Review: The Necessary Revolution–How individuals and organizations are working together to create a sustainable world.

4 Star, Change & Innovation, Environment (Solutions), Nature, Diet, Memetics, Design

Necessarry RevolutionValue Priced, Superb Overview, Isolated from Other Literatures,August 28, 2008

Peter M. Senge et al

At the end of this review following the links to other recommended books, I specify why this book receives four stars instead of five. Shortly I will load several images that will augment my written review, a couple of them recreated from this book, a couple my own original work.

I found this book absorbing, and while I recognized many many areas where the authors could have identified and respected the work of others more explicitly, I also found this to be the single best book for a manager of any business, any non-profit, any educational institution, any citizen advocacy group, with respect to the changing paradigm of business from industrial era obsess on profit and waste wantonly, to the information era of integrated full life cycle with total transparency of all costs (social, environmental, and financial) and ZERO footprint on Earth and society. There is ample original work from the authors, and this book is priced just right as a vehicle for energizing groups of any kind.

Following from my extensive notes:

+ A handful of top global businesses “get it” and have been pioneering footprint free zero waste business model: BP, GE, Coca-Cola, Dupont, even Nike.

+ Non-governmental organizations (NGO) know more about local needs and the emerging marketplace (four billion of the five billion poor, I am very disconcerted to see the business world “writing off” the one billion extreme poor) than any market “intelligence” firm.

+ With credit to Jared Diamond, I read for the first time about the unreal financial reality “bubble,” and the “real real” world bubble that is catching up with it. See John Bogle's book below for a deeper explanation of how the financial mandarins have stolen one fifth of the value and misdirected the Main Street economy while doing so.

+ Although I have read Stewart Hart's work, this book helped me appreciate in detail his Sustainability Value Matrix.

+ Other “big ideas” by others that are integrated into this book include that of civil society stakeholders; ethical consumerism, stabilization wedges (Palala and Socolow),ladder of inference (an anthropological practice), peacekeeping circles, requisite organization, and law of limited competition (Daniel Quinn)


1. Industrial Waste (USA wastes 100 billion tons a year, 90% of inputs)

2. Consumer/Commercial Waste & Toxicity (of 8B/year, 5B not absorbable)

3. Non-Renewable Resources in Sharp Decline

4. Renewable Resources down 30-70% and in some cases close to extinction tipping point (fresh water, topsoil, fisheries, forests)


1. No viable path neglects future generations

2. Institutions matter

3. Real change must be grounded in new ways of thinking (see Durant below, capstone lessons from their ten volume history of civilization was that the only real revolution is in the mind of man, and that morality has a strategic value of incalculable proportions).


1. Energy & Transportation

2. Food & Water

3. Material Waste & Toxicity


1. Seeing Systems Within Systems (Full Cycle Closed Earth)

2. Collaborating Across Boundaries (No one has it all)

3. Creating & adjusting instead of problem solving in isolation


1. Natural system encloses social and economic systems

2. Industrial system must operate in that context

3. Regenerable resources have harvest limits

4. Non-renewable resources are finite.

5. Waste is a cancer on the Earth

6. Socio-cultural community is the vessel for change


1. Convening diversity of viewpoints

2. Listening to all, avoiding advocacy

3. Nurturing relationships over time and above money


1. Save dollars internally

2. Make dollars externally

3. Provide customers with competitive value

4. Sustainability as point of differentiation

5. Shape the future of your industry, win market share

6. Become a preferred supplier for giants like Home Depot

7. Change image and brand for better (70%+ of market value)

The book is full of examples of successful change implementation, and includes a number of “toolbox” pages that could be made into a protable booklet or distributed broadly across corporate networks.

I was struck throughout the book with the value of this work in identifying specific personalities and specific companies who could be drawn into the broader holistic work of emerging meta-strategic networks such as Reuniting America, the Transpartisan Institute, and Earth Intelligence Network. Two women in particular jumped out as future global leaders on the order of Lee Kuan Yew and Nelson Mandela:

1. Vivienne Cox of BP

2. Lorraine Bolsinger of GE

I put the book down deeply impressed with its concluding sections, and thinking to myself: China, CHINA, CHINA! That is the center of gravity for getting right on a massive scale in the near term.

Other important books NOT mentioned by this book:
The Story of Civilization by Will Durant with The Lessons of History (Complete in 10 Vols. plus The Lessons of History which was written by Durant to accompany the 10-volume set)
Organizational Intelligence (Knowledge and Policy in Government and Industry)
The Knowledge Executive
The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism
High Noon 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them
The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits (Wharton School Publishing Paperbacks)
The New Age of Innovation: Driving Cocreated Value Through Global Networks
One from Many: VISA and the Rise of Chaordic Organization
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom
Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace

I resolved to rate this book as a four for the following reasons, in relative order of annoyance:
1) Crummy index for what could have been a brilliant REFERENCE book, not just an orientation book for leaders that do not read a lot. This index is SO BAD it fails to list all the individuals mentioned, and completely blows off numerous key phrases (e.g. sustainability wedges) that would be in any properly created professional index.
2) No literature search and total isolation from the major literatures of Collective Intelligence, Wealth of Networks, Organizational Intelligence, Integral Consciousness, Closed Systems Engineering, Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, and so on.
3) Understandable use of the iconic name of the lead author, but in all probability actually written by the other four authors.
4) Really marginal reference section and no bibliography (even more valuable would have been an annotated bibliography).
5) Absolutely clueless on the means of visualizing and using world-class visualization to create compelling multi-dimensional mental images (this is not to say I am any better, just that they missed a chance to be “the” reference work for the next seven years).

Bottom line on the deficiency: I read very broadly, and am increasingly distressed at the continuing isolation of authors from one another's work. It's time every work of this importance do a proper job of connecting to other works.

Review: Presence–An Exploration of Profound Change in People, Organizations, and Society (Hardcover)

3 Star, Future

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3.0 out of 5 stars Smart, Self-Absorbed Taped Conversation Unlinked to Work of Others,

September 18, 2005
Peter M. Senge
This is a fairly annoying book if you are at all well-read, and especially so if you read Charles Hampden-Turner's Radical Man: The Process of Psycho-Social Development. in the 1970's and are familiar with a sampling of Eastern “connectedness” thought as well as the range of human and global problems and solutions literature running from the Club of Rome to the econological economics of Herman Daly to the integrative science and humanities of E.O. Wilson and Margaret Wheatley to the World Bank and United Nations global studies.

The book is especially annoying because it is so self-absorbed and undisciplined in its presentation. Essentially, four smart people, each a world-class performer in their narrow domain (and familiar with the standard range of knowledge management and futures forecasting literature), but not at all well-read across either the spiritual or the ecological and game of nations literature, cooked up a plan for tape-recording their conversations and turning it into a book

The book is double-spaced throughout, and its obliviousness to the larger body of literature created in me, as I moved from chapter to chapter looking for gems, a growing sense of impatience and annoyance.

The “U” is a cute idea if you have not heard of self-awareness, collective intelligence, synergy (an over-used word, but one that existed with meaning long before this book or the “U”), or informal “think globally, act locally” that the Co-Evolution Quarterly and Whole Earth Review were pioneering long before these authors decided it would be cool to fund their reflections among themselves.

Don't waste your time or money. Instead, buy Charles Hampden Turner's Radical Man: The Process of Psycho-Social Development. Robert Buckman's Building a Knowledge-Driven Organization and any of Margaret Wheatley's books. This book is a very weak and rather poorly executed second-hand rendition of the thoughts of others, both those the authors' have been exposed to, and the many others the authors have not bothered to read into.

There is one serious thought in this book that bears quotation. It is on page 216. “At the heart of the challenge facing HP–and lots of other businesses–is the way information moves around the world. In order to grow in line with our business, new ways of experiencing information will be needed. When Humberto says that ‘love is the only emotion that expands intelligence,' it reminds us that legitimacy and trust are crucial for the free flow of information and for how information gets transformed into value.” Perhaps I expect too much, but the fact that the authors fail to cite the Nobel Prize awarded for the proof that trust lowers the cost of doing business, and they have no awareness of key works on legitimacy as the foundation for global stability, such as the edited work by Max Manwaring on The Search for Security: A U.S. Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century simply confirmed my sense that this book is “disconnected” from a larger body of thought.

Reading this book was like being forced to sit next to four active cell-phone users for three hours in a cramped space. Not fun at all.

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Review: The Fifth Discipline

4 Star, Best Practices in Management

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4.0 out of 5 stars Great Theory, Misses Mark on Identifying Obstacles,

April 8, 2000
Peter M. Senge
Without a shared vision there can be no shifting of minds, no team leaning, no local initiatives consistent with the shared vision, and so on. This is all really great theory.Taking the U.S. Intelligence Community–which failed spectacularly on 9-11 after resisting change for just over a decade–as an example relevant to both business and the public, one can readily see that great theory simply does not translate into relevant action.

Most helpful would be a new edition of this book, but one that places fully half the book's emphasis on identifying the obstacles to reform and learning, with each obstacle then addressed from both a top-down and a bottom-up perspective.

9-11 demonstrated that the theory of this book is badly needed within the ultimate “learning” community, the U.S. Intelligence Community. Even after 9-11, the leadership of that community refuses to admit it failed, and refuses to propose or acknowledge the substantial changes recommended by over 15 books–a huge critical mass–recommended by the Council on Intelligence. CEOs of multi-billion dollar corporations might choose to reflect on how best to combine the lessons from this book, which are valuable, with the lessons from how a $30 billion a year tax-payer funded community can refuse to change.

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