Recommending Russell Bishop’s new book, Workarounds that Work

Russell Bishop and I have followed each others’ work for decades, but only recently did Ron Kaufman introduce us. I recommend to your attention his new book, Workarounds That Work: How to Conquer Anything That Stands in Your Way at Work. His website is here, and his bio at the Huffington Post is here.

I first encountered the word “work” in the way that Russell addresses and plays with it in his book when my father gave it as his excuse for not being available to play with me when I was a child. He said, “I’m sorry, son, but I have to work.”

That caught my attention. What was this mysterious thing that was taking my father away from me? “Work” has been interesting to me ever since, at first as an enemy of my relationship with my father, and later as a central issue in all of our lives.

In the middle of this era of vilifying theory and worshiping practice*, it is inevitable that this book must be positioned as a book about practice and emphatically not about theory, but really I think that positioning hides some of the most important things that the book is about.

Russell is a wise and experienced man who has started several companies that have made huge contributions to very large numbers of people. He is also an editor and regular blogger at the widely-read Huffington Post. He knows well the substance of the old and oft-quoted adage, ‘…to practice without theory is to sail an uncharted sea; to work with theory without practice is not to set sail at all.’

In his book, to make it a happy one for a modern reader, Russell puts the practice in the foreground and the theory in the background and the spaces between the words.

A better way of talking about this book, at least for me, might go something like the following.

In Workarounds that Work, Russell models – in his way of speaking, in the way he reveals himself, in the examples he brings, and in his recommendations – a way of being that revels in the challenge and joy of work, and does not flinch nor whine about the myriad roadblocks that inevitably confront anyone trying to do anything serious in life. He is a joyful warrior in the middle of the mess of modern working life. Russell shows clearly the power of humility, gratitude, an indomitable spirit, a commitment to find alternatives and not remain stuck in ruts, and the soft underbellies of the enemies we face in everyday working life.

I often say that the fifth of my story about five great generators of waste in our modern working world – the interpretation that we are doomed to a kind of indentured servitude called ‘work’ – is the nastiest and most destructive. ‘Thank God it’s Friday’ – the announcement that we toil away five days of every week just waiting for a brief respite of freedom and meaning each weekend – is our declaration that we consider 5/7ths of our lives wasted. A tragedy.

Russell’s book is an antidote to work as toil, and full of good things.

*(My aside: Vilifying bad theory is may sometimes be worthwhile, and can be satisfying, and the fields of management and leadership are particularly full of bad theory.)

 

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Something not to miss if/when you are near NYC

Edward Tufte is an extraordinary and very rare observer of our world.

I have learned a great deal from him, and recommend that if you are able to visit any of the following, or attend any of his lectures, GO.

The Work of Edward Tufte and Graphics Press.

Russell Bishop: Are You Part of the Solution or Part of the Problem?

A call to action that I recommend we heed (link is below):

Clearly, anger abounds across the nation over what has become of our political process, not to mention the ethics and integrity of how we conduct business. … While anger seethes across widely different groups, it would seem that most people spend more time pointing fingers and placing blame than they do figuring out what they can actually do about the situation.

Sure, voting someone out of office may seem like active engagement, and if thats where your passion lies, go for it. … Is changing who holds political power and hoping they do something better really an effective workaround? Is changing political office holders just another form of rearranging the deck chairs as the Titanic sinks? Could relying on someone else to do something just be another form of personal abdication?

[I have been blogging about this for some time now:] it’s time to stop complaining and criticizing everyone else, and get off your “buts” (but I can’t, but they won’t let me, but someone else is in charge) and start doing something right where you are, right now. You all know that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. This and many other bits of wisdom have become modern day clichés; however it could be that these clichés are really just common sense not so commonly applied.

For those on one side of the political spectrum, Barack Obama promised hope and the prospect of meaningful change. Whether you agreed with the promise or not, it’s pretty easy to see the dysfunctional fighting we call a political process. Many people have dropped the ball, hoping that real change would take place through the ballot box. Rather than taking the message of personal response-ability and becoming personally engaged in the change, many of us have relied on hoping someone in Washington would do it for us.

Now is the time for each of us to become more personally engaged and to do what we can to make a difference. You may not have the power or ability to change the whole system; however, you can contribute to making a difference, even if that difference appears to be small and only in your own backyard.

Russell Bishop: Are You Part of the Solution or Part of the Problem?.

Lawrence Lessig on history’s lessons about the current mess

Lawrence Lessig: Neo-Progressives:

Progressivism in its best sense is not a politics of the Left. Or better, not just a politics of the Left. The 20th Century politician who struck the fatal blow to Republican William Howard Taft’s presidency was not a socialist, or a Democrat. It was another Republican: Wisconsin Senator Robert La Follette. La Follette was among a band insurgents in the Republican Party of 1910 who believed the party had been taken over by corporate interests. In April, 1911, he launched a challenge to President Taft, pushing five principles of “The National Progressive Republican League.” The League had been founded upon the recognition that “popular government in America has been thwarted … by the special interests.” And all five of the principles responded to this “thwarting” with anti-corruption ideals: Four calling for stronger democratic checks on government. The fifth demanding an anti-corruption law with teeth.

La Follette failed to beat Taft, but his partial success encouraged Teddy Roosevelt to return from the wild and try his own hand at ousting a sitting president. Roosevelt too failed to win the Republican nomination, but he continued his campaign as a third party candidate, leading the “Bull Moose Party.”

How will our current version of this play out today?

Charlie Rose – A conversation with author Joshua Cooper Ramo

I have the highest regard for Joshua Cooper Ramo’s book The Age of the Unthinkable, which Bob Franza introduced to me. For various reasons, I just reviewed the book, and come away from it even more impressed than I was a year ago. Searching for more about what the man is doing now, I came across this conversation that he had with Charlie Rose early last year.

Late, but better late than never.

Watch it, and tell me what you think. Read the book.

Charlie Rose – A conversation with author Joshua Cooper Ramo.