Sunday 3 March 2013

Anarchists in the Boardroom

Anarchists in the Boardroom is the title of a book which I think should get published, and is highly likely to get published if lots of people talk about it and about 200 or so chip in financial support in return for copies of the book (for which they get a thank you in the book) and/or some consultancy support from the author. (If you’re interested already, just jump straight to the campaign page, if you want my review of chapters 1 and 2, please do carry on.)

Liam, the author of the book is, like many people I ‘know’ nowadays, someone who I started listening to thanks to twitter. We did met fleetingly face to face at an event in London. It is predominantly through Liam’s blog that we and others have conversed, and reflected on big stuff in relation to organisations and people. A lot of what Liam has been doing through the blog is enabling an open process to writing a book, a book which is about organisations being More Like People, and about what we can learn and use from social media/new technologies and movements that they have supported.

Liam generously sent through the first two chapters of the book for me to blog about here, so here is an overview and my reactions.

Chapter 1: The inhumanity of it all

The chapter opens by highlighting the contrast between the way that Occupy modelled critical elements of the world which members of the movement wanted to see and the ways that social change organisations behave and describe change. Via Taylorism, Liam asks us to consider the impact of professionalism on behaviours displayed by those of us who work in voluntary/community organisations, social enterprises etc. He makes some interesting observations about the ways that civil servants change what they are doing when political leadership or policy changes, and do so seemingly without question.

We are then encouraged to consider ‘ways in which traditional management structures are likely to be at odds with underpinning principles of social media’. And Liam introduces anarchism - something which ‘places the highest faith in human potential, arguing that we do not need outside structures to create order.’ 

Finally we are introduced to three simple principles of the ‘more like people’ approach which organisations could take:
  • Humanity: Being ourselves, while growing and learning to build stronger relationships
  • Autonomy: Having the freedom to find out own best ways of doing things.
  • Complexity: Understanding that life is as emergent, non-linear and interdependent as we are. 

Chapter 2 The ‘more like people’ principles: humanity, autonomy, complexity

Liam gives a really accessible introduction to complexity and examples of how it comes in to play for social change organisations. He discusses humanity, and how we can better bring what we know and have learned in other parts of our lives in to our organisational lives. (This is really important to me, I have never failed to be astonished by how often voluntary members of community groups leave loads of their knowledge and skills from other parts of their lives at the door when they come along to a meeting - perhaps draughty community halls and boring agendas don’t help!) 

In the section on autonomy Liam has a great imaginary story which really gets through what organisations do wrong when it comes to using social media. He also talks about how ‘social media makes it much more obvious when we aren’t being ourselves’.

It's really interesting and well written, well worth pledging to buy!

Liam’s writing style is really conversational and engaging, and the examples and stories he uses feel so real and immediate. There are questions in key sections of each chapter which encourage the reader to reflect - this is a book that you are invited to interact with, as well as having the opportunity to jump online and talk about it.

I did smile at the fact that I am helping to get a book published which includes a sentence which begins: 
“Sadly, when leadership goes bat-shit-crazy, as history has demonstrated it often does ...”

I am so encouraged by the lengths which Liam has gone to in order to involve people in the thinking behind the book content, and his absolute commitment to creating a community of people who will grapple together with putting the principles of being More Like People in to practice, therefore putting the principles in to practice himself.

It has been really invigorating to see the pledges on the campaign page to get the book published quickly accumulate within the first two days of the campaign, it looks as though a few more supporters will mean I can read the remaining chapters!

So please do tweet about the book, share the campaign on Facebook, visit the campaign page, pledge to buy a copy or two, and if I haven’t convinced you, take a look at the short video of Liam talking about it below.

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