UPDATE (29 October 2013) – Humane, Resourced is now available to buy online with all proceeds going to some very deserving charities.
You might have thought that modesty would forbid me from even considering a review of a book to which I have contributed but you’d be quite wrong. Perhaps we should view this as more of a puff-piece. I won’t deal with specifics to save the blushes of those concerned but will dwell on how it made me feel (which is perhaps more important any way). I’m no longer a salaried practitioner in the day-to-day hurly burly of the working world so I tend to paint in broad strokes in any event and I’m reliant on my social media and client network to keep me abreast of what’s happening at the coal face. I’ll leave my thoughts on the unchanging nature of the challenges they relate for another time. For now, let’s concern ourselves with a remarkable project, brought into existence by a selfless, modest chap by the name of David D’Souza.
In June of 2013, D’Souza conceived an audacious challenge for himself – to compile a crowd-sourced business book examining the modern workplace from the world of blogging. The resulting publication, Humane, Resourced contains contributions from over 50 authors and launches as an eBook this week with a foreword by no less a luminary than Peter Cheese, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development. 50-odd authors, all with quite a lot to say on the state of the modern world of work, make this something of a doorstop in business book terms and there are many different styles and tones of voice on display. However, the careful ordering of the chapters lends the book a thematic flow that simply dipping in and out may not replicate.
What this number of contributors does do is add the kind of weight and depth that blogs are often accused of lacking. There are learned, academic offerings that exposed shortcomings in my understanding of the psychology of leadership. There is technical exposition that confused and confounded me in equal measure. There is a questing for purpose that uncharitable souls would lazily label as navel-gazing were it not for the fact that so much of what follows posits solutions and a drive and determination for better ways of going about things. Here too are corners of soulful reflection and recognition of humanity at work. A post-Taylorist enlightenment with freedom and choice at it’s core. It’s practical, funny and has a lightness of touch that business books so rarely do.
There’s also stuff here that I disagree with and I hope that there will be people who disagree with me. For me, this book would fail if that were not the case. The recent history of corporate life is a litany of received wisdom, assumptions, wilful blindness, dumb risk-taking, vanity and moral bankruptcy. Not enough people called bullshit on the masters of the universe. I’m as guilty as the next guy of entrenched opinions. We need to be shakers of complacency and be open to having our own complacency shaken. The book contains its fair share of buzzwords and jargon. Old habits die hard but if all we have to worry about is a harmless game of bullshit bingo then the world is in much better shape than I thought. Of course, that is not the case and it’s testament to the authors that the content here makes the occasional lapse into corporate-speak the very tiniest of minor niggles.
Like all of the very best compilations, it is the broad reach and relevance of the subject matter chosen by the authors themselves that makes this such a great resource. The eBook format allows for this to be also a generous act of curation, with hyperlinks to more web-based content. The last time I genuinely enjoyed a business book this much it was written by Malcolm Gladwell. I’ve carried around wonderful compilations of short stories from Esquire and McSweeney’s before, luxuriating in each new discovery like sampling rare single malts. Humane, Resourced does both in the one package. And that is D’Souza’s real achievement.
A list of contributors to the book is available here so you can follow them on Twitter and keep up to date with their antics.