from Oxford.  She’s ruthlessly sarcastic whenever business or business people get above themseves, and is particularly hot on language, bulls***, and self-regarding egotism.  I frequently disagree with her but she’s always thought it through.  She can sound like the celebrity old-girl speaking at a school prize-day day, but get past that and listen to what she says.  She’s funny too.

Peter Day’s World of Business

Superb 30 minute programmes from the BBC.  Peter Day tackles a specific topic each week, looking at it from several perspectives within different organisations.  Day gets insightful and illuminating answers out of the people he interviews, which says a lot about the questions he asks.  Topics in autumn 2008 are: branding, risk management in casinos and banking, agriculture, the future of the internet, and biotech and medicines. Wide-ranging, meticulous, insightful and fascinating.

The Bottom Line

Another 30 minutes from the BBC.  Ewan Davies invites some of the UK’s most senior executives to kick-off their shoes and compare notes.  It feels like listening to experienced friends at a Sunday afternoon barbecue talking relaxed and slightly theoretical shop. Davies directs things with a light hand on the conversational tiller.   Superb.

The Businessweek Cover Story

Another conversational programme: John Byrne, the executive editor of Business week, spends 15 or 20 minutes chatting through the week’s cover story with whoever wrote it.  It’s a painless way to keep informed about the forces in American Business as well as the occasional headline news item.  These podcasts were my first introduction to terms like “sub-prime”, “credit crunch” and “toxic title”.  These are often recorded late at night as sub-editors add the graphics and finish the layout.  On a couple of occasions Byrne and the magazine’s chief economist Mike Mandel were clearly a couple of drinks over a headline, but most of the time everyone concerned is on the tips of their well-researched and analytical toes.  An additional treat is Byrne’s baby-boomer taste in intro tracks.  

The Cranky Middle Manager

A show by and for pragmatists with nothing to sell, its for those of us trying to keep our heads above water and below the parapet.  It’s engaging, conversational, informative and oddly comforting.  Oh, and funny.  I like Wayne Turmel’s energy and enthusiasm too.  The podcast is long on experience which makes it a good counterpoint to the journalists’ analysis and the academics’ theorising.  And it’s got one of my favourite words in its title.

Mind the gap

Mind the GapThere’s a reasonably widespread idea that less and less can plausibly be explained by the existence of god because  science explains more and more about the world we live in. There’s even a term for a theology which uses god to explain things which science has not yet understood – it’s “The God of the Gaps”. So far, so widely accepted.

Recently I’ve been listening to Nigel Warburton’s excellent podcast series “Philosophy: the Classics”. (WebsitebookiTunes). I very much like listening to Warburton’s quiet and articulate summaries of the canon; I know I’d never make it through his book, and certainly not through the originals, but I am slowly becoming more educated as I drive in to work.

What strikes me though, is just how many of the questions which philosophers used to ask have now been answered by neuroscience. We know that Aristotle’s ideas on vision and matter were wrong, and we also know much more about the questions which the 18th Century philosophers such as Descartes, Hume, Locke and Kant were asking about how we know what we know. These questions are being answered by neuroscientists though, not by philosophers. I am of course not the first to notice this, even though it was a conclusion I came to on my own. The 18th century philosophers were, if you like, the philosophers of the gaps.

The gap which is usefully plugged by philosophy is narrowing as neuroscientists and cognitive scientists do their job. For example, we will soon know whether or not a moral sense is innate and why it might be that some people appear not to have one. This will hardly put the philosophers out of a job – in fact we need ruthless critical thinking more than ever. To take a concrete example related to this issue of why some people have no moral sense: it was another podcast which told me that in the UK and Europe we have a far smaller percentage of our population in prison than is the case in the US, but that if you add those who are caught up in mental health institutions into the mix, then the percentages even out. In other words, in the US they imprison the mentally ill, while in the Europe we hospitalise criminals. These sorts of topics obviously give rise to questions which can be answered empirically: what is the best way to prevent offenders re-offending for example, not to mention the practical ones of how best to monitor people at large? However, they also prompt difficult questions we need to think very clearly about, and this is where philosophers and other critical thinkers can help. Do we want to punish or rehabilitate is the least of it. We can also prepare ourselves for what we do when we discover where the boundaries are between free will and biological determinism.

The gap for philosophers may be narrowing, I’ve no idea whether it is deepening. However, as technology makes us become more powerful and as science gives us answers which we may not want to accept, we certainly need the clearest possible thinking to stop us falling into the ethical and practical abyss between the two.