Seeing The World With New Eyes

Seeing The World With New Eyes

A few weeks ago I put on a seminar in New York City, kindly hosted by Kaihan Krippendorf. Kaihan is a management strategist, speaker and author who helps organizations “outthink” their competition. He is also an expert blogger for Fast Company. I met him via Columbia University Press who asked him to review The New Ecology of Leadership and he also kindly wrote an endorsement for the jacket cover. For the seminar Kaihan assembled a group of people with most diverse backgrounds. There were actors, storytellers, executives and lawyers who all shared an interest in organizations and new ways of looking at them. After the introductions I gave a thirty-minute presentation that Kaihan filmed. You can see an excerpt here.

The session went very well and we had some excellent discussion about how the ecocycle applied to various organizations in different situations. I gave away a couple of books as prizes for the best stories and we repaired to a local watering hole to continue the conversation. One of the attendees, Karen Morris, had already read The New Ecology of Leadership, liked it very much and kindly offered to write a review of it for Amazon. It has just appeared there. I got today’s blog title from it and the rest of this blog is devoted to it. Thanks Karen!

Marcel Proust and The New Ecology of Leadership by Karen Morris

The world, no that’s inadequate, the Universe, does not need another how-to management book enumerating the 5, 7, 11 [insert number of choice] secrets of leadership.  We do not need another architecturally unsound theory tottering on the foundations of over laden case-studies.  We need a fresh, vigorous, expansive, bold, honest, examination of the contextual realities of management.  Business executive turned management educator, David K. Hurst has given it to us.

Years ago I developed a controversial and objectively unsubstantiated theory that many executives read the first few chapters of management books on planes then fall asleep bored and fatigued by it all.  If you number among them “The New Ecology of Leadership” is much more bite than you can chew.

This is a lot of book.  Hurst variously critiques, synthesizes, rejects or applies principles of management practice.  An intellectual itinerant we follow Hurst’s mental excursions across theories and approaches to management practice that have been articulated and advanced over the last 100 years; more than this, Hurst offers us his own mental framework and guide to tackling challenges in context.   At the core of this framework is the notion of the “ecocycle”.  Hurst offers us an experience-based lens on the shifting challenges that organizations face in the cycle of birth, renewal and decline.  Different management “practices” are required in different contexts to overcome the demands of change while resisting stasis in stability.

Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

Hurst illustrates his arguments about the nature of growth, innovation, change and decline in organizations using memorable analogies drawn from nature and describes the attributes and behaviors of the leaders and communities of actors in organizations – in the language of anthropology and psychology.  Hurst demonstrates that the narrative of organizational success or failure is the collective stories of its people and these are written as much with passion as with reason.  The tendency to over emphasize the rational in conversations about management actually distorts our understanding about how organizations evolve and indeed decline.  Hurst also points out that the narrative arc of businesses’ life-cycles draw their cohesion from the interplay between trust and power.

Hurst suggests new ways of viewing the dynamics of passion and reason, power and trust to help leaders sustain success in widely divergent contexts.  This is not a book for the insecure looking for potted answers or 4-point plans but it will excite those who are curious and eager to look with Proustian “new eyes” at the ecology of management.

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