BOOKCASE Wrapping Up Change

Business as Unusual
By: Anita Roddick
Publisher: Anita Roddick Books
Price: $19.99

As someone who believes in recycling, it’s entirely appropriate that Anita Roddick’s ‘entrepreneurial journey’ has been ‘re-packaged’ once again. It’s good story, one well worth the telling and the reading but – and perhaps there should be consumer warning sticker on the front – you may have read it, or most of it, before. The Amazon Books site shows number of editions published by different people and the latest edition carries the author’s own imprint, apparently one of her activities since stepping back from passionate 24-hours day commitment to The Body Shop and the empire she created.
Business As Unusual is the story of The Body Shop, and what has been called “a successful combination of hippie chick values and women-celebrating cosmetics”.
The highs are celebrated and the lows anguished over. In the early 1990s Roddick and The Body Shop operation were under sustained attack, first from Channel 4 TV documentary – focusing on animal testing and trading with indigenous people – then from an American journalist on self-appointed mission to portray The Body Shop as the “most evil company in the world”. The TV channel was successfully sued and publications eventually tired of the obsessive journalist, but little dirt always sticks.
Roddick quotes ethics author Alan Redert: “The downside of being considered socially responsible in any area is that the public and the media tend to place you on pedestal; from where you have nowhere to go but down.” It is certainly sobering that principal premise behind the attacks was the belief that ‘business ethics’ is an oxymoron and, therefore, anyone making money and claiming to be ethical must, by definition, be hypocritical and dishonest.
Roddick also ponders the “modern paradox of business”. She writes: “Sustainable profit doesn’t come from an obsession with profit. Neither does change come from an explicit effort to make change, and it absolutely never comes about at the urging of outside consultants or as result of bloodless strategic planning.”



Presence: Exploring Profound Change in People, Organizations and Society
By: Peter Senge, C Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski & Betty Sue Flowers
Publisher: Nicholas Brealey Publishing
Price: $49.99

Peter Senge, leading management writer, has produced, this time in conjunction with three colleagues, book that challenges both conventional thinking and the reader’s preconceptions.
Presence is about change, personal and organisational; it offers new theory about change and learning. In particular, it is study of how profound collective change occurs.
The authors write: “The changes in which we will be called upon to participate in the future will be both deeply personal and inherently systemic. Yet, the deeper dimensions of transformational change represent largely unexplored territory both in current management research and in our understanding of leadership in general.”
Presence first looks at understanding the nature of wholes, and how parts and wholes are interrelated. Wholes might be made up of many parts with motor car but, the authors argue, living systems create themselves. They are not mere assemblages of their parts but are continually growing and changing along with their elements. It is important to understand, Senge and his co-writers say, the relation between parts and wholes in the evolution of global institutions and the larger systems they collectively create.
Globe-spanning institutions are new phenomenon, unknown until recently. network of global institutions shapes political agendas as national governments respond to priorities of global business, international trade and economic development. Yet industrial age institutions continue to expand blindly, not understanding how the world has changed. The authors again: “As long as our thinking is governed by habit – industrial ‘machine age’ concepts such as control, predictability, standardisation and ‘faster is better’ will continue to re-create institutions as they have been.”
The book has an interesting, surprisingly readable structure that puts flesh and bones on the theorising. The four authors often appear as ‘characters’ talking with one another, telling stories, and exploring their different points of view, woven together with ideas and perspectives from 150 interviews Scharmer and Jaworski conducted with leading scientists, business and social entrepreneurs.
“We first thought of presence as being fully conscious and aware in the present moment,” write the authors. “Then we began to appreciate presence as deep listening, of being open beyond one’s preconceptions, and historical ways of making sense.”
There are no glib quick-fixes in Presence, but the stimulating, thought-provoking unfolding of connected series of ideas could be much more meaningful in the long run.

•Also see our interview with Peter Senge on page 46 of this issue.

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