Practically Radical: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: July 8th, 2011 by bobmorris

Practically Radical: Not So-Crazy Ways to Transform Your Company, Shake Up Your Industry, and Challenge Yourself
William C. Taylor
William Morrow/An Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers (2011)

As Taylor explains in this book, organizations cannot be transformed unless and until those who lead them first transform themselves and thereby serve as exemplars to others. He also points out that organizational transformation requires having effective change agents at all levels and in all areas, not only in the C-suite, what Cynthia Barton Rabe characterizes in The Innovation Killer: How What We Know Limits What We Can Imagine — and What Smart Companies Are Doing About It as “zero-gravity thinkers” – innovators “who are not weighed down by the expertise of a team, its politics, or ‘the way things have always been done.’”

Taylor agrees with Rabe that zero-gravity thinkers have “psychological distance” from the setting in which they work, “renaissance tendencies” that draw on a range of interests and influences, and “related expertise” that allows them to find the points where blue-sky ideas intersect with real-world opportunities. They are visionary pragmatists: they see possibilities and realize how difficult it will be to make them realities.

As promised, Taylor shares with his reader what he has learned about “the hard work of deep-seated change”; he also provides a wealth of information about the behind-the-scenes efforts of change agents in real-world circumstances who helped to transform their organizations and, more often than not, the industries in which their organizations compete. The major themes and core messages he gained from his association with various visionary pragmatists is distilled in the “Practically Radical Primer,” a set of ten questions that can serve as a self-audit for aspiring change agents.

Although Taylor has identified and defined the challenges of change and has also made every effort to prepare his reader to confront them in “not-so-crazy” but nonetheless radical ways, those who read this book must overcome what James O’Toole so aptly characterizes in his book, Leading Change, as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.” That is, they must become and thereby personify the values they wish to institutionalize throughout the given enterprise.

 

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