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Resilience

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10 best books of August, according to Amazon's editors

To confront and manage this destructive twenty-first-century reality, Zolli introduces us to "resilience," a word he describes as "the capacity of a system, enterprise, or person to maintain its core purpose and integrity in the face of dramatically changed circumstances."

Learning resilience is what Zolli memorably calls "ballroom dancing in the middle of a minefield," and he regards it as "the great moral question for our age."

"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.

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.

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