Have you ever visited a bookstore and just browsed through the business section to get a sense of what people are reading? I recently did as part of a Saybrook course, and it proved an interesting, experiential exercise.
I felt amidst a unique culture of diverse mindsets and reckoned that these books were specifically available because they mirror what the audience “wants” to “hear” (or read). And, knowing that the bookstore would be interested in exhibiting books that sell, I was able to develop an understanding of the current taste of local readers here in Beirut, where I live.
I identified three voices, or schools of thought, on the bookshelves.
The first voice was that of change and uncertainty, reflected by titles such as How The Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In, Decade of Change: Managing in Times of Uncertainty, Knock ’em Dead: Secrets and Strategies for Success in an Uncertain World, and Managing Organizational Change.
The second voice echoed collaboration and engagement, reflected in titles such as the Harvard Business Review on Collaborating Effectively, Smart Trust, Full Engagement!: Inspire, Motivate, and Bring Out the Best in Your People, Taking People With You: The Only Way to Make Big Things Happen, 1001 Ways to Energize Employees, and The Diversity Training Activity Book: 50 Activities for Promoting Communication and Understanding at Work.
The third voice was that of organizational learning, represented by the books Building the Learning Organization: Mastering the 5 Elements for Corporate Learning, Optimizing the Power of Action Learning: Solving Problems and Building Leaders in Real Time, Creating a Lean Culture: Tools to Sustain Lean Conversions, and The Learning Curve.
Despite my interest in finding books that deal with concepts related to systems theory and self-organization, I was not able to find any. On the contrary, many books talked about creating a private business or offered tips for being successful and making money. There were also some other books on classical management, which included topics on leadership and economic principles.
The books generally mirrored the current state of business consciousness with their focus on navigating through change, engaging employees, cultivating learning organizations, and succeeding in the business world. In fact, one of the books that I could not combine with the other categories is that of I, Steve: Steve Jobs in His Own Words. In my opinion, this book reflects our cultural tendency to seek answers from successful people, which stems from a deep desire to live in freedom and abundance.
While I was happy to find many books that were centered on the human element, I did not catch any titles in the bookstore that address principles of interconnectedness, systemic aspects of business, or self-organization. Again, I realize that what I saw was only a glimpse of the vast knowledge that is available, the wisdom that is within, and the keys that are in reach to unlock an infinite paradigm of possibilities.
The theme of self-organization resonates with me and, even though it was not reflected in any of the books I saw, it was beautifully presented in the movie Mindwalk. Self-organizations helps explain the “crisis of perception” that we are in and recognize as a well-known challenge in lives we tend to live mechanistically while exploiting nature’s life-supporting systems. We seem to be lost as we continue to live in isolation with many barriers that separate us from ourselves and the world at large. Self-organizing, as presented in Mindwalk, is about self-maintaining, self-renewing and self-transcending. In my opinion, our major issue is misalignment with universal principles and paddling against the flow in pursuit of temporary worldly relief while not addressing the core issues of our problems.
Finally, another revelation I had while browsing the bookshelves involved the categorization and subcategorization of titles. One interesting category to me is that of self-help books. No doubt in this very complex world we live in, we need a life manual to remind us of our inner truth and give us some tips to re-kindle our inner light.
Read other posts by Sharbel El-Haber
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