Review: The World Cafe–Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter (Paperback)

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5.0 out of 5 stars Bridges the Gap From Atlee to Wheatley,

September 25, 2005
Juanita Brown
This remarkable book has a foreword from Margaret Wheatley, genius guru and author of Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World who inspired Robert Buckman’s tremendous work on Building a Knowledge-Driven Organization and it has a review from Tom Atlee, author of The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World That Works for All and founder of the Co-Intelligence Institute.

As I finished this book and dealt with my teen-ager who at 16 is quite certain that even the great schools of Fairfax County are largely boring and dysfunctional, still teaching by rote and testing memory rather than the ability to discover, it occurred to me that this book is in fact a handbook for both educating the world, and for reforming education. Instead of the current didactic form of instruction (one-way lectures) we should be teaching, at every level, interactive discovery. It’s not what you can remember from the past, but what what you can discover in tandem with others, and apply constructively!

EDIT of 12 Dec 07: Lots has happened since I reviewed this book, and it was a delight to discover that this long buried insight actually found itself manifested in the new non-profit, the Earth Intelligence Network, whose 24 co-founders recognize that we need an EarthGame where we all play ourselves, and that to save the planet, we must educate the five billion poor “one cell call (or conversation) at a time,” something we can do by giving out free cell phones and recruiting 100 million volunteers with Internet access who among them cover the 183 languages we do not speak–that will create infinite wealth (see books at bottom of this review).

As someone who has been trained to be dysfunctional, overly reliant on “command and control” and predictability, I can certainly see how this book would cause discomfort and inspire disbelief among the mandarins of industry and government, but I can also see this book sensibly defines the only path likely to lead to collective intelligence and collective consensus solutions.

Context, hospitable spaces, questions that matter, encouraging everyone’s contribution, cross-pollination of diverse perspectives, listening for patterns, cultivating collective intelligence and insight through dialog instead of debate–this book has it all.

My last annotation in the book is “Wiki!” As smart people like Jock Gill and Howard Rheingold start to think about how to create a global Wiki that enables a World Cafe with a space for every topic, every challenge, every zip code, every neighborhood, I have a strong feeling that “bottom up people power” may at last be in the offing.

Alvin and Heidi Toffler are publishing a new book in April called Revolutionary Wealth: How it will be created and how it will change our lives Knowing their past work, I suspect it will be an epic statement that carries the work of Tom Stewart The Wealth of Knowledge: Intellectual Capital and the Twenty-first Century Organization and Barry Carter Infinite Wealth: A New World of Collaboration and Abundance in the Knowledge Era to new heights, and that is where I will end this review: the world cafe is about creating wealth and peace through dialog. Done right, there are no limits to our ability to engage one another in conversation, and no limits to the wealth that we might create, the peace we might foster, by so doing.

EDIT of 12 Dec 07: two additional books have had a deep impact on me since this was first written:
The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits (Wharton School Publishing Paperbacks)
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom

This book is very serious, very valuable. It is worth reading and it is worth sharing with others. It is part of our “Collective Intelligence” and leads straight to Peace Intelligence and Commercial Intellligence. In the next ten years I plan nothing less than the reduction of the secret budget of $60 billion a year, to $12 billion, with the savings redirected toward national education and connection the five billion poor to knowledge so they can create infinite stabilizing wealth.

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