Summary of The Light and Fast Organisation

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Consultant and mountaineer Patrick Hollingworth’s compact book will win your attention. He explores “alpine style” mountaineering and relates its important lessons to managing your organization. Hollingworth shows how mountain climbers can inspire you when you have to deal with “black swans” and “volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity” (VUCA) situations. He encourages you to embrace complexity and ambiguity as a way to develop your leadership abilities. getAbstract recommends Hollingworth’s mountain-meets-business manifesto to current and aspiring leaders who dare to challenge the status quo so they can thrive in the 21st century.

About the Author

An experienced mountaineer who climbed Everest and other 8,000-meter peaks using the alpine-style approach, Patrick Hollingworth is a long-time business consultant who helps individuals, teams and companies deal with the VUCA world.




Nordwand – German for “north face” – is a two-kilometer vertical rock and ice stretch of Switzerland’s Eiger Mountain, which is famous for its inaccessibility and for the high death toll among those who attempt to climb it. At least 64 people have died on the Nordwand. In 1938, a group of four young men from Austria and Germany became the first climbers to reach the summit. It took them 96 hours. They came close to death – but prevailed.

In 2008, Swiss alpinist Ueli Steck embarked on a solo climb of the Nordwand. Dressed warmly but lightly and equipped with only the most essential technical equipment – a rope and a pair of ice axes – Steck applied a new technique: Climb “light and fast” and adapt quickly to the mountain’s challenges. He ascended the Eiger in less than three hours by applying the strategy of “extreme alpinism.” The Nordwand stands as a metaphor of today’s business world, which is beset with avalanches, falling rocks and nasty storms. Steck’s alpinist approach can transform businesses and how they deal with “volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity” (VUCA).

“The VUCA World”

Many people use the term “VUCA” to...

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    C. M. 2 years ago
    If you find useful to think about organization using metaphors, I would rather suggest the old but good (and in my opinion more comprehensive) book "Images of Organisation".

    Contingency Theory, TQM and quality circles, lean organisation, organizational ecology, human relations, self-organisation, organisational life-cycle, Structure in Fives, freedom and responsibility-based organizational forms, ...
    all these theories (and underlying research) seem to me to already handle the ingredients of flexible, human, light and fast organizations since quite a while ... without necessarily climbing mountains :-) .

    Still, I will try to look at the free webinar to see if there is really something fresh & new, that I might not have been able to spot just reading the abstract.
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    J. D. 2 years ago
    This is well worth a read. The climbing analogy won’t work for everyone but makes the concepts (mindfulness and flexibility in VUCA environments) at least somewhat accessible to the lay person. Traditional ‘rigid’ plans are increasingly fragile in a world of rapid technological and social change and Patrick goes some way in explaining this phenomenon. The concepts presented here are current in academia & this book is an accessible route to understanding without having to wade through multiple academic journals.
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    K. B. 3 years ago
    I'd like to hear more about "expedition-style organization wearing alpinists’ clothing". Anyone?
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    M. d. 4 years ago
    New approaches are needed and this book gives the topic a fresh view. I am not sure how relevant extreme sport examples help make the case but ... missed one technique: red-lining that I've found useful at work.
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    P. Y. 4 years ago
    Wasn't sure at first but worth persevering. Some important lessons about becoming more adaptable and focusing less on the overall goal, and more on learning and flexing during the journey.
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    A. 4 years ago
    Yet another disappointing book from getabstract. Often we see business and leadership books written by sports coaches. Guessing this author is into mountaineering. Other than the metaphor of mountaineering, there isn't much new in here about leadership or organizational development. Stick with the classics from people who actually run and study organizations.
    • Avatar
      Patrick Hollingworth 4 years ago
      Hey Victoria, it's Patrick here, the author of the book. Perhaps have a read of the book before criticising it, as you make some pretty false assumptions in your comment above. Yes, I am a mountaineer, but I've also got 20 years of experience as a business consultant (both externally to organisations and internally within them), I studied psychology and anthropology at university, and I continue to study with the consulting work that I do. Whilst the classics are great, it can't hurt to also consider fresher viewpoints on the ways in which organisations can get better. God knows that now more than ever before, at this crucial point in human history, the world needs our organisations to get better. Wishing you all the best.
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    D. P. 4 years ago
    A pot pourri of other people's books mixed with the authors hobby. Nothing new but may appeal to people in the business world who are outdoorsy types.