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The Age of Heretics: A History of the Radical Thinkers Who Reinvented Corporate Management Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0470190708 ISBN-10: 0470190701 Edition: 2nd

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 2 edition (July 28, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470190701
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470190708
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #906,418 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Radical behavior is rarely acknowledged as a characteristic of the corporate world, where status quo is generally king and revolutionary thought usually banished to the fringes. In The Age of Heretics, however, journalist Art Kleiner shows that a powerful group of progressive thinkers really did exist within the realm of traditional business during the tumultuous 1960s. These figures actually helped transform that environment just as their better-known antiestablishment allies were reshaping other institutions throughout society. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Kleiner's freewheeling portrait gallery focuses on corporate mavericks of the 1950s, '60s and '70s who pioneered self-managing work teams, responsiveness to customers, grassroots organizing and other ways to imbue corporations with a sense of the value of human relationships. Starting with British management scientist Eric Trist, whose experiments in industrial democracy in the 1940s laid the groundwork for U.S. managerial innovations of the 1980s, Kleiner afterward profiles General Foods manager Lyman Ketchum, who launched the work-team concept at a Topeka pet-food plant in the early 1970s; he then discusses how Royal Dutch/Shell in England switched from rigid numbers-based forecasting to "scenario planning," a method of predicting alternative patterns of global energy demand. Also spotlighted are MIT computer scientist Jay Forrester's design of the "Limits of Growth" model of the world's economic future; community/labor organizer Saul Alinsky's drive to change Kodak's hiring policies; and Stanford Research Institute engineer Willis Harman's parapsychology experiments and his campaign urging the federal government to adopt an ecological ethic. Kleiner, a freelance business reporter who has edited The Whole Earth Catalog, serves up a smorgasbord of status quo-changing ideas.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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If you pitch your tent in either camp, bring this book along for companionship.
Jonathan Lehrich
The Age of Heretics, by Art Kleiner challenges the very fibers that compose modern management and its favour for bureaucracy.
Adam Kahtava
I highly recommend it to anyone with a serious interest in organizational development and leadership.
Michael Lee Stallard

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Lehrich on January 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Never judge a book by its cover - particularly its blurb. On first glance, The Age of Heretics seems askew, a tract on business revolution for "corporate leaders" interested in anything but. It purportedly chronicles the "recreation" of institutions, an eccentric term when left unhyphenated. It's described in alarming code words, such as "magisterial" (read, "long"). Why would anyone bother with a book like this?
Because it's terrific. And because the bland façade is disguising a remarkable reality. The Age of Heretics offers one of the few compelling, intelligent, thoroughly researched histories of the field of organizational development. Focusing largely on the 1960s and 1970s, Art Kleiner details the origins of T-Groups, Theory X and Theory Y, scenario planning, systems thinking, and much more. He proves particularly adept at summarizing an approach or technique succinctly, as if in passing, and all the while in the context of corporate change movements. Perhaps Kleiner errs on the side of the Great Man Theory of History ("there was one man who could do it, and his name was ..."), but he does demonstrate how OD can prove revolutionary to the modern corporation. And we all know what fate befalls the revolutionary.
For that is part of Kleiner's history: how the OD early adopters so often sowed the seeds of their own downfall. Perhaps they evolved from enthusiastic to monomaniacal. Perhaps they exacerbated their cultish image by experimenting with LSD. Perhaps they merely stepped on the wrong toes. Whatever the reason, the drugs or the shoes, they blew their own trumpets, then whimpered the blues.
As the title suggests, Kleiner dubs these forerunners "heretics," and even adopts a framework of comparisons to medieval knights, millenarians, Pelagians, and the like.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By R. Michael Bokeno on May 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book should remind anyone of an age to be in a position of significant and high-level corporate change responsibility of opportunity lost. In a societal post-culture where it's stylish to be outlandish, different, revolutionary and heretical, Kleiner illustrates for us the substantive difficulties faced by substantive revolutionary thinkers (and doers!) in developing the plans for socially responsible corporate transformation.
The Age of Heretics is almost unfairly engrossing (I read it in a single sitting). Its superb and nuanced documentation at times reads almost like an additional narrative. And Kleiner's wonderfully accessible writing makes this intellectual history of organizational development speak to those otherwise put off by the cerebral work.
Oddly, those most in need of a recovery of revolutionary spirit or heretical passion - contemporary OD/MD/HR executives- won't read it. After all, even though interesting history, it is still history and those folks are now too busy figuring out what happy face button everyone can wear for the fiscal quarter. On my read, this is the lesson of Kleiner's history; that is, abandoning the revolutionary, hopeful,Pelagian spirit and resignation to work within the system enables the system to eat you.
Also oddly, Kleiner's history will likely be dismissed by socially conscious and critically-minded business/organization/management Marxist academics, as just not explicitly critical enough of the "one-dimensionality," technocracy and precipitous consumerism of the capitalist system, which is of course what identifies the work of McGregor, Lewin and the early NTL'ers as heresy.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 18, 1996
Format: Hardcover
The heroes of Kleiner's book are concerned with reducing the psychic costs of work by
better aligning the personal hopes and dreams of employees and the corporations they
work for through organizational development (OD). Kleiner's subject matter ties in
well with those, such as Margaret Blair, who emphasize the contribution to wealth
creation of firm specific human capital. While Blair appears primarily concerned
with enhancing the ability of corporations to create wealth, Kleiner acknowledges
they are already good at that task; the issues he raises are in some way more
fundamental...how can we reorganize corporate systems so that they reinforce
democracy and other cherished human values?

For students of OD, or anyone who has been a process facilitator, the book is full
of fascinating insights into the people we have tried to emulate...people like
Douglas McGregor, Kurt Lewin, Chris Argyris, Saul Alinsky and Warren Bennis. I
learned, for example that Charlie Krone's leaks to David Jenkins for the book Job
Power resulted in Charlie's virtual "house arrest" at Procter and Gamble and I
learned the semi-autonomous work groups didn't really have as much authority as
Jenkins reported. Kleiner's heroes recognized that institutions, such as
corporations, are social constructs. They became masters in group dynamics and
building trust so that more effective communication took place, especially around
team building. These heroic figures helped many corporations go through a process of
fundamental reexamination... leading to a shift away from the bureaucratic military
model to the more dynamic matrix, self-managed, and participatory models of today.
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