29 December 2011

Book Review: Humanize

If you're one of my regular readers - or someone who knows me IRL - you probably know of my disdain for business books. Generally, they state the obvious or the *painfully* obvious at a fifth-grade reading level, with LARGE print on pages with LOTS of white space. I firmly believe that, with very few exceptions, reading them actually makes you dumber.

So I don't say this lightly: Humanize is genius.

Authors Maddie Grant and Jamie Notter use the lens of social media to examine our "modern" business, management, and leadership practices and find them au courant...with the Industrial Revolution. At that time, perhaps a mechanical view of the world made sense, or at least more sense than it does now. But social media has spurred a revolution in the way people relate to each other on the individual, micro, and macro levels. The genie's loose, and he's not going back.

And while we shouldn't - and in many cases don't - even want to go back, our organizations are not keeping pace. Our focus on best practices (imitation) over innovation, a strategic planning process that assumes that the future is knowable and unchanging, human resources management that relies on hierarchy, org charts and knowing (and keeping to) your place, and leadership that's viewed as some sort of "secret sauce" that individuals either have (so they get to be at the top of the org chart) or don't (so they're one of of the proles) keeps us stuck in those old systems and patterns that are killing us.

Maddie and Jamie go on to identify four key qualities that can help our organizations be more human (or, more accurately, stop trying to force organizations made up of people into an assembly line mentality): being open, trustworthy, generative, and courageous. In the meat of the book, they examine how these four qualities, expressed through the mediums of organizational culture, internal process/structure, and individual behavior, have the power to create organizations that, to quote p. 247, "inspire us and bring out the best in us."

If business people read, accept and implement the ideas contained in Humanize around these qualities and how they can be fostered at the personal, process, and organizational level (hardly a given of course), I believe this book has the power to RADICALLY transform our organizations and, just possibly, save the world of associations in the process.


1 comment:

Shelly Alcorn, CAE said...

Agreed on all counts. And I love the comment that some of these business books make us dumber. Hear hear.