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The Elephant And The Flea: Looking Backwards to the Future Paperback – 7 Nov 2002


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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Business; New Ed edition (7 Nov. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099415658
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099415657
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 92,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Charles Handy is always a delight to read, and The Elephant and the Flea--his autobiography-laced analysis of business over the past two decades--is no exception. In his 13th book, the United Kingdom's pre-eminent sage on commercial and industrial matters looks within and at education, marriage, religion and society in order to assess the changing nature of employment. His literate and knowledgeable tale begins in 1981, when Handy decided to exchange a safe but stifling life with a corporation (the "elephant" of his title) for the riskier but potentially more rewarding existence of an independent (or "flea"). Mixing diverse experiences with cogent observations on the evolving workplace, he sets the scene for plausible projections about where we might yet be headed. "Just as the signs were there 20 years ago for those who wished to see them, so I believe we can glimpse the shape of the new capitalist world even if it may take another 20 years to develop," he writes. "We may not like what is coming but we would be foolish to think that we can plan our lives, or our children's lives, without giving some thought to the shape of the stage on which we and they will be strutting". Intensely personal yet remarkably universal, the result is another provocative, illuminating and enjoyable book from the oil executive turned bestselling author.--Howard Rothman

Review

"He makes difficult stuff seem easy" (Management Today)

"'In this very readable book Handy makes you think more about the impact of these diverse changes on the whole world of human endeavour, not just the world of work." (Human Resources Magazine)

"You will find yourself constantly returning to the book and quoting extracts to collegues...This latest offering is a joy to read. It is one of those rare things, a book by a management author that you want to devour at one sitting." (Ambassdor)

"This is an ambitious treatment of the future of everything." (Canary)

"It is classic Handy...It is entertaining, thought provoking, humanistic and wise in equal measures." (FMX)

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I woke up early on the morning of 25 July 1981. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris TOP 500 REVIEWER on 7 Nov. 2008
Format: Paperback
I recently re-read this book as well as Charles Handy's later work, Myself and Other More Important Matters, and thoroughly enjoyed both even more this second time around than I did when they were first published. Each is part memoir, part autobiography, and part social commentary. Immediately, Handy establishes and then sustains a direct and personal rapport with his reader. The tone is conversational. With regard to the title, Handy observes: "Elephants and fleas is an odd metaphor, equally unflattering to both groups. I hit upon it by chance when looking for a way, in a public lecture, to explain why large organizations needed irritant individuals or groups to introduce the innovations and ideas essential to their survival. After the lecture I was struck by the number of people who came up to me, either proclaiming themselves to be a flea or lamenting the ponderous gait of the elephant where they worked. The analogy, it seemed, had caught their imagination, so I persevered with it. Like all analogies, however, it should not be pushed too far. Useful for attracting attention, it is not in itself a recipe for solutions, but as a broad description of one divide in modern society it serves its purpose. It is, for instance, the elephants who get all of the attention while most people actually work as fleas or for a flea organization."

These comments are especially relevant to Handy at one point in his career (in 1981) when he embarked on a transition from being an "elephant inhabitant to independent flea," hoping that there would be greater value in the freedom of independence "over the dubious security of employment." He did not then and has not since viewed himself as a role model for others.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 8 Oct. 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book is an enjoyable and easy read. In this partial autobiography, Handy has written in a simple and articulate manner. His use of metaphor is an interesting way to predict how the future may look for organizational man/woman, as well as giving useful pointers about switching from the life of the elephant to the life of the flea. In the book, he asks key questions (which he doesn't always answer) about the work/life balance and finding sense of purpose in work. The anecdotes he uses are drawn from a wide range of experiences from around the world, and I found much of what he said was easy to identify with. Overall, this is a good book in that it gives you food for thought and makes you want to have a chat with the author after reading it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mrs B. on 27 May 2011
Format: Paperback
If you are seriously considering how you want to balance your work and private life then this is a really good book to get you thinking differently. The concept of 'chunking' is very interesting and I have recommended the book to several people (admittidly more mature friends in thier 50's, late 40's), to consider a different way of working.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By The Emperor on 16 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback
I have enjoyed many of his books in the past but I wasn't really very impressed with this. There were some interesting autobiographical bits and some good advice on portfolio careers. Mostly though it was very vague and slight.
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Format: Paperback
I read this book several years ago and got a real buzz out of it. Excuse the pun! I was already embarked on a portfolio lifestyle, but only just setting sail at that stage. Now, several years later, I find I constantly refer to this metaphor, of the fleas and elephants, as I see so many people exiting the world of corporates and joining the swarms of fleas. If you are just moving into such a situation, I would recommend reading this book. I think you might find it quite heart warming and possibly informative
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