Passion yes, clarity ?

  • Jun 22, 2009
  • by
First, read Robert Morris' thorough 5-star review to get an overview of this book's contents.

The author's frustration at not being able to persuade New Orleans' leaders of the risks of a hurricane inspired this book. I appreciate the passion. However, I came away confused, feeling that perhaps the passion was driving his writing faster than he could evaluate what actually reached the page; that perhaps there were more thoughts behind the words than were actually communicated by the ink on the paper.

p7: "Innovate differently, and win, or continue to innovate narrowly, and lose." Has Werbach not read The Innovator's Dilemma? "Innovating differently" is an enormous challenge to established companies and isn't going to be solved by exhortation.

p. 20: "Nature obsesses over protecting its young." No, only for some vertebrates. Not for oysters, or pine trees, or any of the bazillion R-strategist species, which have better survival profiles in unstable environments than the K-strategists that invest heavily in gestation and nuturing babies.

p. 20: "Integrate metrics. Nature brings the right information to the right place at the right time. When a tree needs water, the leaves curl." Huh? This is the place where I began to wonder whether there was some major additional thinking behind the words because the words didn't make sense to me. How on earth are curling leaves metrics information to the tree? Curling leaves are a survival "behavior," and perhaps metrics to someone with a watering can. But I don't water trees...

(There's actually a whole lot more on this particular page that leaves me scratching my head, pondering how the author's view of nature-as-business-model is different from mine. Population explosions in many species, followed by famine-driven die-offs, are pretty common in the nature I know.)

The story about Circuit City's failure on p. 26: "The company's human resource strategy failed." Did the strategy fail, or did they fail to follow the strategy? Maybe it's a nit, but this is a book about strategy.

Strategy #7: "Only the truly transparent will survive." OK. I'll allow that as a premise. However, the example provided is how the totally opaque functioning of AIG and its mortgage-backed securities drove the collapse of the company. I don't see that this example proves the point.

Enough already. I think this book makes an important contribution, and I wish I didn't have to work so hard to figure it out. Being sustainable is hard enough.

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Karen Tiede ()
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...a smart book about creating a workable sustainability plan for your organization. --Associations Now, June 2009

...useful and refreshingly nondoctrinaire book...tells vivid and interlocked stories that stick in the brain. --Stanford Social Innovation Review, Summer 2009
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ISBN-10: 142217770X
ISBN-13: 978-1422177709
Author: Adam Werbach
Genre: Business & Investing
Publisher: Harvard Business Press
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