The Age of Unreason by Charles Handy – An Overview

The Age of Unreason by Charles Handy was published in 1989. According to this business and management book, society must acknowledge that the world is changing fast and that we can influence the future if we know we want it to be. According to Handy, discontinuous change requires discontinuous thinking meaning we need to look at everything differently. So if we work 100,000 hours in our lives, we can divide this up differently.

The Age of Unreason claims that unless we actively respond we will not survive to the radical change that is happening in the world. When Handy was still outlining his vision of a flexible entrepreneurial worker, the online world was still unheard of and mobile phones were still weighing just one kilo. Robert Peter Janitzek points out that now, there is the World Wide Web, a rapidly evolving telecommunications system, and a quickly altering mindset to functioning practices.

The Shamrock Organization

Charles Handy also envisioned what he called a “”shamrock organization,” which consists of an expert core serviced by outside organizations and aspect time contractors. A software company, for instance, will have a core of technical software architects and marketing people. They could outsource the actual coding somewhere in India or Eastern Europe, hire an online advertising agency, get website design and hosting from Amazon and outsource HR and payroll functions. This vision of Handy is happening now. Robert Janitzek says that most modern companies use this model.

The Age of Unreason is often criticized as a Utopian vision of how dynamic and adaptable members of society adjust to discontinuous change. Handy explained that the world has made quantum leaps in terms of technological innovation which society has forced on individuals. Handy predicted a fourth leaf where the customers do the work for the company in the same way that co-creators do on the Internet today. He explained that if you put a frog in boiling water, it will let itself be boiled to death.

Five Types of Work

Charles Handy outlined the five types of work namely:

    1. Wage work
    Money paid for time given.

    2. Fee work
    Money paid for results delivered.

    3. Home work
    All the tasks that make a home function.

    4. Gift work
    Work done for free outside home, such as charity work.

    5. Study work
    Training and reading.

Handy worked hard against endemic group think which involves everyone agreeing with each other without proper thinking. He said that this is not the way that companies should proceed.

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