Inspired by recent communication with Berrett-Koehler Publishers (BK) Vice-President, David Marshall, I may not post much here for the next two months. Instead I plan to concentrate as fully as possible on finishing the first edition of my self-published autobiography and making copies available free of charge at my 70th birthday party on July 26. I’ll also mail it to anyone who wants a copy and will be asking readers for feedback, including their opinion about whether I should seek a publisher who could help me improve it and distribute it more widely.
I want to make this book as good as possible. I’ve almost finished the first draft, with 35 chapters and 350 pages, and believe it’s pretty good. But there’s a long way to go for it to be very good. I could use help, especially in terms of how to shorten it.
My conversation with David began when he called to interview me as part of BK’s branding study. Though we did not discuss my book, my interaction with him and a proposed modification from Bob Anshuetz, my copy editor, have prompted me to coin a new title, Opposing the System to Save the World: My Story.
I’m moving toward that title because my phone call with David and his follow-up email reinforce my confidence that my analysis of our social system, as I expressed for example in “Transforming the System with Evolutionary Revolution,” is sensible. At least it’s worth serious consideration. Most of the expert “systems thinkers” from whom I’ve solicited feedback have not responded. But those who did, like on the Wiser Earth network that was inspired by Paul Kawken’s Blessed Unrest, have been supportive. Likewise, most of my peers from whom I’ve solicited feedback have been rather unresponsive. But those who have commented have been supportive.
I believe my analysis is original and important. I did not borrow it from anyone, but rather developed it in dialog with associates. Most recently, I summarized my thinking in the Preface to my autobiography. That section reads:
Our global society is a self-perpetuating social system of inter-related elements – namely, our institutions, our culture, and ourselves as individuals. No one element controls this system, which operates to concentrate wealth and power.
Most people who write about “the system” only talk about our political and economic institutions. But you and I reinforce the system every day in countless ways. Without our participation, the system would collapse. And our other major institutions, other than government and business, such as media and schools, reinforce the system in essential ways.
One reason that this systemic perspective is important is that it avoids scapegoating. Different people have many different scapegoats. Among those who want to pin down blame, there is no consensus about what element of the system to blame – because it can’t be done in a way that holds up to logical analysis. We are all responsible. But some people are compelled to direct their frustration and anger at something.
Avoiding scapegoating is important because if one does not scapegoat, it makes no sense to tap anger to attack “enemies,” or “opponents,” which does not work in the long run anyway.
Instead, we need a positive, creative vision with which we can inspire others and ourselves to be more active to help change the system by changing ourselves, our culture, and our institutions – and creating new structures that help us better serve humanity.
My conversation with David reassured me that I am not as alone as I sometimes feel with regard to this perspective. I don’t know if I have ever had a conversation with anyone with whom I felt so much that we were on the same wavelength.
But that experience did not surprise me, because the BK books I have read — Power and Love, Transformational Scenario Planning, True North Groups, and The Secret of Teams — have resonated with and clarified my thinking immensely, often prompting me to give copies to friends and colleagues. And the book I bought two weeks ago, Deepening Community, looks like another great one, as does one David recommended, Collective Visioning, by Linda Stout. David said, “She is a miracle worker who has helped underrepresented people throughout America discover and express their voices.”
The following list of upcoming books also indicates why I hold BK in such high regard:
A Peacock in the Land of Penguins, 4th edition by BJ Gallagher
With more than 365,000 copies sold and translations in 20 languages, BJ Gallagher’s pioneering book is a classic in the fields of creativity and diversity. Organizations around the world have used the book to improve team communication, effectiveness, and innovation. We all have a little bit of peacock inside of us!
Power Through Partnership by Betsy Polk and Maggie Ellis Chotas
Society erroneously trains us to believe that women do not partner well with other women. However, with extensive research, Polk and Chotas show that partnerships between women are even more effective because of shared values and experiences, and in this book they show us all how to do it.
The Confidence Myth by Helene Lerner
Research shows that women consistently undervalue their skills and readiness for challenging jobs, promotions, and assignments–while men have the opposite bias. How can women compete on this un-level playing field if they talk themselves out the game before they start? Helene Lerner tells women that confidence is overrated and what is really important is to step up and be a leader, ready or not.
Are You Intriguing? By Sam Horn
Our deepest yearning is to connect, yet many of us don’t know how. We’re taught how to read and write in school; but we’re not taught how to genuinely engage people and create mutually-rewarding interactions. We’re not taught how to earn people’s interest so they voluntarily give us their attention, friendship and business. People want to be intrigued and they want to be intrigued fast and this book provides NEW ways to do that.
Singletasking by Devora Zack
In any situation, doing one thing at a time is more effective than multitasking—yet why do we continually lapse into the habit of doing many things poorly all at once? What if you could do more things, more successfully by improving focus, eliminating distraction, and managing your environment? The answer is singletasking, whatever the question.
Leadership for a Fractured World by Dean Williams
Harvard University professor Dean Williams shares what he has learned from his decade of working with leaders around the world to bring about change in today’s complex, interdependent, conflicted, power-dispersed environments.
Dare to Serve: The Unexpected Power of the Leader Who Serves by Cheryl Bachelder
Thirty-five years ago, Robert Greenleaf introduced the concept of the servant leader who leads by putting the well-being of others first. While many have found the servant leadership concept intriguing, it has never gained a sure foothold inside of corporations. The concept has been marginalized and misunderstood. It has been simplistically and pejoratively cast as “nice-guy leadership” – perhaps best-suited to the non-profit arena, but certainly not a serious idea for driving public company performance. This book aims to set the record straight and is written by the CEO of Popeye’s, an international fast-food franchise.
So you may want to subscribe to the BK newsletter by clicking on this link.
And to learn more about BK and its early history, read the text of an excellent recent speech by its President and Founder, Steve Persanti, “Secrets of Berrett-Koehler’s Success.”
‘Til later, alligators.