more like people

helping organisations to be more like people

‘Are you really calling your book ‘Anarchists in the Boardroom’?!?!?!’

The title of my book isn’t for everyone. But it’s important. If references to ‘anarchism’ make you uncomfortable, please let me explain  the book a little better…

Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky

The initial response to this crowd-funding campaign has been amazing! As I write this, $4,670 has been pledged by 82 different contributors! I’m amazed! We’re almost 2/3 of the way there already!

But something has already come up a few times that I feel the need to address.

It’s the title. Yes, it’s bold. I knew that it wouldn’t appeal to everyone, but I also felt it was important for what I hope this book will be able to be.

Let me explain.

A fair few of the ideas in ‘Anarchists in the Boardroom’ have been scattered around a range of forward-thinking management publications before. Some of them are great books! Others, pretty dull ones with some good ideas buried in the rough.

But the vast majority have one thing in common: they were made for managers.

Nothing wrong with that in itself, except that it leaves most people in an organisation out of the conversation about how things get done. Which is a problem when the many individual books are seen as part of a broader trend, alienating most of those affected by their ideas.

I associate this with two main factors:

  • A condescending attitude to those who don’t manage being unfit or uninterested in organising;
  • A sense that all power in an organisation rests with management.

I don’t believe either of these statements.

I wrote this book because I know there are countless people within social change organisations all over the world, who are interested in how we organise ourselves for good. I’ve been meeting them in my workshops and on the internet for several years now. Many of these people often do feel powerless to affect change, but don’t have to be.

I come from the train of thought that says complex systems – like any organisation – don’t change because of top-down directives. Executive decrees can be a part of the transition to something better, but often, even with the best of intentions, end up reinforcing the hierarchies they are trying to break-down.

I also believe, from experience, that people can do amazing things, when there isn’t someone there telling them what to do and how to do it.

These two ideas are deeply troubling to some in the traditional world of management – far more so than my choice of title! They challenge the field’s very reason for being!

But here’s my theory:

The radicals, who feel the most stifled and most unable to express themselves in their organisations will be the first to connect with this book. Some will be managers, many will not be. They are the ones who are mostly supporting the campaign right now.

When they get the book, I hope it will resonate and inspire them.

I also hope they’ll share it, as one friend put it after reading an early draft chapter, ‘like contraband in a prison.’

It will move around, hand-to-hand and Tweet-to-Tweet, from those who’ve been inspired by its messages, to those who they think will be inspired by them.

Through this kind of word-of-mouth endorsement, the title will become far less relevant. Someone you know, who knows you and your beliefs about organisations suggested this book to you. It doesn’t matter what it’s called – you felt their enthusiasm for it and want to explore, even if the title seems a bit out there for your tastes.

…and that’s as far as my theory goes. After that, who knows? Hopefully the conversations it sparks will help people find their own ways to help their own organisations to be more like people. Hopefully it will encourage them to share those experiences (as well as the challenges raised) with others who are doing the same (that’s what morelikepeople.com will be for).

But at first, this book really is for the radicals. They/we need it!

If the title puts you off – as it initially did my mom – focus on the ideas you’ve read about thus far that you do relate to. If you like them enough, help someone you know get past their own kneejerk responses to anarchism by explaining it to them in terms you think they will understand. My mom did this for several of her friends involved in social justice organising efforts, some of whom excitedly contributed, once they’d had her version of what the book is about. She ‘translated’ it for them.

The video below – a conversation with David Graeber, former Yale prof and philosophical lynchpin of the Occupy movement – might help you to do so.

Just because anarchism has developed a bad public reputation, doesn’t mean its ideas should be dismissed. I often describe ‘more like people’ as ‘anarchism for your organisation,’ in the sense that it places the highest faith in people to do amazing things, if they have passion and are not boxed in by constraining structures and beliefs telling them what to do. Not such terrible stuff, is it?

So if the title is bugging you, I ask you to ask yourself ‘why?’ If you’re concerned about what others will think, maybe you could play a role in breaking down their particular prejudices, in ways that only those we know and trust are able to?

Otherwise, I’m left trying to write a book for everyone, which almost inevitably means, ‘a book for no one.’ Maybe we could meet half-way and you could do some ‘translation’ for those who don’t speak quite the same language, but still want to understand the message?

You can still pledge to help the book get published!


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Posted in hierarchy and leadership + management and power and social change and Uncategorized.

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More Like People is an association of freelance consultants, facilitators and trainers, working primarily in the voluntary, community and campaigning sectors in the the UK and elsewhere.