strategy and business

The wisdom of Charles Handy

In 21 Letters on Life and Its Challenges, Charles Handy, 87, is talking to his four grandchildren. His goal is to help them as they are “contemplating life’s rich choices.” In a life that he acknowledges has seen technology transform lives in unpredictable ways, he focuses on the question that never changes: what it means to be truly human.

Handy has had a series of different careers, starting out as an executive of the Shell Corporation in Asia. He then taught at MIT and the London Business School and regularly presented “Thought for the Day” on a popular BBC morning radio program. He describes himself as a writer; others might say philosopher and guru.

This edited excerpt from his book looks at what people should want and get out of work, why management is a misleading term, and why the world’s big corporations may not be set up to attract and keep the next generation of talent unless they understand people are not simply a human resource.

Keep it small

In 1973 Ernst Schumacher, a British/Swiss economist, wrote a book called . The title was the inspired suggestion of an editor, although the main thrust of the book was contained in its subtitle: . I was tempted to steal that subtitle for my own book three years later because that was at the heart of what my message was going to be. I came to realize that if people truly mattered, then it was better that they worked, if at all possible, in situations where everyone

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