While some of the language is cumbersome, Andrew Zolli's book is a good place to start to understand the global economy.
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"Resilience" is, indeed, a manual for ballroom dancing in the midst of the minefield of our highly disruptive economy. From the batfish of Australia's Great Barrier Reef to a Swiss alternative currency called the WIR to the collapse of Lehman Brothers to an Arab-Israeli peacemaking initiative called the Abraham Path Initiative, Zolli catalogues memorable examples in which systems, people, or organizations have either succeeded -- or failed -- in dramatically changing their purpose in the face of dramatically changed circumstances.Skip to next paragraph
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While "Resilience" generally convinces, I have one major and one minor quibble. My most serious critique concerns cumbersome language. The book is packed with jargon. We are, for example, introduced to such verbal monstrosities as "embracing adhocracy," "embedded countercyclical structures," "network weaving," and "translational leaders." "Resilience"'s jacket suggests an explanation: Andrew Zolli gets the major billing as author, but the writer Ann Marie Healy is also included in significantly smaller type. I suspect there's too much Zolli and not enough Healy in "Resilience"'s language. But after a while, I longed for a translational leader – an Ann Marie Healy, perhaps – to translate all this indigestible jargon into more down-to-earth, everyday language that those of us who aren't part of the PopTech circuit can understand.
My second concern is political. Zolli is clearly a man of the Left, and all his examples are of minority groups or poor people fighting against the injustice inherent in our economic system. Indeed, he argues -- wrongly, in my opinion -- that "resilient cultures are rooted in diversity and difference." I wish "Resilience" had grappled with a few politically incorrect examples of societies dealing with global change -- the cases of Singapore or China, for example -- to balance the heartwarming case studies from Africa and inner-city America.
That said, Zolli's (and Healy's) "Resilience" is well worth a read. Indeed, if you want to learn to navigate the perilously interconnected currents of our global economy, this may be as good a place as any to start your ballroom dancing lessons.
Andrew Keen is author of The Cult of the Amateur, which has been translated into fifteen languages. He hosts "Keen On," the popular weekly media and culture show on Techcrunch.com and regularly tweets at www.twitter.com/ajkeen.