I had the privilege of meeting Michael Burke at last year’s ABS conference. He, Kevin Smith and Gordon McComb have co-written a book called Moving Beyond Compromise: Why Stop There? The purpose of the book is to introduce the principles of Baha’i consultation to businesses and other organizations in a way that is easily accessible and understandable, even if they’ve never heard of the Baha’i Faith. The book presents a fictional company in crisis and its CEO, Lily O’Hara, needs to determine how to survive. The CEO begins to learn about a process of decision-making, which the authors call ‘Solution-Building’ and which is based on the principles of Baha’i consultation.
I was keen to hear more about this new book, and Michael graciously agreed to tell us about it:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourselves and what the book is about?
Sure! Kevin, Gordon and I are all Baha’is and we’ve worked in a wide range of businesses from non-profits to small and medium sized companies to large multinationals. We have used the Baha’i consultative process in our service to the Faith and have in many cases attempted to introduce it to our businesses.
In the business setting our successes have been at best marginal and often our attempts have not been accepted for a number of reasons we point out in Moving Beyond Compromise: Why Stop There? The results in many instances have too often been poor decisions and this has been related to issues of ego, ambition, interpersonal conflict and sabotage. The decision-making process in many instances was characterized by compromising between opposing points of view rather than an effort to reach consensus based on data. This book, then, is about an approach to removing such issues as much as possible from decision-making and problem-solving in the business setting. And, of course, it is based very directly on Baha’i consultation.
We called it Moving Beyond Compromise: Why Stop There? because the major approaches used by businesses, in our experience, has been either The Boss decides and the staff complies or the use of compromise. We go into some detail about the limitations of compromise in the book and point out that since it is essentially a middle ground position between two opposing viewpoints it does not adequately consider merits and deficits or potentially other relevant information.
Baha’i Blog: Why did you decide to write this book? Why was it important for you personally and why this topic?
We live in a fast-paced and, at times, confusing world that is rapidly changing in almost every way: politically, economically, technologically, and spiritually. Business is caught up in this change as well and has a greater and greater need to make decisions that will lead to positive results, generally to increases in revenue, market share, product development, etc. Mistakes can be costly and we, the authors, have seen a number of them made in our business experience. We believe that using Baha’i consultation can significantly reduce those mistakes by simply making certain that all possibilities are fully and objectively considered. We realized that if we wanted to introduce consultation to businesses and organizations it needed to be done in a way that business, and especially business executives, could and would read, understand, accept, see potential value and then try. It needed to be of a length that executives would read and not to be a simple set of rules and procedures to be followed with a guarantee of “good” results.There have been books written about decision-making and problem-solving but they are based on old-world approaches such as brainstorming and compromise rather than emphasizing objective evaluation of truth. There have also been books written about Baha’i consultation but from our viewpoint they are written mainly for a Baha’i audience, often with extensive reference to the Writings. While these are very good for the audience they address, they simply seemed to us not to be appropriate for a business audience.
Baha’i Blog: What do you hope readers will take away with them after they’ve read the book?
We really have several audiences. One is business managers and executives looking for new and more effective ways of doing business and a younger audience now moving into their careers, starting their own businesses wanting to do things differently from the approaches and processes they have seen used in the past. We hope they will read and try this approach. We believe that if they give consultation a chance they will find the results very satisfying and then continue to apply consultation. The reason we wanted to start with executives and managers is that they will have to be supporting the process fully, as we show in the book with the CEO of the fictional company that tries consultation, or as we call it, Solution-Building™.
A second audience we hope to influence is young people moving into their careers, especially young Baha’is. They will be the next leaders not only of the Faith but also business and we hope this will help them introduce consultation into that setting.
Baha’i Blog: Was there anything really interesting which stood out to you or that you didn’t know when researching and writing the book and which you can share?
We spent several years working on this book and we went through several attempts to find a way to explain consultation in a way that seemed to us to be accessible to businesses. We knew that we could not present it as a religious or spiritual approach and it turned out to be more complicated than we expected. We were, we believe, successful since everyone who reviewed it during the writing and after it was finished told us they thought it was really good and well-done.
Then, after we had finished the book and made arrangements for print-on-demand services for direct sales, Unit 2 of Ruhi Book 10, the unit on consultation, was published. We hadn’t expected that to happen but it certainly raised awareness in the Baha’i community.
Baha’i Blog: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Our website also will allow you to read the first chapter, meeting our main protagonist, Lily O’Hara, and be introduced to our first Rule. We encourage readers to read that first chapter and, we hope, go on to purchase the book either directly or through BDS.
We also want to thank you for the opportunity to discuss Moving Beyond Compromise: Why Stop There?
Baha’i Blog: Thank you, Michael, for sharing!
You can get your copy of Moving Beyond Compromise: Why Stop There? here on Amazon.com.