The Quantum Leader by Danah Zohar (book review).

September 13, 2016 | By | Reply More

As much as I like author Danah Zohar’s book, ‘The Quantum Leader’, with its more informing sub-title, ‘A Revolution In Business Thinking And Practice’, I can see some flaws. That’s not to say she isn’t right but being brought up on civil service practices and people resenting new ideas because it jeopardises their own jobs, it can be an upending battle.

thequantumleader

Saying that, new companies undoubtedly will do better from reading this book because they don’t always have the same business model or been in ones that they didn’t like very much. Change will happen but it isn’t likely to be instant or affect all types of businesses. It’s still questionable as to whether such firms won’t atrophy when better business models come along. The current problems with international companies wrangling around tax loopholes does tend to indicate that money comes first, not the welfare of the employees.

Please don’t think I’m against Zohar’s book. I found it a very interesting read, especially as she combines scientific model with business practice. The bigger question is whether or not the right people in companies read her book, some do and use them and consult with her, or not. If you are planning a nascent company growth, then you should certainly read it for improving employee conditions. After all, a happy employee is a productive employee.

Zohar points out that just rearranging the furniture isn’t enough to improve standards. People loyalty counts for a lot and being nice reduces resentment and improves working conditions. I like her. Treating the company as a living organism with a modicum of care is commonsense, even if people still work for bosses who don’t care.

Bearing in mind this is an American book where the bottom line is making money, I do have to wonder if companies there will take that on. More so, as some business practices tend to come from the top and are ruthless so the middle management and employees are likely to be expected to follow suit.

I loved her example of the Xerox company and the importance of their coffee machine that enabled their engineers to talk while drinking and come up with improvements that were not in the manual and were then used as the template for improving work practices. Oddly, this came out of a work-and-study examination and if you do use such people, make sure you get an anthropologist on board who sees the bigger picture than a penny-pincher. Objectively, if the manual isn’t being followed but the results are effective then the manual needs a serious look.

You also learn a lot more from informal rather than formal reports which would probably show numbers than likeability. Think of that when dealing with a product. Zohar uses M&S as an example although considering their fall in sales in the UK when they moved away from the clothes that actually sold, you do have to wonder how radical you should make changes. Looking logistically, I would have said play them both than just remove the set of products that actually sells. Already I’m on a learning curve from what Zohar is showing.

This doesn’t mean that I can’t be critical, mostly because some elements tend to feel idealised. Zohar describes someone working at an oil business pointing out that company loyalty is selling them your soul. In some respects, that’s also true of any company but depends on how much you are prepared to give it. Then again, as mentioned above, it depends on company ethics. Better communication between management and work force can be effective but only so far. After all, if competitors know what you’re up to and you don’t, it’s not difficult to seeing problems escalating and back to square one. None of this is helped where companies have to appease stockholders who don’t see the workforce but only profit margins. Human nature in work tends to protect your own job at any level irrespective of others at the end of the day. I should point out that later in the book, Zohar does address some of these problems but I doubt if it will go away any time soon. The business model that works in the orient is going to have serious problems in the USA which is far more money orientated and people’s loyalties can be bought.

Zohar’s depiction of companies selling dreams to the public via their products is very true but you do have to wonder at the validity of the product when it leads to obesity and whether they are acting responsibly. Anything can be good in small quantities but it gets out of control when all offer the same in different disguises.

After finishing this book, I did have a think as to how many other business model books there are out there. Zohar does go to companies and gets them into working her business model so presumably it can be effective. In some respects, it is also idealised. There is nothing covering what to do when a company is having financial problems and laying people off which tends to develop resentments with a touch of paranoia and insecurity, a sure sign of ineffectiveness. However, if you are running a company reasonably well but want to improve, then I’m sure this book will give you some ideas.

GF Willmetts

September 2016

(pub: Prometheus Books. 278 page hardback. Price: $25.00 (US), $26.50 (CAN), £19.30 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-63388-241-6). Ebook: Price: $11.99 (US), $13.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-63388-242-3)

check out website: www.prometheusbooks.com

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Category: Books, Culture

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About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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