Having just received the 2nd print run this week, I thought it would be a good chance to look back at the 1st 500 copies of Anarchists in the Boardroom and see what others have said about it so far…
Due to ordering more books, the new books being slightly lighter, and the upfront costs being covered, I’ve been able to drop the price on the 2nd print run considerably! £12 is now the registered retail price, but you can order books on the website for:
£11 including shipping within the UK (instead of £15)
£14 including shipping within the EU (instead of £18)
£16 including shipping to the Americas, Asia and Africa (instead of £20)
£17 including shipping to Australia and New Zealand (instead of £23)
In the meantime, I wanted to reflect with this brief Storify story, as to some of the things that others have been saying about the book. It’s nothing like a complete list, but it gives some sense of the community that has begun to emerge around the book and the things they are doing with it.
Once again, I want to say a massive thanks to everyone who’s brought the book to this point! It’s been exhausting at times, but it’s been an amazing journey so far! Thanks for helping shape it!
Self-publishing is both possible and in many ways, fun. But it’s also really exhausting. And I’m wondering if we can find a way to avoid going to a publisher for the next Anarchists in the Boardroom print run, without also burning me out… What do you think?
Me talking about the book at the Open Development Camp, Amsterdam
It’s been an amazing experience, and have made it down to the last 50 copies already!
It’s been a really successful experiment in what can be done without traditional institutions, though it has had some limitations.
If I’m honest, I’m not sure I can keep up with the work involved in self-publishing. It’s been seriously exhausting and has at some level made it harder to enjoy the many amazing conversations that the book has opened up.
There are so many aspects to the work a publisher and their partners traditionally do, even after the book is printed: store distribution, individual book distribution, speaking tour bookings, web selling software, arranging reviews and interviews and finding publications for guest blogs and editorials…
I’m a big fan of DIY – when I was 17 I started a hip-hop promotion company to give myself stages to play on, and had self-produced a vinyl 12” on my own a few years later. I co-founded an international youth exchange without an organisation when I was 20. I really, really enjoy the learning process of taking on a whole new project, and figuring out the skills I need to make it happen along the way.
But this book is proving a massive task. And the time I’m spending with a range of the tasks involved is keeping me from a) doing the stuff in the process I know I’m actually good at and enjoy, and b) doing the paid work needed to pay rent.
It’s also been a significant part of my 60-80 hour work weeks for the past two months.
But enough about me, let’s talk about you!
Having sold almost 500 copies in the first two months, without institutional backing, I reckon odds are pretty good that I could go to a traditional publisher with this and see if they’d like to take it on. This would free up a lot of my time and hopefully provide a bit of institutional backing for some of the logistics of the process.
But it would also mean less control over the process.
Alternatively, I could not print any more and leave it as a Pay What You Feel It’s Worth ebook, and see where it goes in exclusively digital format. This wouldn’t address doing any of the publicity, but would take care of some of the practical and administrative logistics. It’s the lowest effort option, and one that would leave the book’s future in the hands of the universe and see what people do with it…
The other option is more collaborative: what if we collectively became ‘the publisher’?
Basically, what if we figured out all the things that needed to happen to keep this book growing (logistics, publicity, distribution, etc) and shared some of the jobs around?
If there were a small crew of people who wanted to get involved in helping with these things, I would happily share book income around accordingly (though wouldn’t expect this to be a massive amount).
I’m open to ideas, but wanted to avoid a totally traditional division of labour, instead seeing who might be up for sharing a bit of the various tasks involved.
Anyway… I’m just tossing ideas around, but wanted to see what others thought about the 3 possibilities I’ve put forward – or suggesting a new one, if you can think of an option that I haven’t. Here, once again, are the options as I see them:
1. Approach a publisher – lose some freedom, gain some time; get some publicity and distribution support 2. Offer the ebook only going forward – save time on logistics, still have to do publicity work, and miss out on having something to sell at events 3. ‘Collectively self-publish the next batch’ – share the load, may involve extra coordination, maintains freedom about the process, addresses some of the questions of scalability of self-publishing.
Anyway, I haven’t totally thought the details of the 3rd option though, but I’m keen to discuss if you’d like to add ideas to the comments below.
Thanks so much for being a part of the journey!
PS – if you order one of the last 50 copies, I’ll inscribe something personal in it, either for you, or the lucky recipient you choose to give it to for a gift this holiday season 🙂
Today I sat down with David Wilcox, one of the UK voluntary sector social media and network thinking veterans… and he interviewed me about the book! You can see more of David’s work at http://socialreporter.com/, but here’s the interview we did today:
Six months after the crowd-funding campaign wrapped-up successfully, Anarchists in the Boardroom was published last week and the crowd-sourced book tour has begun! These are my first reflections on this stage of the process. (And you can get your copies here, by the way).
So far, I’ve been lucky enough to have done four events around the country, with over 100 people coming together to talk about how their organisations could be more like people. I’ll be in Oxford and Leicester later this month. Currently there are further events coming together in York, Leeds, Manchester, Brighton… and more in Amsterdam and Berlin.
I’m feeling so honoured by the reception. And these conversations – gatherings of 15-20 people, usually a cafe or bar, feel like the perfect way to getting these ideas percolating.
A couple of things have jumped out at me already.
1. This conversation is getting ready to boil over.
While there is a common perception that our organisation’s are typically so far from being ‘more like people,’ there is a lot of energy out there to discuss what a new and different kind of organisation could look and feel like. A recurrent theme has been that these conversations have happened in pubs for years, but rarely with a sense of positive direction emerging. Now it seems like there is a growing sense, not just of disillusionment, but also of possibility for what we can all do to start changing our organisations for the better. Our networks are strengthening every day; it will be fascinating to see how all our new connections can help us to explore new approaches together.
2. People are actually DOING STUFF with these ideas already!
Since the launch, I’ve already had two messages from friends/ colleagues, who had begun to put elements of more like people thinking into practice. One has kicked off an ‘innovation working group’ (you’ll want to read Chapters 5/6 to understand the full significance of that), and another has ‘de-constructed’ her organisation’s old management structure (I’m still waiting to hear the specifics of what that means). There are currently about 220 copies of the book that have been circulating for up to 11 days. Needless to say, I’m pretty pleased with two stories like this already! In the chaos that I’ve discovered self-publishing can be, morelikepeople.com has been slightly delayed, but expect to have it online in the next week so we can start to bring more of these stories together.
3. ‘Organisations’ don’t want to touch this stuff… but the people in them do!
I’ve been crowd-sourcing this book tour – basically asking people who are keen, to get together a venue and a group, a bed for me to sleep on and a train ticket, and I’ll happily come talk about this stuff. I wanted to set the bar as low as I could, without putting myself further out of pocket for it (writing a book did a pretty thorough job of that already!). But what I’ve found, is that even with an incredibly minimal cost, people who have invited me – even those that work in voluntary organisations that have a remit to put on such events – are choosing to organise these events on their own time and dime. Which is both a massive honour, and a sign of how far our organisations still have to go, if they aren’t even able to host a conversation on some of these themes. I’ve said it before, but this organisational inability to take off the blinders to a lot of the debates that the rest of the world is having, is not going to help them address their own growing irrelevance. (Dudley CVS has been the exception, thanks to the efforts of Lorna Prescott!)
4. The answers are all around us!
For all the frustration and disillusionment that’s been expressed by a number of the folks who’ve taken part in each of these events, there have also been countless positive examples. The community centre manager who encourages his staff to come up with any new idea and get on and do it; the HIV support group who actively hire people with criminal records and who have experienced life’s hardest elements, de-prioritising traditional qualifications; the big national charity where all staff are now getting a half-day a week to pursue their own ideas, whatever they may be…
So in brief, it’s been an amazing start! I’m more sure than I’ve ever been that these conversations are desperately needed, and that all of us who are thinking about these things have ideas and experiences to share more widely, so others can give them a go. morelikepeople.com is not far off, but I’m still keeping track of the stuff people are tagging ‘morelikepeople’ and will be bringing it all together when the new website goes online.
Massive thanks to everyone who’s taken part thus far! I suspect we’re closer to the kinds of change we want to see than it can often feel…
Here’s Lorna’s Storify of the first event we did together in Birmingham, to get a bit of a taste of the kind of conversations we’ve been able to have lately.
*I’ll probably need some money, as well as the invite to take you up on your invitation… but I can be flexible about it 🙂
Here’s the blurb from the eventbrite page:
more like people co-founder, Liam Barrington-Bush, went to Oaxaca, Mexico in May 2012 to begin weaving together stories from grassroots social movements, online uprisings and forward-thinking businesses, to paint a picture of what it might mean for an organisation to be ‘more like people’. The result is ‘Anarchists in the Boardroom’ and more like people would like to invite you to join us in London on Weds. Sept. 25th for the book’s official launch and a chance to meet dozens of others around London who are keen to explore new ways of organising our work for social change and environmental justice!
7:00 – Show-up, have a drink and a snack
7:15 – Words from a few supporters (TBC) about why they have backed the book
7:30 – Liam says a few things about the book, the process and what happens next
7:50 – Sharing ideas for new kinds of organisation amongst the group
8:10 – Collect/buy books, along with more drinks, more snacks and more chatting amongst each other
8:30 – Conversation moves to the New Rose pub on Essex Road (TBC)
Social change is changing – but are our social change organisations keeping up?
There are lessons emerging all around us, in the new social movements that have swept the globe, and in the organising patterns found on social media.
Could Twitter and Occupy help our NGOs, charities, trade unions and voluntary organisations to both stay relevant in the times ahead and live our values through the ways that we organise?
‘Anarchists in the Boardroom’ is a journey through worker-run factories, Occupy encampments, a spattering of non-violent direct actions and even a few forward-thinking companies, to make the case for helping our organisations ‘to be more like people.’ It asks us to brush away our ‘professional’ assumptions and interact as we do when we don’t have job descriptions or business plans telling us how to change the world. It reminds us of the power each of us has to make change happen, even within the most entrenched of bureaucracies!
The launch will also be a chance for those who supported the succesful crowd-funding campaign to pick-up their copies of the book and avoid paying for shipping.
Covers and titles are very important, but once you’ve convinced someone to pick your book off the shelf, you need to have something compelling on the back that will hopefully make them believe this is a book that will make their life better in some way. So instead of just writing what I’d like to read on the back of a book, I’d like to know from you what 150 or so words you think should be on the back of Anarchists in the Boardroom. I’ve put one option below and would appreciate any feedback as to the right words to help make you want this book. Thanks!
Change how we organise. Change the world.
Social change is changing – but are our social change organisations keeping up?
Our Industrial Era structures and the ‘professionalism’ so many began to adopt in the 1980s have not lived up to their promise, actually doing considerable harm to the passion and purpose that has traditionally driven our efforts to make the world a fairer and more just place for all.
Meanwhile, the organising approaches found on social media and in recent social movements are proving better suited for the emergent realities of the 21st Century, and more closely aligned with the values our NGOs, charities, trade unions and voluntary organisations have long espoused.
This book is a journey through worker-run factories, Occupy encampments, a spattering of non-violent direct actions and even a few forward-thinking companies, to make the case for helping our organisations ‘to be more like people,’ brushing away our ‘professional’ assumptions and organising as we do when we don’t have a job description or a business plan telling us how to change the world.
Feel free to add any variations to the comments section below.
What an amazing month! You crowd-funded the book! And then some! Plus, I’ve got a funny idea for ‘more like people’ distribution, that I’d like to hear your thoughts on…
Publishing, without the publishers
Anarchists in the Boadrdoom book cover by Steve Lafler
While you may well know my reluctance to place too much faith in numbers, here are a few from the ‘Anarchists in the Boardroom’ crowd-funding campaign that tell at least part of the story:
$8,340 pledged (surpassing the goal of $7,700)
161 donors (73 whom I’ve never met before)
1,154 shares of the campaign page (on Twitter, Facebook and other social platforms)
7 blogs by others about the campaign (see bottom)
8 blogs by me on others’ websites promoting the campaign (see bottom)
I am so thankful to all of you who have made this happen!
It’s the first major validation that a) these ideas are important and haven’t been sufficiently explored yet, and b) the book doesn’t need an institution/publisher to be a success.
Both of these validations are really exciting to me and seem to put us in a great place to start moving towards ‘more like people’ organisations together.
Special thanks are due to Lorna Prescott and Paul Barasi – two of the firmest believers in the importance of what this book represents.
Both of them went so far above-and-beyond what I could ever have asked of either of them, spreading the word on the campaign, that I can’t begin to offer the kind of thanks they deserve. They kept me going during the slow middle weeks of the campaign. (Lorna also did a nice Storify (see below) of her involvement, as part of capturing the story of her day, when the campaign tipped past the goal).
‘more like people’ distribution
So here’s the wacky idea I thought of last night, when I was pondering the logistics of sending out a few hundred copies of the print book, to people around the world.
Shipping to, say, Wellington, New Zealand, is not cheap. Particularly when you’re sending lots of smaller packages. But at least 9 people in Wellington have ordered copies of the book.
What if I sent one big package to one of those nine people (based on someone volunteering to receive the lot) and left them to arrange details with the others for local distribution? (Please don’t tell me you’d be worried that they would steal the extra copies…)
Maybe this could be as simple as ‘Here’s my address, drop by whenever you have a chance,’ but maybe the person I’m shipping to decides to hold court in a cafe or pub for a few hours one evening and encourages everyone else who ordered the book to come along, pick-up their copy/copies and have a chat?
They’ve already got something in common to talk about, maybe something interesting could emerge?
…It also reduces the individual costs each person has to pay for shipping.
Of course some people will prefer the simplicity of a book delivered to their front doors – which I can of course also do – but thought the potential benefits of bringing together a group of people who may-or-may-not already know each other, or each other’s shared interests in new ways of organising ourselves, shouldn’t be passed up!
Maybe they never see each other again, but maybe they learn something, they meet someone of interest, they find someone to talk to next time they’re struggling away with their own bureaucracy…
What do you think? It’ll still be a few months before we’ve edited the manuscript, done the layout and had the hard copies printed, but it would be great to get your thoughts on this idea, and see if you’d be keen to meet others in your city who are also exploring this stuff, and if you’d be willing to coordinate with others in your city, to get them their books, one way or another.
Thanks again! You’ve been amazing and I look forward to all of you being a part of the emergent process that will follow!
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…
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?
So in 4 days you did something I wouldn’t have imagined possible: you brought us more than ½ way to the total budget needed to get ‘Anarchists in the Boardroom’ published!
By arranging these 3 words like this on the spine of the book, we can pretend we're a real publisher!
As I write this, there is $4,285 pledged (by 70 different people), of a total goal of $7,700. And we’ve got 27 days to go in the campaign still!
This is amazing and is testament to the messages this book is trying to emphasise; we don’t need institutions to make great things happen. A little bit of technology, and the self-aligning efforts and support of lots of those who care, is all we need to turn important ideas into realities!
But I have to be honest as well – about 75% of the pledges have come from those of you who are already pretty close to me and whom I’ve been engaging with around these ideas over the last few years.
This is a great endorsement of all of your ability to put your money where your mouth is (literally), but also means that the success thus far is the result of the existing ‘more like people’ networks… which may struggle to get us all the way to the total budget on their own.
Which means we need to spread the word!
Special thanks to Lorna Prescott, Lloyd Davis and David Robbins for their massively kind blogs about the book, and to Deborah Frieze, David Pinto, Arié Moyal, Maddie Grant, Casper Ter Kuile, Derek Oakley, Damon Van Der Linde, Billy Moose, Peter Wanless, Aerin Dunford, John Sargent, Adam Sargant, Ian Hicks, Maurice McLeod, Thomas Wragg, Ben Powrie, Nishma Doshi, Paul Barasi, Juliette Daigre, Steve Lawson, Daryl Green, Doug Shaw, Naomi Klein, Philippa de Boissiere, Pamela MacLean and Tim Gee (and several others I’m sorry to have forgotten in the rush to post this), for so actively spreading the word on Facebook and Twitter.
Each time you do this, you reach a heap of folks who don’t yet know about this book, some of whom (you’ll know better than I) might want to help get it published.
So here’s my next big ask (and I feel a lot more comfortable with ‘asking,’ having just watched this *amazing* TEDtalk by Amanda Palmer, embedded below):
Please ask people you know (on the internet or at the office or the pub), who are exploring any of the questions about the future of organisations and social change, if they might be able to support the campaign to get this book published.
I don’t want to belittle the support all of you have already given. It has been a truly harrowing few days, personally and for what it represents in terms of a real hunger for change in our organisations! But I also want to make sure this book is the best it can be, which will mean making sure some of the people out there who still don’t know about the little campaign we’re all in the middle of right now, can help us to bring about a range of radical new (and not so new) changes in the worlds of organisation and social change.
So bring it up at the office! Tweet a link to someone you’ve seen Tweeting about similar ideas! Talk about it at the pub, after work! Write a blog about why you think this book is important! Send an email to a few select people you know, telling why you’ve chosen to support the campaign!
Also – if you happen to know any editors or bloggers at well-read, popular blogs that touch on these themes, an introduction would also go a long way, as I’ll happily do a post for a website that wants to help spread the word (and do have a couple of good big ones coming up)!
Whatever you do from here, I’m incredibly grateful and also massively excited! We’ve come a long way, very quickly, and I’m sure we’ll get where we need to go, if we can all find our own best ways of making it happen!
…The title is why I’ve written Anarchists in the Boardroom and have started the crowd-funding campaign to have it published today. In the last 12 or so years of varying combinations of activism and organisational development work, I really believe this to be true. The old ways are holding us back, limiting our collective potential to create change in the world and driving wedges between people who should be working together for something better. If we change how we do what we do, our time, effort and energy may go infinitely further than the old hierarchies could ever have imagined…
The ends do not justify the means. In the name of this slogan, many injustices have been spawned, from large scale atrocities, to out-of-touch campaigns and services, no longer serving those they began operating in the names of.
Dehumanising management systems and practices – even when they are well-intentioned – exemplify ‘ends-justify-the-means’ thinking every day, sucking the life out of the people who should be most committed to their organisations’ work.
The essence of management, as we know it, lies in the belief that ‘if we don’t tell others what to do, they’ll probably get it wrong.’ But it’s this belief that is wrong, yet most of our organisational structures are built upon it.
If we truly believe in equality, we need to organise ourselves with a clear sense of equality, ensuring that all of those involved have an equal voice in shaping what we do.
If we truly believe in human potential, we need to give it the space to reveal itself, not boxing it into a pre-set job title, or measurable outcome, but allowing it to find its own path to greatness.
If we truly believe in accountability, we need to be transparent in all that we do, making sure our work leaves nothing to be ashamed of, rather than simply trying to hide away the parts of it that might embarrass us.
There is no reason why we should have to undermine the things we believe in, in order to make the world a better place. Quite the opposite! In fact, doing so is usually a good indication that we won’t get where we think we’re going.
The adoption of industrial organising models has not brought the promise to social change organisations that it did for the manufacturing process. The kinds of social transformation most of us want to see are not made on assembly lines, but emerge through the countless autonomous actions of those who care, living their values in every stage of the change process, bringing about something new through their many individual choices to do things differently.
But I believe there is a path from the institutions of yesterday, to the unknown organising patterns of tomorrow. I’ve chosen to look to social media and new social movements for hope, but I’m sure others will find it in other unexpected sources of inspiration.
I’ve written this book as my first significant contribution to what will be a varied, messy, and unpredictable process of collective change, from professionalism to humanity; hierarchy to network; control to trust.
There’s no reason the same principles that can change our organisations can’t also change our world. Think of your organisation as one-of-many test grounds for something much bigger.
When we let go of our obsessive attempts to control complex groups of people (whether organisations, or societies), we open up new possibilities and human potentials in every realm.
But like the transition I describe, this book will not be published just because I want it to be. Others will have to want it to, if it is going to get beyond my laptop.
…Which is why today is the start of the crowd-funding campaign on StartSomeGood.com to publish ‘Anarchists in the Boardroom.’ You can visit the campaign page here to pledge, or read a snippet from the book if you’re still looking to be convinced.
Pledge for a book, pledge for a bit of my time, pledge for a few copies for the office and use them to spark discussions amongst colleagues as to how you can all start living your values in the ways you work to bring about a bit of good in the world each day…
And if you’re not in a position to pledge right now, feel free to share it with anyone else you think would be interested in reading the book.
I am deeply appreciative for whatever you can do to help make this happen and wherever we take the conversations from here!