By Melainne Chiew
So I judged another book by its cover.
It was exactly the sort of book I would pass over at the library or the bookstore, not that I would have ever noticed its unimpressionable blue paperback and simple red lettering, sandwiched between other books; at first sight it looked like one of the free self-help books people thrust into your hands as you made your way through the subway.
Still, it was the book my fingers started to gravitate towards almost immediately, as my editor cheerfully piled onto my mounting work load; I remembered thinking, “What an unattractive looking book, but I still want to know," almost unnecessary considering how highly I regarded my own expertise on body language. While I was never always observant, I began to pick up on the little signals people gave out and I trusted that mine was accurate.
I didn’t expect much from the book initially. I was the sort of person who bought a book simply because its cover delighted me—a quirky looking skin, an old-fashioned hardback, fine gold fonts emblazoned at the top.
What surprised me was the rate at which I started to read the book. I found myself nodding, laughing, flipping page after page after page, at such astonishing lightning speed.
Body Language by Robert Phipps turned out to be a light-hearted read, containing exciting revelations to previously unspoken social norms and expectations. If the unremarkable cover was itself purposed, then it also serves as a delightful reminder to one and all – to never judge a book by its cover.
I found the handshake portion of the book particularly interesting: reminded of men who gave me firm strong handshakes commonly associated with power and dominance though I was inclined to think otherwise, for some reason.
Suitably quote-worthy: “I’ve shaken the hands of millionaires and a few billionaires too. Some of them had the most gentle, soft grip, palm hand-shakes you’re ever likely to receive. In fact, a weak, palm-up handshake is quite often given by people who had absolutely no reason to try and impose themselves on others. Either they’ve already made it in their industry or they are just very comfortable with themselves.”
Likewise, the book found no reason to try and impose on me its casement of exciting revelations—beneath its unassuming cover lies a delightful, fun, and very thought-provoking read; a must-read for all ages looking to properly decipher the nuances of everyday human behaviour.
By Winifred Tan
It is not common for a sequel to outdo the original classic. But in the case of Productive Workplaces – Dignity, Meaning, and Community in the 21st Century, it appears that Marvin Weisbord may have just outdone himself.
This 25th Anniversary edition of Productive Workplaces builds on the “whole system in the room” and “sustainable change oxymoron” principles that Weisbord first introduced more than two decades ago. Through a thoughtful, well-substantiated analysis of his years as manager and business consultant, Weisbord demonstrates how productive organisational management lives only insofar as people experience systems for themselves.
In his words, “[…] no further research is needed to prove the efficacy of task-focused participation in democratic societies. There are no technical alternatives to shared goals, cooperation, and personal responsibility. What’s needed are more people who will stick their necks out. The bottom line is ridiculously easy to say and ambiguously hard to implement: discover your own values and act on them every day.”
Changing our workplaces is inevitably linked with changing ourselves. Weisbord believes, as do the generations of managers, consultants, and students who have read and studied his classic, that nothing beats self-knowledge (e.g. awareness of our own assumptions about human nature) as the bedrock for change strategies that trump “shorter, faster, cheaper”.
In today’s world of economic uncertainty and moral devaluation, his emphasis on “dignity, meaning, and community” appears more poignant than ever – values do matter, even in the face of hastened productivity.
Perhaps what is most remarkable about this new rendition of Productive Workplaces is the introspective courage Weisbord displays in revisiting old sites years after he had worked as a management consultant for them in an effort to reexamine the long-term impact of his organisational development interventions. As Billie Alban, President of internationally-acclaimed management consultancy firm Alban & Williams, rightly points out, many consultants would rather live with the illusion that they made a difference and leave it at that.
Weisbord’s courage reveals valuable case studies, from the healthcare to steel-making industries, to gain insight into techniques that can help increase organisational output, cut costs, create strategic plans, manage conflict between functions, and more. Amidst the mindless repetition of shopworn techniques, his are a commitment to renewal practices grounded in meaning. These are nuggets of wisdom that will no doubt continue to influence current practices around the world and resonate with future generations of OD practitioners.
This is recommended reading for managers, management consultants, and business students!
Productive Workplaces and Body Language are published by John Wiley & Sons (ASIA) Pte Ltd. These two books are available in all major bookstores. Alternatively, you can purchase them online at Wiley's virtual bookstore.