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Action Inquiry: The Secret of Timely and Transforming Leadership Paperback – June 9, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-1576752647 ISBN-10: 157675264X

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers (June 9, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 157675264X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1576752647
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 5.8 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #335,409 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Now Professor of Management at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College, William Torbert has earlier served as the school's Graduate Dean and Director of the PhD Program in Organizational Transformation.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Patrick D. Goonan on February 2, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
ACTION-INQUIRY is a great book with lots of useful concepts. The editorial and other reviews focus on the content and I won't repeat a lot of that. However, I have some other comments to make that may be useful and I can describe my experience applying the ideas in daily life.

The authors introduce the idea that every action is an inquiry and every inquiry is an action. The premise of the book is that you need to be in inquiry in every moment at different levels to make the best choices and approach decisions with full awareness. This is a useful concept and it is illustrated throughout the book with many real-life business examples.

As a former director in a large company, I can say that these are practical ideas that if applied could be very transformational to an organization. The challenge is to really impliment them and not just pay lip service to the concepts. This must begin with the leaders. If they don't buy into the model, it will be difficult to get other people onboard, but not impossible. The book is about each individual being a change agent through action-inquiry.

What I didn't like about the book is that I found there were too many examples to illustrate the same basic concepts, there was also quite a bit of repetition of concepts and an unnecessary use of jargon where plain everyday language would have done just fine.

I think this book could have been half the length and been just as effective. I also think the author could have presented his ideas more clearly and concisely. In places, he uses different language for the various levels of inquiry and this tends to make the flow more confusing than it has to be. In the next revision, it would be good to see some of these issues addressed.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By J L Ritchie-Dunham on August 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
Does everyone in your organization do the best they can, as they see it, yet the organization still fails to achieve its desired results? Action Inquiry shows why this often happens and how to convert this seeming paradox into a transformational change, taking everyone and the organization to the next level of performance.

Whether we look at the level of the individual, project, organization, network, or society, we each follow a path of development over time. For example, I think about the world in a different way today than I did when I was 10, 20 or 30. Likewise, my organization sees the world different after 10 years of success than we did as a startup. Based on over forty years of observation in the field, Bill Torbert and his associates find that we often get stuck in early levels of understanding of the world, even as we grow older. While it's obvious that it is appropriate to act like a teenager when you are 16 and not when you are 30, when we apply this same developmental logic to organizational life, the authors find that most organizations get stuck in early levels of development (like the teenager) that were appropriate in the first years and not in later years.

To show us what can be done about this and its implications, the authors provide many examples of how the action inquiry approach helped these individuals and organizations grow to the next level, taking on a broader understanding of the reality that faced them, which led to greater value being created for all.

We can see that the evidence is mounting: those leaders who understand and work with an action inquiry approach to leadership and development create significantly more value for their organizations in the short term for the long term, sustainably. Based on rigorous theory and scientific evidence, this is the art and science of transformational leadership for leaders who can handle the truth.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mark Twain on November 21, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is probably the best book on leadership that I have ever read, for a few reasons.
1) It focuses on individuals, rather than "Leaders". Therefore, you don't need to already be a senior manager, a director, a partner, a VP, etc. to put these actions into place. You just need to focus on your own behavior and how you react to challenges.
2) It explicitly recognizes the fact that most of us go through life spending a large amount of time on "auto-pilot", not really thinking about how we interpret situations and react to them (never mind thinking about how our reactions are going to be interpreted by others!). Therefore, the basic premise that "every action is an inquiry, and every inquiry is an action" will be a challenge for most of us. However if this challenge is taken up, it will be incredibly powerful.
3) It focuses on simple human behaviors/cognitions that we have control over. It doesn't start with the premise that you can generate a jillion dollars worth of revenue for a massive organizational change effort. It starts with the premise that you have control over your brain and consequently how you interpret and react to situations. Therefore, the advice given here is highly actionable.
A great developmental opportunity awaits you!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Montgomery on August 22, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The depth of wisdom and utility in Torbert's work is astounding. If a reader is in leadership--at work, home or in some type of organization--and feels the gap between where they want to be and where they are, then read this book. Torbert's book on action inquiry and transformative leadership gives the reader the tools to experience what it describes.
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