BOOK REVIEW | The Other End of the Telescope


How to increase the metabolic rate and success of your business.

By Ian Russell

Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.

– Dr Seuss

Are you ready to rise to the challenge of increasing the metabolic rate and success of your business?

The Other End of the Telescope is a high speed gallop through the absurdities and challenges of getting things done in large companies, and the inherent contradictions in leadership and organisational behaviours that prevent businesses from realising their potential and achieving greater success.

Key themes

In this collection of thought provoking essays, Ian Russell draws on more than 25 years’ experience of leading and working in large organisations around the world to distil the key themes and challenges confronting big business today.

The book tackles key topics such as organisational cholesterol, the loneliness of leadership, human capital strategy failures, performance destroying ‘head offices’ and the ‘myths’ of talent scarcity and the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution, among others.

Each essay pairs a deep understanding of the real world and lessons learned the hard way, with powerful and pragmatic insights on how big business can change the way in which it does things.

Contributions from other notable thought leaders Valter Adão, Richard Mulholland, Happy Ntshingila and Rapelang Rabana add unique voices and insights to Ian’s vibrant and straightforward views. Together they are exactly what is needed to jolt businesses and their leaders into doing things more successfully and thoughtfully.


The lightness of Ian’s style makes this a highly readable book, but it does not dilute the impact of his incisive observations and insights. Passionate, irreverent and challenging, The Other End of the Telescope will make you think deeply about your business and your career – and your role in both.

You’ll never think the same way again.

… brutally calls out the reality that corporates need to learn that the pace inside their business needs to be faster than the pace outside if they want to survive.”

– Michael Jordaan, Venture Capitalist and former FNB CEO

… provides a quirky, no holds barred insight into the work of a CEO and how to overcome the challenges they face.

– Professor Adam Habib, Vice-Chancellor, University of the Witwatersrand

… expect to learn something, be provoked and otherwise entertained by The Other End of the Telescope.

– Steve Ross, Chairman of Christel House and former CEO of the Edcon Group

Read it and you’ll be able to step into the corporate jungle with confidence, agility and foresight.

– Nkanyezi Masango, Creative Director at King James Group, Founder of Blackboard

To the point and with immense wit, this is a must read for all as we all navigate this new world ahead!

– Mark Sham, Founder of Suits & Sneakers

Ian’s book is the wisdom of 25 years of hindsight, distilled into one potent antidote for the Kool-Aid being consumed by most businesses as they attempt to face a new world order in which all the old corporate rules no longer hold sway.

– Dion Chang, Futurist and Founder of Flux Trends

The realities of the workplace laid bare for the thinking person where Ian calls out the emperor’s clothes in this thoughtful take on fixing corporate life.

– Jason Drew, Environmental Capitalist and Bestselling Author of The Protein Crunch

… in the corporate world, decisions are slow, accountability is scarce and somehow the same mistakes keep being repeated. Ian Russell has some excellent insights into why corporates just can’t get it right and it’s really worth a read.

– David O’Sullivan, Broadcaster

I recommend that all boards of directors read it to give themselves an opportunity to empower their CEOs as custodians of their assets. Similarly, all CEOs should read it to empower themselves to navigate the new era of disruption.

– Salukazi Dakile-Hlongwane, Chairperson, Nozala Investments

About the author

Ian Russell kicked off his career with Ford Motor Company as a graduate trainee back in the early 1990s when Ford was one of the largest companies in the world. Working mainly in procurement and supply chain, Ian was lucky enough to become an expert in gaskets, plastic and was ultimately accountable for buying and managing Ford’s performance engines around the world.

Barclays Bank Plc was Ian’s next port of call, where he worked in various roles in the UK, Africa and the Middle East, spanning supply chain, technology and operations roles, ultimately arriving in South Africa in the mid-2000s, leading part of the Mergers & Acquisitions team that ultimately acquired Absa, then South Africa’s largest retail bank.

After a host of leadership roles at Absa, including operations, supply chain and strategy, Ian joined SABMiller to lead a number of their globalisation initiatives, working across Africa and Europe.

Joining the troubled, virtually bankrupt South African telecommunications company Telkom in 2014, Ian was a key part of its inspirational turnaround, leading change in all areas of its operations and overseeing radical overhauls to its business, people and culture.

Ian’s last corporate role was as Chief Executive Officer of BCX, a subsidiary of Telkom and Africa’s largest technology company, with a $2 billion turnover.

Ian now divides his time between speaking, writing, and advising large corporates on change and strategic responses to marketplace disruption.

Ian remains firmly focused on sustainable and responsible development of the economy, and sits on a number of not-for-profit boards and advisory groups, focused on leveraging technology and education for the benefit of the youth of South Africa.

Ian lives in South Africa with his wife, two boys and their menagerie, and has finally discovered his analogue moat in the Western Cape.

  • PUBLISHER | Tracey McDonald Publishers |
  • ISBN | 978-0-6399558-4-1 |
  • Recommended Retail Price | R250.00 |
  • Classification | Business |

For more information | Tracey McDonald | +27 (0)83 659 7489 mail me |