August 6, 2004
News & Opinion: Big Ideas
Most business books bug me. And not because I dont like business books, but in fact the very opposite. Speak of me as one that loved not wisely but too well. Im hungry for good ideas, and completely fed up with Pet Rock booksgimmicks or shallow cynical products which sell inert ideas through catchy packaging and pre-fabricated buzz. Three new books buck this trend. Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future by Peter Senge, C. Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski, and Betty Sue Flowers represents the newest book from the famed author of The Fifth Discipline, along with three very impressive colleagues. Senge considers this book, which is beautifully produced and published by the Society for Organizational Learning, to be a prequel to the Fifth Discipline. In this conversational book, almost a cross between Carlos Castaneda, David Bohm, and Peter Drucker (to name a few), the quartet engage in a dialogue about the nature of large-scale change. What needs to happen for enduring and structural change to take place in the most powerful and change-resistant human institutions? In the next couple of months this blog will feature an original Q&A with Peter Senge on the contents and context of the new book. For now you can buy the book, as well as learn much more about it, at the SOL website. A related big idea to the questions raised in Presence animates Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update by Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, and Dennis Meadows. In this case the issue is: what are the real consequences of the industrial model of our economy, and when are we truly going to exhaust the resources we have as a result? Thirty years ago a team of experts based at MIT constructed a global computer model enabling them to present 12 different scenarios of global development. The harsh findings, recounted in the original Limits to Growth, were that the continued trajectory of industrial and population growth would inevitably destroy its own foundation. The books sober message found receptive ears: it became an international best-seller in more than 30 languages. The new book represents a complete update of the original project. Unfortunately the current findings are more dire than before. Failing to heed the original recommendations has led us closer to overshoot, asystematic failure to tap the earths resources without a plan for replenishing. Such a course will eventually be irreversible. The value of this book is its wealth of data. Its no political screed, but a reasoned and deeply researched into a topic that all business leaders must take seriously. The last big idea for the day also concerns a macro theme: how can corporations use their power to combat global poverty? In the case of The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits by C.K. Prahalad (one of the top ten management gurus alive), the answer is presented in terms that bidnessfolks can get their arms around. Again, in the spirit of blogging I wont rambleand Todd has already touted this title, thank you very much. Suffice it to say that Prahalad deals with broad and systemic changehe looks at ways to shift the business ecosystems of regions in order to foster large-scale economic and technological change, which eliminates poverty as a byproduct.