Humanize Review – Turn Your Organization into a Social Enterprise

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After about a month of study, I just turned the last page in Humanize, a book by Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant.  My overall impression – WOAH!  This book represents a magnum opus of the knowledge of the authors.  It is a veritable cornucopia of information.  By cornucopia, I mean chock full of ideas.  Wherever you are in your career, there is good information in here for you.  This is a book that can be studied, torn apart, read over and over, and still have something good to give time and time again.  To assist, the book has an excellent structure and is backed up by a robust index.

 

This is a difficult review to write since the book is simply huge.
Both in amount of text and information, and in the broad thought
changing mindset this book advocates for.  For starters, I’ll say that
this is not an easy read.  It’s not a beginner’s book loaded with
trite examples.  Getting through this book was work.  It challenged my
thoughts while simultaneously presenting a host of complex topics and
issues.

Two major themes resonated with me that I want to speak to.  The
first, coming from my day job is the concept of a “Social Enterprise”.
 Reading this book could not have dovetailed better with this
movement.  The goal of a “Social Enterprise” is, in essence, to have
an organization be more acknowledging, people centered, and basically,
more “Human”.

Humanize from start to finish advocates for behaviors and
organizational infrastructure that facilitates a more human, organic
entity.  The four core values of the book, being open, trustworthy,
generative, and courageous are embodied in the technology that I am
purveying and, I believe, the future.  Being open – flattening the
organization.  Creating a forum where anyone within or without has
access to the right people in the organization.  Being trustworthy,
having data and truth available at your fingertips.  Being generative
– not allowing technological barriers getting in the way of making
progress.  Being courageous – being empowered to try new things,
lowering the cost of entry to new things, and creating a culture that
facilitates trying new things.  The Social Enterprise thought, its
essence, can and should be all things that are advocated for in
Humanize.

The second mindset that I approached this book from is a little more
abstract.  About a year ago I read a book by Dee Hock called “Birth of
the Chaordic Age”.  He was responsible for creation of a rather
popular and widespread organization.  You might know them – VISA.  Dee
talked about the difficulties VISA had during its formative years.  It
was a monumental, almost impossible task to get hundreds of thousands
of institutions around the globe to agree on something and bring a
system to life that had enough flexibility (chaos) to survive and
work, but had enough order to get the job done.

Hock coined a new word “Chaordic” which is a combination of order and
chaos.  Humanize, in my opinion is also advocating for the chaordic
organization.  A chaordic organization celebrates individuality and
flexibility backed up by an efficient structure.  It celebrates
allowing people to be themselves, and create the most productive
version of themselves.  It provides a facility for people and teams to
create and make customers happy.  It is not so rigid that creativity
is stifled.  A human organization acknowledges complexity and
flexibility together, instead of imposing rules, it empowers smart
people to follow loose guidelines to meet the challenge.

This book is written in an aggressive style that authoritatively
spells out its thesis.  Sometimes, it comes across as slightly
idealistic, almost manifesto like.  I suppose that when you are
proposing such big, sweeping ideas, that’s the only way it can be
communicated.  The book is still a worthwhile read and has many
excellent tools to incorporate into your personal practice.  After
all, one individual going against the grain at an organization can do
great things, develop personal leadership, and make an impact if they
apply these thoughts properly.

I have one stylistic pet peeve.  In the print version, the font felt a
little too small.  I compared the book to several other books on my
shelf and it is definitely a point size smaller than most.  The line
spacing was just a little too dense.  The paragraphs were in block
format and the pages just felt.. crammed.  This could easily be
overcome by ordering an electronic copy and viewing it in a font size
of your choosing.  I’m sure your eyes and the trees would thank you.

Criticisms aside, I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who
is looking to take their thought process of business organization or
personal leadership to the next level.  While being a challenging
read, for those willing to invest the effort and mental bandwidth to
it, there are great lessons to be learned and a great way to get a
whole lot of information in one place.  Jamie and Maddie did a
thorough job curating the highlights of numerous conversations, books,
and philosophies and tying them up in one place, with an excellent
thesis – making our organizations more human.  I can’t wait to see
what they come up with to follow this book.  In my opinion, this is
just the beginning.  In the meantime, I’m probably going to read it
again.

The book is available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Humanize-People-Centric-Organizations-Succeed-Social/dp/0789741121

Thanks and please share any thoughts or comments on this review.  -Garry

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