The Age of Unreason

Handy’s book is a groundbreaking philosophical and practical guide to the inevitable changing ways of organizing work and the workforce. Handy starts from the viewpoint that radical change is not only desirable but essential, if economics and society are not to be irreversibly damaged.

The book focuses on the necessity of becoming more creative and flexible in the way work is approached, from the top level executive to the part-time employee.

Why is it worth reading?
Although some of the terminology, such as ‘carphones’, already sounds outdated – The Age of Unreason was first published in 1989 – it contains many interesting insights into work culture in a rapidly changing world.

A sort of self-help book for business, it challenges the reader to use a new form of thinking – ‘upside-down thinking’, which stresses creativity and responsibility, rather than accepting the norm as the way it is.

If used as a self-help manual, it will encourage readers to focus on what they want from their working lives, rather than what employers want from their workers.

This is a book about throwing out old ‘givens’, whether in business or social life, and forming new looser, more imaginative ways of thinking. As a philosophical look at what ‘work’ means, it is enlightening.

Talking points
The concept that it is fine to make mistakes, in fact that it is absolutely essential, and that organisations must let their people make mistakes to allow them to grow, is one that makes complete sense but is not often realised either by people just starting out on their career, or running a company.

‘Entrepreneurs, the successful ones, have on average nine failures for every success. It is only the successes that you hear about, the failures they credit to experience. Getting it wrong is part of getting it right’

‘Learning becomes the voyage of exploration, of questing and experimenting, that scientists and tiny children know it to be but which we are soon reminded, by parents, teachers and supervisors, can be time-wasting when others already know what we need to learn.’

Charles Handy has worked as an executive in the oil industry and as a business economist, as well as being a professor at the London Business School and chairman of the Royal Society of Arts. He is a writer and journalist whose other books on management and business include Beyond Certainty, The Empty Raincoat and Gods of Management.

The Age of Unreason, by Charles Handy, is published by Arrow Business Books. ISBN 0 09 954991 3.

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