ON THE SHELVES: The Empty Raincoat

ON THE SHELVES: The Empty Raincoat

The Empty Raincoat: Making Sense of the FutureBy Charles Handy, June 1995, ISBN: 0099301253, 280 pages, $24.35.

"It seems to me that we're all becoming empty raincoats, shadows, silhouettes of ourselves. And we're doing it to ourselves, that's what's so extraordinary, because we're too lazy to take on the responsibility of finding out who we are." Charles Handy.Author Charles Handy is a hard man to pigeonhole. Writer, academic, social philosopher - he has spent a good part of his life describing the social ramifications of a changing world based on the economic imperatives of business. Accessible without patronising the reader, The Empty Raincoat (published in the US under the title The Age of Paradox), discusses the changing nature of business organisation in the wake of an increasingly globalised economy. Having set the stage for a highly flexible, mobile workforce, Handy reviews the role of organisation as an institution, and calls into question the propriety of traditional organisational structures.

Handy tackles the dilemmas facing modern organisations thematically, drawing experience from around the world, and from companies of all sizes. His skill as a business author lies in connecting apparently disparate ideas and events in order to demonstrate workable alternatives to inefficient business practices.

What sets this book apart from many of his previous publications is that it addresses skilled workers as well as management. Rather than dealing with organisational communication from a "top down" point of view, he contextualises organisational communication within the broader global economic climate, and approaches issues associated with professional development and managerial difficulties.

The anecdotal nature of his writing belies the deeper research on which his ideas are based. Handy provides insight into a series of alternative organisational structures without preaching to his readers as he balances praise with caution, example with counter-example, leaving the reader to decide on the aptness of the different approaches presented in the book.

A worthwhile read for anyone whose company or future depends on their ability to ride out the IT storm.

The Hungry Spirit: Beyond Capitalism: A Quest for Purpose in the Modern WorldBy Charles Handy, 1995, ISBN: 0091801680, 280 pages, $24.35.

The Hungry Spirit is all about what is left out of the capitalist socio-economic equation. As profit and promotion become dominating forces in society, Handy asks what will become of the humans who drive the machinery of progress. Are our societies benefiting in the long run, or are we becoming lost in an ever-accelerating spiral of work and achievement? A fascinating read which both challenges and inspires, Handy's book places organisational and economic development in the context of personal and spiritual fulfilment.

Gods of Management

By Charles Handy, 1995, ISBN: 0099548410, 270 pages, $18.60.

First published in 1978 Gods of Management, Handy's exploration of four different management styles, has dated significantly. Despite the subject matter, the opening chapters read a little like a self-help guide from a girls' magazine. The book even includes a "name your management God" quiz, which enables readers to identify their management style in terms of Zeus, Apollo, Athena or Dionysus. Nonetheless, the book is very accessible and contains some useful instructions for dealing with different managerial paradigms in the new corporate age.

The Age of Unreason

By Charles Handy, 1995, ISBN: 0099548313, 217 pages, $24.35.

A fascinating read for anyone involved or just interested in business, The Age of Unreason meticulously debates the appropriateness of organisational structures that were inherited by the contemporary society almost by default. Handy begins by contextualising the debate and uses concrete data regarding the nature and level of occupation in today's world. He then goes on to discuss practical organisational structures to alleviate some of the problems caused when the rate of change outpaces our ability to organise. A must-read, both from a business and a personal point of view.

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