Donnerstag, 26. Februar 2009

DiaHow: A List Of HOW-Books

The world is reorganizing itself because it's the sustainable thing to do so. That requires changes in HOW we realize things - with our minds, hearts, and hands. In other words, it requires changes in regard to HOW people view themselves, HOW they are relating to one another, HOW they relate to the world, and HOW people collaborate to change the world and get things done.

Just HOW is the most important question, and I'll capitalize any HOW in this blog from now on. HOW is the fundamental question of the procedural approach. But it's not only a group of German practitioners that is concerned with that question, it's a central question to a great many books and essays that I want to reference here as HOW-Books:

  • General Carl von Clauswitz, On War - not a likely first choice for a blog devoted to organized dialogue, isn't it? Well, Clausewitz gets "process", though he only uses the word itself seven times throughout the whole book, and his book is the most thorough piece of applied process thinking I know of. What do we know in the face of the dynamics of war? - Not any formal theory, therefore Clausewitz puts forth a hermeneutic process of thinking about the nature of war, and successful action therein. HOW, then, do we act in the face of the dynamic, non-linear, and unpredictable nature of the world? - Well, we act strategically.
  • Dietrich Doerner: The Logic of Failure: Recognizing and Avoiding Error in Complex Situations. Written by a German professor, and nevertheless highly readable, it's actually about dynamic situations that Doerner writes most about. It's a pop science bestseller in Germany, and rightly so. Doerner is a psychologist interested in how people structure their action in complex and dynamic settings, the mental models they apply, and what's wrong with them. He conducts experiments that make you chuckle at first until you realize HOW many times you've made the mistakes he uncovers. His advice: learn to act strategically. My advice: go read this book!
  • Malcom Gladwell, The Tipping Point. Also a pop science bestseller. Where Germans (Doerner) focus on the the "Logic of Failure", Americans (Gladwell) uncover the secrets of contagious processes and "HOW Little Things Can Make A Big Difference" so that yes, you can make a big difference yourself. Not a perfect book in terms of consistent theory, nevertheless highly illuminating. Like any good book, it trains your mental images to see the world, and their processes, a little differently.
  • Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, the essential book to understand HOW to organize collective and collaborative action. Alinsky is the father of Community Organizing, and it was illuminating for me to see the approaches of the Obama campaign through this book. By all means, read it to understand the power of engaging people for change!
  • Gene Sharp, From dictatorship to democracy: A conceptual framework for liberation - a great book with a smart list of non-violent methods of action, credited with an important role in bringing down Milosevic and a whole host of sucking dictators in the Ukraine, and other post-Soviet states - kudos to Gene Sharp for the service to mankind! And we need a lot more of such collective action method books. Of course, Gene Sharp gets not only methods, but strategy as well. I love the theme of liberation, and the emancipatory power of this little pamphlet (ridicously overpriced on the US market, it seems - 62 Dollars, as opposed to not even 10 Euros in Germany).
  • David Bornstein: How to Change The World. Social Entrepreneurs And The Power Of New Ideas. Great book on great creative entrepreneurs who reorganize social processes and practices to solve social problems on a large scale. It's no coincidence that Bill Drayton, the founding father of Ashoka, the mother movement organization of all social entrepreneurs, has a particular knack for HOW-questions, as Bornstein explains. If you need inspiration that yes, we can change the world, read this book!
  • David Allen, Getting Things Done. I kid you not. Yes, it's a productivity book, and why is it so popular? Because it tells us HOW to get a grip on the operational dimension of everyday life. It's a great, great process book. David Allen knows what it means to be on the go - and be relaxed at the same time. If you engage people for change, it means organizing, organzing, organizing. You better be good and relaxed at it, getting things done so you can focus on the art of our profession: empathy, communication, direction, procedure. GTD is about "perspective" and "focus", absolute essentials to navigating a complex and dynamic world.
  • The writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson are infused with process thinking; though it's not only about the creative process which I'm concerned with, but also about the metaphysical aspects of process (which I believe in as a private man from another vantage point than Emerson), the relaxation of someone who trusts that all things are in flux is appearent and inspiring.
I'll add plenty more books to this list in the future. Any recommendations by you?

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