Organizing Genius


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Table of Contents

* Foreword Charles Handy * Introduction * The End of the Great Man * Troupe Disney * A Computer with a Rebel Heart * Selling a Place Called Hope * The Skunk Works * Experiment at Black Mountain * The Manhattan Project * Take-Home Lessons

About the Author

Warren Bennis is Distinguished Professor of Business Administration at the University of Southern California and a consultant to multinational companies and governments around the world. He also chairs the Advisory Board of the Kennedy School's centre for Public Leadership at Harvard University. He is author of more than thirty books and dozens of other articles on leadership, including Managing the Dream, Organizing Genius, and Learning to Lead. He lives in Santa Monica, California.


To determine the characteristics of creative groups, Bennis (business administration, Univ. of Southern California) and Biederman, a Los Angeles Times reporter, here consider Disney Productions, PARC-r&d for Xerox, President Clinton's presidential campaign, Lockheed's Skunk Works, Black Mountain College, and the Manhattan Project. The authors conclude that creative groups usually operate in dull or tacky surroundings, are young and optimistic past the point of realism ("Great groups believe they're on a mission from God against a big, bad enemy"), are poorly paid, and go unrecognized. In these examples, many of the leaders were difficult to verbally abusive. The authors warn that it is possible for great minds to work in groups to accomplish great evil, and care must be taken to scrutinize the intended results. Sexual references are included that do not add to the story and are in poor taste. The authors acknowledge the noticeable absence of female participants in creative groups but do not give an adequate explanation. While interesting, this is not a necessary purchase.‘Peggy D. Odom, Texas Lib. Assn., Waco

University of Southern California business professor Bennis and Los Angeles Times reporter Biederman examine six "Great Groups" whose work affected and sometimes changed the modern world. They are the Disney organization and its animated films; the Xerox Corporation's Palo Alto Research Center, which designed the first user-friendly computer; the Clinton presidential campaign of 1992 for what the authors deem a remarkable victory; Lockheed's Skunk Works, where the U-2 spy plane and the Stealth bomber were developed; Black Mountain College in the foothills of North Carolina, which lasted only from 1933 to 1956 but attracted many major artists; and the Manhattan Project, whose scientists created the atomic bomb. All of these groups, the authors stress, consisted of enormously talented people with a sense of mission, who worked under a strong leader and were imbued with pragmatic optimism. Each segment is so well told that it has lessons for all. (Feb.)

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