Ok, ok. So this looks like an ad.
Here’s the background. After I blogged yesterday on Human Choice and Climate Change, edited by Steve Rayner and Elizabeth Malone, Judith Curry made a kind mention on Climate, Etc. Her post gave the topic legs. Some of her extensive following dropped by, gave Rayner and Malone’s suggestions for policymakers a look. [Fact is, when the books first appeared, the world was focused on the physical science of climate change; and this social-sciences work was widely ignored. After all that’s happened the past 14-15 years, we’re all now more appreciative of our need for this kind of perspective. That’s my take on the little bit of a buzz yesterday.]
This morning, I found a comment from the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society. They noted that discounted rates are available for this four-volume set at http://www.oxforduniversitystores.co.uk/browse/product.asp?compid=4&modid=1&catid=1260
At first I simply posted this in the comments section…but on reflection the offer seemed to deserve greater visibility. Hence this post.
Four volumes? 100£? (can’t tell whether this is the discounted rate or not…and that’s before you get to shipping, I think.)
Who’s got the time? Who’s got the money?
In our 21st century world, time is at a premium…nobody reads a four-volume set of anything anymore. And when so much written material is available on-line for free or little charge, this seems anachronistic.
So let me tell you a little story. It goes back maybe 30-35 years, to one of the first management short-courses I ever took. The instructor, a professor at the University of Colorado by the name of Larry Steinmetz. Steinmetz was a mountain of a man, maybe 6’5” and weighing 250-275, mostly muscle. He was a former All-American tackle at the University of Missouri.
And a B-school professor. Getting $2500/day for his short courses. That was real money back then.
He asked the group, “So who’s read Peter Drucker?”
[Drucker was already a well-known management guru then. He’d just published a mammoth book: Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices (Harper &Row 1973), a stupefying 840 pages.]
I was a little cockier back then, so I piped up, “I prefer Robert Townsend’s Up the Organization.”
[Townsend was the President of Avis Rental Car and had written a best-selling, pithy, humorous little book, full of anecdotes and one-liners about management. It’s still cited by people as one of the 80 “must-read” books on management. It weighed in at a mere 188 pages (of big print).]
Steinmetz’ response was quick and dismissive:
“Yeah, and some people prefer comic books to the Bible.”
So…I went home and over the next few weeks read Drucker’s book. Carefully. In its entirety.
Career-changing. Maybe even life-changing. Since then, I’ve had numerous forays into major reading projects like that. They’ve all consumed a great amount of time. They bring with them a huge opportunity cost. And on balance, they’ve never failed to be worthwhile.
You can’t do them all. Seven billion people are writing books faster than you and I can read them. So you have to choose carefully. And you might be tempted to think…social change is rapid…the material in these volumes must be quite perishable. Easy to think of reasons to turn away.
You might not choose Human Choice and Climate Change as your project. But at least make a conscious decision. I can give you the Bill Hooke guarantee. If you do decide to take it on, even at four volumes and 100£, it won’t be the worst decision you ever made.