Book News: August 26th, 2011

These selected essays by Donald N Michael take on the complex, messy, seemingly intractable issues – notably in the arenas of health, learning, governance and enterprise These are areas where paradox, ambiguity and complexity characterise the landscape. Here rapid change means yesterday’s solutions no longer work, where only genuine innovation has any chance of success.

The touchstone of Don Michael’s work is a commitment to individual, organisational and social learning. He writes in these essays with prophetic insight about the psychological temptations of denial in the face of such deep uncertainty, the consequential resistance to learning, and the resulting dangers of collapse, conflict and despair.

The subject of the last essay, and the title of the book, concerns the Sufi story of blind people reaching a different conclusion about the ‘elephant’. Don Michael proposes that, in the context of society today, the story-teller is blind and does not know what he is talking about, and that there is no elephant – because the human race, for the most part, is ‘too complex, too interconnected, and too dynamic to comprehend… that there is no agreed-on interpretation that provides an enduring basis for coherent action.

Published by Triarchy Press. ISBN: 978-0-9562631-8-6. £16