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Management Gurus I’ve been obsessed with over the years
In my 20s I had a strange and specific fixation.
I read books by management gurus.
I look back and think: What was that even about? Who even knows what a management guru is in their 20s?
I was into them before I knew what a management guru even is. Nonetheless, here’s what I still easily remember from the books or gurus all these years later.
There’s a deeper, human and even spiritual side to all things human, even business. Humans gather together. They organize. Humans are social animals. Whole humans bring whole selves to bear on what they do. That means the spiritual side is always a piece of the puzzle. We gain nothing by ignoring our wholeness.
Themes - Communication and collaboration, Environmental protection, Climate change, Business transformation
Similar to “the spiritual” mentioned above, Theory U is all about going deep. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s where we get the phrase “deep dive.” Scharmer’s work points us within and depending on the context, deep, whether the work involves an individual, a group, an org, or an entire society. By deep I think he means finding stillness, intuition, purpose and authenticity within the person or group and listening for what’s true or possible or necessary to bring into being or to say or to do.
Themes - Leadership, Transformation
This author, thinker, and consultant worked with South African leaders in the lead up to transitioning out of apartheid. I remember reading his second book in which he admitted he was wrong in his first book. In his first, the gist was, all you need is love to solve tough problems, a la, coming together to plan a smooth transition into a post-aparthied world. He seemed to learn after writing the first book that you also need power, not just love. I loved reading about his work bringing a wide array of leaders together to talk through their differences and interests in South Africa at such a momentous time in the country’s history.
Themes - Momentous change, Leading change
A much more effective and transformative way of collaborating is possible than most think or talk about. It’s where I first came across the line, “ we don’t listen, we reload.” I related to this so much. I would and still do, break off my listening to someone to begin to rehearse my response/rebuttal. This work reminds me that I can listen so much more deeply than I most often do. Both to myself, to others, and even to whole groups. Also, he lays out the phases a group goes through when on the path to “generative dialogue”. I aspire to one day exist in groups that experience generative dialogue and experience the value created and transformation (no longer shooting themselves in the foot) involved.
Hock’s notion of chaordic is a portmanteau of chaos and order and with it he points to ordered chaos being a good and creative way to exist in and run an organization. He’s writing about the origin story of Visa, the credit card company, and during one product launch they had to undertake an impossible effort, but he found that if they wrote up on a wall all the things that needed to be done, they’d just get done because people were intrinsically motivated to participate and move things along. The joy he describes participating in this hive mind was contagious and I still think about it many years later.
After reading this book a second time I think I read it a third and took proper notes before discovering this wiki. Still top of mind is the category I’d place each of the organizations I’ve worked in and the category of organization I’d want to work in or create. This has stuck with me so much I’ve wanted to build an organization from the very very beginning, out in the open, write about it as openly as possible from as early as possible and use this book as a guide as often as possible. I think the world needs more “Teal” organizations, if not just to have a wider variety, or more or newer examples of what’s possible when people come together on purpose.
It’s all about flow and constraints to that flow. Constraints in any system are natural. Blame is too, but blame begins a race to the bottom. Also when seeking to improve anything, self, team, org, it’s all about the questions you ask. Or put another way, how good or solid the quality of your stance of curiosity is matters an enormous amount if not the absolute most.
After drafting this list I think what got me as I read these books starting in the mid 2000s on to today is that these were people thinking deeply and holistically about the world around them and acting deeply and holistically to improve that world around them with great success or on inspiring scales (think General Motors, Unilever, the UN, etc). I aspire like they do. I’d like to begin a project synthesizing many of these thinkers’ systems into my own system, but maybe, it’s enough to just internalize them more so I might be able to effortlessly use each of these tools or lenses in my toolbox to assist in creating a more better world.
An aside: All these authors to my knowledge, look and sound like I do, a straight, American, white, educated, male. It’s not a huge surprise to me but is cause for reflection on this bias in my selection and obsession as well as the content of the books themselves.