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The Columbus Project

September 13, 2011

Our next book is Here be Dragons, and it follows on from and builds on Beyond Crisis. 

Some readers of Beyond Crisis have asked us for a more detailed view of the tools available to them for changing the bicycle wheel.  Others have requested something that was more personal  and ‘told it like it is’, echoing the style from Gill’s first book (Scenario Planning) which followed her on her own journey discovering what scenario planning was all about.  The actual starting shot for Here be Dragons was ‘fired’ during a discussion Gill Ringland had with Rob Phaal when the idea for the book was born, to take a step-by-step approach to the Cycle of Renewal.

While there have always been unknown, uncharted waters facing our organisations, the perils in the uncharted waters around us now seem to be much more dangerous than ever before.  While we understand that there is no one-size-fits-all answer on how to respond and navigate these times, since all organisations are different, we hope that the ideas and tools you find here will be useful for you, whatever stage you are at, and will help you to develop what you need.  The title, Here be Dragons, comes from the map on our cover.  Once there was the known world and beyond that the unknown – where mysterious and strange creatures such as dragons awaited.  The map covers the known world and reflects that beyond this is the unknown, the dragon. Our book helps the reader face those dragons.

Here be Dragons is in fact two books for the price of one: the story of the Columbus Project and the Pilot’s Guide.

The Columbus Project describes the journey taken by a fictional organisation (FutureParts Vehicle Supplies) which was set the challenge of renewing itself.  The story describes how it approaches the challenge. The staff of FutureParts are entirely fictional, but represent some of the characters and organisational structures that form the context for change in many organisations.  The journey is fictional.  There are many ways of achieving renewal.  The story aims to illustrate some of the common tools and hurdles.

The story is a mix of real-life experiences of what happened when the authors found themselves in similar situations in the organisations that they worked for.  Real people (we, the five authors) work with the fictional people at FutureParts.  This allows us to share our learnings of working inside organisations– as line managers – and outside – as consultants, without breaking confidentiality.

The Columbus Project leads naturally into the second part of the book.  This is a Pilot’s Guide to the tools which the Columbus Project used to help the FutureParts business renew itself.  The tools are all designed to enhance the ability to think long term while being effective in the short term – balancing the paradoxes leaders face on a daily basis.

Both the Columbus Project and the Pilot’s Guide have a pragmatic focus: on why to use each tool, when it should be used (and when not) and how to use it, along with the results to expect and how each fits into the Cycle of Renewal.  And to emphasise this pragmatism, we have provided the navigation equivalent to each of the Chapters in the Pilot’s Guide.

Both parts of Here be Dragons stand alone and can be read without reference to the other.  However, the Pilot’s Guide follows the same sequence of activities as in the FutureParts journey.  So if you want more information about a particular tool mentioned in The Columbus Project you will find it in the corresponding chapter in the second part.  Alternatively, if you are reading the Pilot’s Guide, and would like to see how a particular tool might work “on the ground”, you will find a description in the corresponding chapter in the Columbus Project..

Although this is two books in one, it is still a short book overall.  Renewal takes many forms and in Here be Dragons we have included only a subset of all those available. A wider selection can be found in the further readings suggested at the end of each chapter of the Pilot’s Guide. 

The book is due to be published later in the autumn but we would be happy to have any reader take a look at the Columbus Project or the Pilot’s Guide while it is in draft pdf form, and would welcome your comments.

To discuss this further, or get a pdf of the draft, contact

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