The Tyranny of the Current – Thoughts from Warren Bennis, Richard Donkin (Blood Sweat & Tears) and John Brooks (Business Adventures)

A few thoughts…

I’m reading Business Adventures by John Brooks for the next First Friday Book Synopsis. First published in 1969, now reissued, these are not current stories.Business Advantures

I’m reading about innovation then, not innovation now. New products then, not now. Xerox; the Edsel… I’m reading about criminal activities, and ethical blind spots, then, not now. (General Electric and price fixing).

So, not current stories. But not all that old – within my lifetime.

And, I have a volume that I am working through slowly. I wanted to learn about the history of work. How have people worked? How has work changed?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, I found this book: Blood, Sweat, and Tears: The Evolution of Work, by Richard Donkin, published in 2001. I have it in hardback, bought used (on-line, Amazon). It’s not available on the Kindle app.

There is a line from the foreword by Warren Bennis that just jumped out at me. (Bob Morris has recently written about Warren Bennis, after his death). Here’s the line:

One of the secret scandals of contemporary organizations is the ahistoricity of its managers.

Call it the tyranny of the current.

Years ago, I read Elton Trueblood’s The Essence of Spiritual Religion. It was his first book, reissued near the end of his multi-decade book-writing career. He wrote a new foreword. Sorry, this is paraphrased; my copy is buried in storage. But he wrote something like this:

It is a curse of this age that people only want to read the new. They think the new is the only thing that is important.  They think the old is not worth reading.

Call it the tyranny of the current.

I’m a fan of new things. I like innovation, and believe in the value of change.

But, it really would help us if we better understood what came before. A short time before. And, the long-sweep of the years and decades and centuries before.

The ahistoricity of our modern-day managers (and teachers; and students; and elected officials) really can get us in trouble, I think.


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