“The Book” – Introduction

Posted on: April 6th, 2012 by Ben 2 Comments

Emotus "The Book"

I resisted writing this book for several years because it seemed like the last thing the world needed was yet another self-help / business management / “you should” book. I have personally developed a case of bibliophobia that causes heart palpitation’s and cold sweats when people tell me about yet another book I should read. I didn’t want to contribute to more insecurity and OCD behavior.

Likewise, the idea that I had much to add to the current debate seemed egotistical. The elements people need to create happy, productive, thriving lives are already available “out there” in countless books, blogs, or workshops, not to mention in most of the great philosophical and spiritual traditions. Most of the ideas you will encounter here aren’t new. In fact, it’s likely that you have already read similar things in other books or blogs.

But I was consistently disappointed that:

  1. Good ideas are too often presented or interpreted as THE magic “silver bullet”
  2. There is a surprising lack of interest in integrating potentially contradictory advice
  3. There is a nearly complete lack of critical self-reflection on “best practices”

All of this combines to create an environment that is flooded in information but lacking true knowledge – and almost devoid of real wisdom. Deep economic and sociological shifts are disrupting old, taken-for-granted ways of navigating the world and the “new normal” still eludes us. This environment presents very real dangers. The creative and productive capacity of intelligent, committed, passionate people is largely being wasted in the frenetic chase after passing fads and “secrets to success” that are appealing but ultimately ineffective. In a world facing significant economic, environmental and social challenges, we can’t afford to keep wasting our most important nature resource.

This book attempts to correct that situation by applying critical thinking to a wide variety of “how to” advice currently circulating. The work reported here is the result of an on-going discussion of practitioners from a variety of perspectives coming to together to ask “what do we know to be true and how do we know it?”

We started with a few provocative propositions:

  1. All perspectives hold valuable yet partial pieces of the puzzle.
  2. Social systems are dynamic, therefore effective solutions must navigate dynamic tensions – oppositional forces requiring balance rather than simplistic solutions that ignore (at least) half of reality.
  3. Much of what we think we know is wrong AND much of what we actually know is hidden from view until brought to light though reflection

With that in mind, we began to put together an integrated, dynamic model that could help practitioners develop a deeper understanding of the process of transformational change. Our goal here is to begin the discussion and keep it moving forward, not to provide the final, definitive recipe for success.

Next section


We are looking for collaborators on this project. There are several ways you can get involved.

If you would like a chance to talk about the ideas we are developing, join the Facilitator Seminar – a free regular web-meeting to discuss concepts in the book.

We are developing the book on FastPencil – an online writing collaboration tool. If you would like to be added as a collaborator on the book, visit the project site AND please send an email to me (ben@emotusoperdi.com) – the technology can be buggy.

And, of course, you can leave comments here or on our Facebook Page.

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2 Responses

  1. Vic Napier says:

    I was caught by this goal statement and wanted to add a slightly different perspective.

    “Our goal here is to begin the discussion and keep it moving forward, not to provide the final, definitive recipe for success.”

    We are in the beginning stages of a transition from an industrialized economy to something else that are not yet clear. One thing that seems to be certain, however, is that businesses, services and products will be far more customized than they have been in the past. The mass market is turning into the mass customization market. However, this trend is not restricted just to retail sales, but also to intimate things like unique work life balance needs. I think this is one of the reasons that you mention a hesitancy to offer a universal “how to” book.

    What this means is that a central challenge for Emotus facilitators in general is to assess the unique needs of individuals and organizations and to develop unique and customized interventions. That is relatively easy the first few times out, but humans have this tendency to fall back onto previous solutions to meet current problems. For some people this is more of a problem than for others. A few people tend to embrace novel situations with enthusiasm, and an equal few tend to hold tightly to familiar or established procedures; most of us are somewhere in the middle. This is a problem for all of us, although to varying degrees.

    So my question, both for the seminar and for the book, is how to ensure that creativity, innovation and novelty are kept alive and we do not fall into the easy familiarity of the routine. What can people do to constantly see the world with new eyes, and resist the natural inclination to generalize, classify and categorize both our assessments and interventions? And how do you teach others to do this in a book, article, seminar or formal training?
    Vic Napier

    • Ben says:

      Thanks for the very thoughtful response, Vic. I agree that there is always a challenge to balance innovation and stability. I think part of the answer is to create a “stable” process that incorporates a feedback and correction loop. Part of the brilliance of the constitution of the US was intentionally designing a “perpetual revolution” into the governance structure of the country. They could never have foreseen many of the changes this structure accommodated, but they did foresee the need to make the system responsive.

      In the end, I think the issue isn’t stability or innovation but responsiveness to the environment. So, what are the mechanisms that keep the process actively responsive and provide an ongoing reality-test?

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