The “Forgetting Organization”

July 1, 2001

In this issue:
Newsbrief: “God & Business” article in Fortune magazine
Editorial: The Forgetting Organization, by John Renesch
More Newsbriefs: The Salary Gap Continues to Explode
Grab Hold of Your Soul and Don’t Let Go!

Next Month: Do Talk With Strangers: Learning From Those Who Don’t Belong


“God and Business” article featured in latest issue of Fortune

Fortune Magazine will feature an article titled “God and Business” in its forthcoming July 9th issue (now viewable on their web site); citing spirituality as the “last taboo in corporate America” the magazine gives several examples of discussions about spirit in the workplace as if these conversations were something new; do you remember that Fortune did a similar story in 1990 which featured Willis Harman, George McCown, Jim Channon and other members and fellows of the World Business Academy (a really big spread)? While it is great news that the magazine is promoting acceptance of spirit in the mainstream with this story, it would be even more heart-warming for them to recognize this isn’t all this “new” anymore – but maybe that wouldn’t sell magazines!



In a recent issue of Fast Company magazine, Tom Peters suggested a new twist to the idea of “learning organizations.” In writing about the positive traits of leaders, he pointed out that one of the qualities that make good leaders for today’s rapidly-changing challenges is that they are good at forgetting.

He writes, “Peter Senge’s brilliant insight 10 years ago was that companies need to be learning organizations. My campaign 2001: Companies need to be forgetting organizations. Enron Corp., which has repeatedly been tagged as the nation’s most innovative corporation, is [E]xhibit A as a world-class forgetting organization. It’s not wedded to what it did yesterday. Enron chiefs Kenneth Lay and Jeff Skilling have figured out how to operate like a band of pirates. Got an idea? Don’t dally. Go for it while it’s an original! Doesn’t work? Try something else. If that doesn’t work, fuhgeddaboutit!”

Peters’ idea presents a challenge to many business leaders – particularly those seasoned ones who’ve been around some – who are usually completely “wedded” to what they know – what they’ve done before that got them great results. This can also be found in many newly graduated MBAs.

It is so important to be open to “what wants to happen” in these times which are challenging so many traditional methods of leading, contradicting what was written in leadership texts just a couple of years ago.

Certainly, Peters isn’t advocating that organizations forget where their core competencies, or other essentials for effective business leadership. He isn’t advocating some form of self-imposed “corporate Alzheimers.” He is saying that being attached to what we know and how we’ve done things in the past can be a huge barrier to staying flexible, spontaneous and agile in a marketplace that demands these new qualities for an organization to succeed in this marketplace.

Like lovers who can get too emotionally attached to each other and lose their boundaries – what psychologists call it when they start confusing who they are with the other person – organization leaders can become so attached to their track record, what they know and how they got where they are today, that they lose touch with who they are. They start thinking of themselves as their history. Such an attachment does not serve anyone – the leader himself/herself or the people and the company they are serving. They have lost their “boundaries” much like the lovers who’ve become addicted to one another.

It seems that Peters’ idea of the “forgetting organization” could easily fit into what I have called the “conscious organization” (see “Articles” at To be “conscious” one needs to be seeing each thing – every problem, situation, and challenge – as if for the very first time – newly – without the handicap of yesterday’s know-how but with the advantage of seeing something as if one has never seen it before, much like a stranger would if they walked into the place right off the street.

Next month I’ll write about the advantage of seeing things through the “strangers eyes” with my August ’01 editorial – “Do Talk With Strangers” (working title).



The Salary Gap Continues to Explode

According to Business Ethics magazine’s online newsletter, the average CEO compensation had risen sharply in the past decade. In 1989, it averaged $1.2 million, 45 times the blue-collar wage. In 1999 it rose tenfold to $12.4 million, 475 times the blue-collar wage. For more information email

Grab Hold of Your Soul and Don’t Let Go!

These are words by contemporary mystic Rob Rabbin from his latest E-Newsletter/article entitled “Work-as-Play” which he describes as part enthusiasm, part freedom, and part authentic self-expression. To subscribe to Rob’s monthly E-Newsletter and receive one of his articles each month, call him at 415.705.0807.

About John Renesch

Better Future NEWS is prepared monthly by John Renesch, a San Francisco writer, futurist, and consultant/executive coach. John served as Editor-in-Chief of The New Leaders business newsletter from 1990 to 1997 and has created a dozen business anthologies on progressive business subjects, including consciousness, intuition and leadership. These books include New Traditions in Business, Learning Organizations and The New Bottom Line. His latest book is Getting to the Better Future: A Matter of Conscious Choosing.

John is also an international keynote SPEAKER, having addressed audiences in Tokyo, Seoul, London, Brussels, Budapest as well as many cities throughout the U.S. For a list of all the SERVICES John offers, go to Services.

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John Renesch

John is a seasoned businessman-turned-futurist who has published 14 books and hundreds of articles on social and organizational transformation.

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