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Getting to Maybe: How the World Is Changed Paperback – August 7, 2007
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“Getting to Maybe addresses making big, significant change actually happen. It is thoughtful, insightful, sobering and inspirational. The ideas articulated are new and practical. Anyone from the business, government or not-for-profit world who wants to understand change better, and change the way things are, should read this book.”
—Courtney Pratt, chairman of Stelco
About the Author
Frances Westley has published widely in the areas of strategic change and visionary leadership, and led the Dupont Canada—fostered think-tank on social innovation, based at McGill University’s Desautel Faculty of Management, where many of the ideas for this book were developed.
Brenda Zimmerman, a professor at the Schulich School of Business at York University, has been studying and writing about how complexity theory applies to organizations for twenty years.
Michael Quinn Patton is an independent organizational development consultant and has written five major books on the art and science of program evaluation.
From the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Warning: this book is not for heroes or saints or perfectionists. This book is for ordinary people who want to make connections that create extraordinary outcomes.
What riveted me to this book on social innovation were seven key things:
1. The authors fascinating yet easy to understand application of scientific complexity science as a way to understand social innovation.
2. The book's thorough research and presentation of patterns of social innovation
3. The compelling stories of diverse social innovators - what triggered them to start, how they navigated their journeys, and the shared patterns of those diverse journeys
4. The use of poetry to ground each chapter, counterbalancing the art of change with the science of systems change.
5. More thoughtful, original, and thought provoking insights than I usually find in a professional book.
6.Many, many practical ideas that I can see how to apply both to my professional organizational change management work and my responsibilities as a trustee on non-profit organizations.
7. How relevant it is in today's world with nations in the Middle East transforming and our school systems, unions, health care institutions and governments undergoing complex, profound and needed change.
I'm a voracious reader, and highly recommend this book for those involved in innovation, organizational change and social transformation, or for those who wonder and perhaps worry about how we can solve today's seemingly insolvable social issues.
The book essentially describes a Zen-Canadian approach to social change. Although loosely based on complexity theory (the one where a butterfly creates a hurricane), complexity theory is very complex, so I would have to say that it is very loosely based.
Reading its stories of how profound changes had occurred in social systems such as Muhammad Yunus' Grameen Bank and anti-poverty and anti-racist activists in Canada, it makes a case the change proceeds from a number of phenomena:
A deep and human level understanding of social ills nurtured over time which leads to tentative hypothesized solutions rather than a one-size-fits-all quick fix or a certain recipe.
A sense of being called to action in a way that almost makes taking action a non-decision for the change agent.
An openness to feedback in the problem solving work (a fair amount of time is spent pointing out the ultimate futility of structured plans given the complexity of the world.)
A willingness to confront the powerful - be that oneself, ones fears or other social stakeholders who may oppose change.
Of interest to me as program staff person at a medium sized US foundation, there is a fairly extensive discussion of the sins of philanthropy with regards to social change. We tend to require more specific objectives and reporting than is realistic given this model of change. We tend to over-evaluate our grantees in terms of these foolish metrics and quantifiable outputs rather than using methods of appreciative inquiry or developmental evaluation to understand the process. I get the sense that at least one of the authors is an evaluator and is tired of being hired to do the wrong thing.
Most moving to me were the observations that change is so very hard. Most social innovations fail in important ways. Even when they do succeed, that success is only temporary or limited - it can be reversed by changed circumstances or become a new baseline from which to aspire very quickly. Social innovators in this view face enormous challenges - they are fundamentally alone, necessarily always questioning everything, and doomed by the complexity of the world and human limitation. Is there such a thing as Zen-Existentialism?
There seems to me to be a lot of truth in these views. However, I have to say that these change agents' program officers are lousy. In addition to handing out checks and demanding unreasonable reports and evaluations, our major job is to support the grantees. No grantee should ever feel alone, if their program staff person knows what he or she is doing.
I still don't know what to make of this book. I look forward to seeing more reviews from others.
From a change standpoint, the book recites some pretty obvious steps: create a vision, communicate the vision, find collaborators etc. The book also does a nice job depicting the change cycle.
Also, the parallels the authors attempt to draw to 'flow' are way off the mark in my view. To me, the authors are stretching to find some sort of parallel between a social change and the idea of 'flow', but none really exist because I believe 'flow' is essentially a personal experience not a movement.
So it's a nice compilation of inspiring social movements along with some pretty basic steps to bring about change. From that standpoint, the book is a success. However, if you are looking for something unique about how change occurs in the social movement world, you will be disappointed I think.
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