The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations that Transform the World while not written for Lean thinkers helps make the case that not only is there always room for continuous improvement and learning, but that no matter how much we improve and how well we learn to do things better we are still at the beginning of realizing what is possible. In Pursuit of Perfection terms we are always going to be just beginners with Perfection far off over the horizon.
The best reason to take in this book is that it is an example of rigorous scientific thinking, which is the kind of thinking we need to be applying toward our work. Particularly helpful for Lean thinkers to note is Deutsch’s focus on understanding what makes for good and bad explanations, directly applicable to how we need to be thinking about root causes to problems. Good explanations lead to effective countermeasures so it’s worth taking the time to understand how Deutsch evaluates explanations. Fans of physics and mathematics with a mix of history will especially enjoy the subject matter he uses to make his points.
As an ultra rational scientist there are some weaknesses in part of Deutsch’s thesis. One is dating the true beginning of human progress with the Enlightenment because that period in history is when true scientific progress began to take root. This ignores important fundamental social changes that began a millennia and a half prior to the Enlightenment that made that scientific progress possible. A second weakness is his not understanding that his belief that everything that is ultimately knowable is bounded by the knowable laws of physics is itself an act of faith. In his view faith based beliefs lack good explanations. Neither of these weaknesses detract in any serious way from the value of the book.
The section of the book on optimism is especially encouraging to Lean thinkers. It should help us appreciate that the work we do is building a better future for those that follow as well as ourselves. One of the book’s consistent themes is that problems are inevitable, but in societies that foster learning and willingness to change those problems have historically been successfully addressed; and there is little reason to believe this dynamic will change.
Either the written or audio versions of this book are worth your investment of time.