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Anarchists in the Boardroom

This is a guest post by Liam Barrington-Bush, Co-founder/ Director at Concrete Solutions C.I.C. and Sessional Lecturer, Community Leadership at Birkbeck, University of London. Check out his book project here.



It was pretty clear from the get-go that I was going to have a hard time convincing a publisher an interest in ‘management literature,’ to print a book that had the word ‘anarchists’ in the title.

But for whatever reasons that didn’t stop me from following my wife to Oaxaca, Mexico last May and spending the better part of eight months, writing it.

But once I had a manuscript, that first daunting question came up again: ‘no self-respecting management publisher will publish a book about anarchism in the workplace!’

Which is when I realised that if this book was going to live up to its values, it needed to cut ‘self-respecting management publishers’ out of the equation, just as the book advocates doing away with so much in the way of professional management, itself.

This was reinforced by an incredibly eye-opening series of emails with an excellent editor from a publisher for whom a have a lot of respect. He told me, in no unclear terms, that to get a book like the one I’d written published, it would have to be reframed as a ‘how to guide.’

…Which is really not my thing.

Complex change doesn’t copy-and-paste. Writing a book that pretended it did would be discrediting everything else the book has to say. Even if it is, as I was told, ‘what the market wants.’

But that’s the business of publishing, I suppose. Do what the market wants; an inherently conservative approach that makes it very hard to break anything in the way of new thinking or practices.

And I’m an anarchist, trying to publish a management book. So yeah… maybe a traditional publisher wasn’t the way to go.

Besides, I want to get this book out to people who don’t read management books in the first place. This is a management book for all the people like me, up until a few years ago, who had never read a Drucker or Senge, but still knew that something had gone terribly wrong in so many of our organisations, and had a gut instinct that things could be better we trusted our gut instincts.

But a publisher would hear: ‘You want to market a genre of publication to an audience that doesn’t read that genre of publication? …Don’t waste our time.’

So some combination of stubborn idealism and naiveté pushed me into self-publishing.

The crowd-funding campaign kicked-off on about 36 hours ago, as I write this, and has raised $3,600 of a $7,700 total budget. I had a feeling – based on countless conversations with people who felt underappreciated and uninspired in their organisations – that this book was needed. The last day-and-a-half seems to be validating that possibility, even if the publishing world wasn’t prepared to.

Maybe it will fizzle from here, who knows?

But maybe it is living proof of the ideas the book is trying to highlight? Namely, that the internet helps like-minded people find one another, with only bare minimum structures in place to let it happen, opening up amazing new potentials that would have previously been deemed unfeasible to any traditional institution, whether a publisher, or an NGO?

Whatever happens, it’s been a blast and it tells me that there are definitely a few people out there that want this book and the ideas it represents, to see the light of day.

Whether they fit nicely into a ‘marketable demographic’ or not is inconsequential to me. They’re part of the conversation and I’m excited to be in a position to help facilitate some small piece of it.


Liam Barrington-Bush is @hackofalltrades on Twitter. You can be a part of getting ‘Anarchists in the Boardroom: How social media and social movements can help your organisation to be more like people’ published on now!


(photo credit)

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