The Empty Raincoat: Making Sense of the Future Hardcover – 17 Feb 1994
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"If you are part of, think about, care about or are in any way influenced by the world of work, and who is not, this powerful and moving book is for you" (Sir Graham Day Financial Times)
"A necessary and important contribution to our understanding of the way we live now" (Hamish McRae Director Magazine) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
New thinking for a new world. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
Handy begins by discussing how economic progress has been won at a high cost. The claimed increase in freedom and choice have meant less equality and more misery if not for the wealthy few, for the rest of society. One of many paradoxes that Handy explores. I particularly enjoyed his thoughts on how paying for jobs to be done, often destroys the jobs. His argument being that many worthwhile and valuable jobs simply become uneconomical once they are paid for, and thus disappear. It's certainly my belief that the willingness of someone to pay for something is a very poor measure of whether something is worth doing. Think of the care you lavish on your children or time spent on hobbies.
The title comes from his plea that people should not be reduced to being empty raincoats.
"We were not destined to be empty raincoats, nameless numbers on a payroll, role occupants, the raw material of economics or sociology, statistics in some government report",
"If that is to be its price, then economic progress is an empty promise." Handy believes that it is every individual's challenge to fill their empty raincoat. to make meaning in their life.
Handy argues that life is full of paradox and things simply can't be predicted or understood. The challenge of life is to manage paradox, not to accumulate possessions.
He argues that wealth should not be measured in property and land, but in terms of knowledge.
"The means of production" in the future will be owned by the workers because it will be based on their intelligence and know how - a difficult thing to gauge in financial terms alone.
Handy makes the analogy that where in the past an organisation was like a castle, it will become more like a condominium: "an association of temporary residents gathered together for their mutual convenience".
It seems to me that the messages of this book provide a reminder that the world is rapidly changing and that our understanding of change must also change.
"Like dogs, if we are well fed we are content. However, contentment and complacency have no place in a world where inequality and despair are rife. Success and vision can no longer be about our individual "empty raincoat" struggle for profit and material gain. If we do not help each other then we most certainly cannot help ourselves."
I had the pleasure of hearing Charles Handy speak a year ago; he is a fantastic orator, and his insightful wit and sharp mind comes across in his writing. Currently reading 'The Second Curve'.
After a rather complex presentation of life's paradoxes, such as the paradox of time (we never seem to have enough, yet more is available to us than our predecessors - we live longer and have gadgets to help us make and do things), he gets to the book's core concepts.
The Sigmoid Curve is the best career management advice I have ever come across - recognise where you are on the first S-curve of your career and plan for the second before the first goes into decline. In today's fluid employment market that is more relevant now than ever.
The Doughnut Principle is a thought-provoking examination of work life balance. With the finite amount of time you have represented by the outer circle, the amount of time you devote to work is the inner circle - how thick do you want your doughnut to be?
And the Chinese Contract is about the contracts we make with ourselves and others - are they equitable or are we being selfish?
From here the book gets very philosophical, with Handy musing on the future of society, corporations and government. I found this section of the book less engaging, but interesting nonetheless.
The book's theme is inspired by a statue in Minneapolis that provided the title - are we just `empty raincoats' - units of labour and intellect - a cog in a corporate machine? Or is there someone of substance to fill the raincoat with meaning and purpose that goes beyond work?
If, like me, you're mid-career, young family, thinking about what the future holds, this is a really good book to read.
Throughout the book, reference is made to two "principles" or "facts". Firstly, the Sigmoid curve which describes the "life" cycle of beginning slowly, then wax and wane and secondly the doughnut principle with work at the centre and free or external to work time making up the rest of the doughnut. How big the rest of the doughnut is depends on the individual.
For myself, the book is refreshing. The author continually asks if work is everything and should it be the preoccupying factor in a persons life. Do we live to work or do we work to live? This is a question that I continually ask myself.
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