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A Simpler Way Paperback – January 1, 1998
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Strikingly different from most business books--it opens and closes with a pair of very powerful black-and-white photo essays, for example--A Simpler Way lays out a fascinating and productive reexamination of the traditional tenets of organizational behavior. Internationally known consultants Margaret J. Wheatley (Leadership and the New Science) and Myron Kellner-Rogers focus on the basic themes of play, organization, self, emergence, and notions of coherence to explore how people really systemize their existence. The authors draw upon science, poetry, philosophy, and other unconventional corporate resources to suggest a completely original method of working together. "There is a simpler way to organize human endeavor," they write. "It requires a new way of being in the world. It requires being in the world without fear. Being in the world with play and creativity. Seeking after what's possible. Being willing to learn and to be surprised."
While A Simpler Way may appear too New Age for some readers, this beautifully produced book hits the mark by bringing together an array of unexpected ideas as the authors look anew at established theories of human behavior to propose a decidedly unique way of promoting organization and achieving success. --Howard Rothman
From Publishers Weekly
Addressing readers who perceive their lives as nearly unmanageable, the authors, business consultants and cofounders of the Berkana Institute, elegantly suggest a new way to view endeavor. Are we governed by static images of the world as a great machine, they ask, or do we see the world as an ever-changing, creative, living organism? The authors present material from myriad academic disciplines to shore up their fundamental propositions that the universe is a creative experience, that life self-organizes, that organizations are living systems. Even light bulbs "have exhibited a breathtaking tendency to self-organize when wired together with other bulbs," the authors observe. Organizing, they maintain, is a "deep impulse" and not one just found in living beings. Self-organizing calls us to partner with the world's creative forces, for life, Wheatley and Kellner-Rogers aver, has the capacity to invent itself. The advice here is more inspirational than particular or hands-on. It represents a vigorous, path-breaking application of findings from the cutting edge of science to inner questions about how to live a life, however, and so should find a ready readership among those who cotton to Chopra, Capra and the like. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
The authors in a poetic way express that life is creative and playful, contrary to Darwinist theory that life occurred out of an error and it is struggle for survival. The mechanistic image of the world doesn't help us any longer. We keep exploring what we can see when we look at life and organizations using different images.
Organizations are living systems. They are like people, intelligent, creative, adaptive, self-organizing and meaning-seeking. The simpler way to organize human endeavor requires a belief that the world is inherently orderly. The world seeks organization. It doesn't need humans to organize it.
The book is based around the following essential ideas: everything is in a constant process of discovery and creating; life uses mess to get to well-ordered solutions, it doesn't seem to share our desires for efficiency or neatness, it uses redundancy, fuzziness, dense webs of relationships, and unending trails and errors to find what works; life is intent on finding what works, not what's "right"; life creates more possibilities as it engages with opportunities; life is attracted to order; life organizes around identity; everything participates in the creation and evolution of its neighbors.
"A simpler way" is to a great extent influenced by Maturana and Varela, Kelly, Prigogine, Jacob, Lewontin, Kauffmann and other great thinkers.
Here is the quote from this book:
"In their work on human cognition, Maturana and Varela explain that, at any moment, what we see is most influenced by who we have decided to be. Our eyes do not simply pick up information from an outside world and relay it to our brains. Information relayed from the outside through the eye accounts for only 20 percent of what we use to create a perception. At least 80 percent of the information that the brain works with is information already in the brain.
We each create our own worlds by what we choose to notice, creating a world of distinctions that makes sense to us. We then "see" the world through this self we have created. Information from the external world is a minor influence. We connect who we are with selected amounts of new information to enact our particular version of reality.
Because information from the outside plays such a small role in our perceptions, Maturana and Varela note something quite important for our activities with one another. We can never direct a living system. We can only disturb it. As external agents we provide only small impulses of information. We can nudge, titillate, or provoke one another into some new ways of seeing. But we can never give anyone an instruction and expect him or her to follow it precisely. We can never assume that anyone else sees the world as we do.
Their work on human cognition underscores the realization that we are all, always, poets, exploring possibilities of meaning in a world which is also all the time exploring possibilities."
I also recommend "Leadership and The New Science" in addition to this book.
This book has a great deal of white space, lots of photos, is double-spaced, but by no means is it simplistic. To play on the title, it is a "simpler way" to absorb the large deep ideas that are documented in "Leadership and the New Science." If her primary writing were a trilogy, this is the entry-level book, "Finding Our Way" is the intermediate volume, and "Leadership" is the graduate course. However, I recommend they be read in reverse order, because the simpler books are more clearly appreciated if one has the deeper background.
What I find most compelling about this book is the manner in which it captures core ideas from a wide variety of works that have been bubbling into human consciousness in the past 20 years. The bibliography is quite good although by no means all-inclusive (missing Kurzweil, E. O. Wilson, and Stephen Wolfham, as well as Tom Atlee and Bill Moyers, among others).
Among the core ideas in this book that are presented with elegance are the absurdity of thinking that life can have a boss--or that rigid ideas and identities will lead to anything other than rigid non-adjustable organizations. The author stresses the value of diversity, passion, connectedness, humanity and humanness, and tieing it all together, the role of information and of ethics as facilitators for "being."
There is a very useful discussion of bacteria and the manner in which human attempts to impose machine and medical solutions are ultimately defeated by bacteria. Although Howard Bloom's "Global Brain" is not in the bibliography, everything the authors discuss here is consistent with his concerns about bacteria winning the inter-species war with humanity.
Taking this a step further, I would contrast this book, and the varied books on collective intelligence, wisdom of the crowd, ecological economics (Herman Daly) and so on, with a book I recently reviewed about the National Security Council, aptly titled "Running the World." The stupidity and arrogance of that title reveals all that we need to know about why U.S. foreign policy is failing, and how desperately we need to take the ideas from this book and apply them to how we manage ourselves and our relationships with other nations, other tribes, other religions, other communities.