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The Age of Unreason Paperback – February 1, 1991


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; 1 edition (February 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0875843018
  • ISBN-13: 978-0875843018
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #134,254 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Handy, a British specialist in organizational management, predicts that the 21st century will be the Age of Unreason. In an era when changes in business and society will be "discontinuous" or patternless, he suggests that our thinking must become discontinuous or "unreasonable" in order to use such changes to our advantage. While his thesis is generally in line with strategists like Tom Peters ( In Search of Excellence, LJ 2/15/83), Handy focuses more on the philosophy, rather than the mechanics, of adaptive change in society. His examples from the business world are interestingly extended to social institutions like marriage and family. Nicely written, this should be popular with open-minded management types. A good addition to management collections.
-Mark L. Shelton, Columbus, Ohio
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Named one of "The 25 Most Influential Business Management Books" by TIME Magazine (TIME.com)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Ian Pring on July 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
I read this book as part of an MBA programme, but it's far, far more than a business book. In a series of self-examination exercises, Handy teaches how we can all reassess our lives and change the way we live and work. All this is achieved in a slim, matter-of-fact volume that puts many other business and management books (as well as the slew of self-help literature) to shame, with its erudition and the well-read eclecticism of its author. Maybe half a dozen books in a lifetime make you change the way you think. If this isn't one of them, there's no hope for you.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 22, 1997
Format: Paperback
Handy's reasonable tome unveils an argument for becoming questioning, seeking, unreasonable individuals. Written several years ago, Handy's ability to forecast the direction in which businesses are moving (adopting 'cores' and contracting out much of the work) is fascinating. I wonder what I would have thought of this book 8 years ago when it was first published. 'Is he for real?' Charles Handy is very real and so is the future about which he writes
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By frumiousb VINE VOICE on November 28, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had to both laugh at and give a helpful vote to the review below which accused the author of citing half-baked fragments of myths and anecdotes as evidence. To a certain degree, it's a fair cop, particularly if you're looking for a book which is going to really stunningly predict the future.

_The Age of Unreason_ isn't about predicting the future, it's about training yourself to look at the future in ways that you might otherwise not have done. As such, I found it a valuable and interesting book which is clearly based in a lot of meditation on learning and learning theories.

Some of the things Handy mentioned turned out to have become true since the book was written. Other things didn't-- but it doesn't matter ultimately. What the book asks is this: Can you recognize the real causes for pain that you identify? Can you think differently to force discontinuous change? Is your vision of the future based on an accurate perception of the past, or are you looking past major factors because you don't recognize the role of gradual change?

People who like this book may like some of the books on developing strategies using scenario exercises. This book also contains a decent (if dated) bibliography.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 30, 1996
Format: Paperback
When considering the jump to independent consulting, this book inspired me to leave the comfort (and confinement) of corporate life.
Handy makes it clear how the business and social trends of today are affecting each of us personally and professionally.
Anytime someone asks me for career advice, I recommend this book!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Reed Too Much on June 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
Very though provoking read. Even though written in '89 it has some very topical and relevant ideas. This is by no means a how to book, although there are suggestions and concepts to consider. Rather Handy gives arguments and suggestions on why adaptation to worn out approaches to organizations need to be considered. His writing style is informative without being overbearing, pretty quick read. If someone wants to understand more on why organizations need to adapt their designs and what some of the implications are then this is a good read, although some ideas are unique.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Brian R. McNeill on December 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
Age of Unreason appeared more than a decade after Mintzberg's "the Structuring of Organizations." In it Mintzberg described the strategic and technical core and the contingent outer-layers of an organization. This laid the theoretical basis for the dissolution of the fully integrated organization. Even so, while Handy's book is not wholly original it is a significant contribution to the literature, as he explored the implication of Mintzberg's concepts to a greater degree than did Mintzberg and then described the implication for the individual. He then prescribed constant self-investment. Nearly two decades later, his advice is still true. I'd say it's full of prescient insights such as that, even if it is heavily derivative of Mintzberg.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By O. Halabieh on June 30, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As best described by the author: "The purpose of this book is to promote a better understanding of the changes which are already about us, in order that we may, as individuals or as a society, suffer less and profit more.Changes, after all, is only another word for growth, another synonym for learning. We can all do it, and enjoy it, if we want to. The story or argument of this book rests on three assumptions:

1) That the changes are different this time: they are discontinuous and not part of a pattern; such discontinuity happens from time to time in history, although it is confusing and disturbing, particularly to those in power.

2) that is is the little changes which can in fact make the biggest differences to our lives, even if these go unnoticed at the time, and that is is the changes in the way our work is organized which will make the biggest differences to the way we all will live; and

3) that discontinuous change requires discontinuous upside-down thinking to deal with it, even if both thinkers and thoughts appear absurd at first sight."

The book covers the various aspects that these changes affect including professional (organizations where we work), personal, and government. The author's main objective is: "If people start to think unreasonably and try to shape their world the way they think it ought to be, then I shall be content."

A very deep and insightful analysis of the world we are living in, and the necessary shift in the way we think and act within it. The breadth of areas covered in this book and its completeness are to be commended.
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