I have been a fan of Charles Handy since I read “The Age of Unreason” in 1992 and his “Understanding Organisations” was one of the set texts on my MBA course at the Open University in 1994. He has a real grasp of the human condition, a rare intelligence and the ability to explain his point in a way that both entertains and provides insight.
He is a prolific writer and age has not seemed to slow him nor dull his thought processes – thankfully. This book’s full title is “The Second Curve: Thoughts on Reinventing Society” and it provides plenty to stimulate thought.
The title tof this collection of 16 essays refers to the business model known as the “S-curve” with which many of my clients will be familiar. It refers to the development of a business which starts with slow growth followed by steady increases until a point where things start to “flatten out” at the top of the curve. This is followed by a dip and either a period of re-growth and the start of another “S” or the slide into failure.
In business the skill is to realise when you are approaching the top of the curve and start to prepare for the next “S” by investing in new products or services. In life what is required is the courage to accept and embrace change – not easy if you have been in one firm or organisation for a couple of decades.
Handy also returns to one of his main themes, that of the portfolio career where individuals can move from one role to another at several points in their lives. We must accept that change is the only constant and the skills that we may have learnt at university, say, will only be good enough for so long before a period of re-training and adaptation is required. Throw into the mix the fact that people are living longer, staying healthy longer and pension ages are rising then we will all need fresh challenges as time passes.
I changed direction at the age of 52 and sold my successful practice in order to experience some new challenges, I have been as successful in my second career (I’m not counting small part-time business ventures) as I was in the original one but in a totally different way. In both I was fulfilled and well rewarded but my clients’ needs are a pole apart from those of my patients.
These 16 chapters, covering education, capitalism, management and forms of government will make you think about your life, the lives of your children, the world in which we live and how society works. I hope that you pack this for your holiday so that you can have the time to not only read and re-read Handy’s words but also be able to give them the thought that deserve.
You will not be disappointed by the time you invest in The Second Curve.
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