Why do organisations choose to collapse?


Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond Buy in UK £17.50 Buy in US $19.12 Read Inside

This book is just brilliant and compelling. I want to give some thought to how it might help understand organizational collapse, and in-particular church. So first some info on the book then some thoughts on what this means for church and organisations.

Jared Diamond wrote a Pulitzer Prize winning book, 'Guns, Germs and Steel', about how Western civilizations developed technologies and immunities that allowed them to dominate much of the world. In this book, he explores the opposite. What caused some of the great civilizations of the past to collapse, and what can we learn from them?

He uses historical-cultural narratives to explore his ideas, in other words, tells the stories of civilizations that have collapse through history from ancient past until today, and in doing so shows the connection between groups beliefs and practices and connections to each other the world around them. Just that alone is a fascinating read. But his analysis of how and why and what this means for our modern western cultures is more penetrating and disturbing, and he identifies a road map of factors that we might want to consider for any complex organizations. They are:

1. First a group may fail to anticipate a problem before the problem actually arrives. 2. Second, when the problem does arrive, the group may fail to perceive it. 3. Then, after they perceive it, they may fail even to try to resolve it. 4. Finally, they may try to solve it but may not succeed.

Despite the doom and gloom from most of the narratives (stories), he does offer positive ones of people making changes to deal with issues, and suggests that if we learn we can become groups that make better decisions.

If we take Jared's advice we need to reflect, drink deeply from our church history narratives, and work together better in less isolation, and with less competition and pride. Looking back through history and looking forward to what is here and might come.

BTW for those who think Global Warming is a myth, even despite the weather events of this year, this book is something I hope people will read. We have never poured pollution into our atmosphere, and oceans and engaged in deforestation like we are, not something of the natural cycle of nature and weather patterns.