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A Decade of Change – How the World’s Problems Become Business Problems…

Interview with Geoffrey Brewer, co-editor, Decade of Change

The first decade of the 21st century was one of tumultuous change, and the Gallup Management Journal was there to cover the effects of change on businesses, organizations, and leaders worldwide. The Journal’s editors have had a front-row seat as Gallup’s visionary thinkers, offering their take on such historic events as the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and the meltdown of the subprime mortgage market. The editors have compiled careful selections from the Journal’s first 10 years in their new offering, Decade of Change: Managing in Times of Uncertainty (Gallup Press, 2011).

Lest you be tempted to wonder how those events and the changes they wrought are relevant to your daily business, the editors offer this link in their introduction:

[W]hile 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, turmoil in the Middle East and Asia, the warmest decade on record, and the collapse of global financial markets tend to be discussed as political and economic issues, they’re also management and leadership issues. For as any forward-thinking senior executive and organizational leader knows, the world’s problems very quickly become business problems.

Geoffrey Brewer is the editorial director of Gallup Press, which publishes books and the Gallup Management Journal. He is the editor of numerous bestsellers, including the No. 1 New York Times bestseller, How Full Is Your Bucket? and the No. 1 Wall Street Journal bestseller, StrengthsFinder 2.0, which has sold more than 1 million copies. He was previously a contributing writer on management for The New York Times and is a seven-time recipient of the Jesse H. Neal Editorial Achievement Award from American Business Media.

Q: What inspired you to compile this book?

Brewer: As we were celebrating our 10th anniversary, we looked at how tumultuous and interesting the past decade had been—it was not just any decade. Beginning with 9/11, which was a marker in history for most Americans, and bookended by the crash of 2008, it was a decade of changes that caused people to ask fundamental questions about their place in the world.

Q: Do you think the first decade of the 21st century brought greater change than decades before it?

Brewer: That’s a great question, and a good challenge to think about the answer. No, I don’t think it brought greater change than any other decade, especially compared with the 20th century, but I do think it brought greater change than any decade since the 1970s. In the seventies, after the turmoil of the sixties, we fell into a groove, a false sense of security. The seventies brought the integration of changes wrought in the sixties, as well as a backlash against them. I see the eighties and nineties more as decades when we were embracing the status quo, and business was emerging as a triumphant force.

Q: How did you select and organize the articles in the book?

Brewer: We had tons of great material, but really wanted pieces that related to the changing world at the time, not evergreen pieces. This is a book for business audiences and organizational leaders, so we focused on articles that showed how historic events and crises eventually became business problems.

Q: Did you consider a chronological format that would follow the arc of change?

Brewer: Yes, but [co-editor Barb Sanford and I] thought that the themes were more important than the chronology. Plus, many things happened simultaneously on different levels. We focused on these general themes: global, leadership, management, and marketing.

Q: What do you want readers to take away from this book after reading it?

Brewer: I want them to understand that the changes of the first decade of the 21st century were profound, and that we are never going back to the way things were before. We will no longer look at the past in the same way. We may seek insights on how to move forward—we can learn from the past, but we will never repeat it.

Q: Were there any surprises for you in editing the book?

Brewer: One that really blew me away was how much I missed at the time. For example, I wrote the headline for an interview we were publishing on June 14, 2007, with Gallup Chief Economist Dennis Jacobe. I titled it “The Subprime Meltdown Will Burn Everyone.”

I was no genius; I just thought it made a good headline. When I wrote it, I barely understood what a subprime mortgage was. But now, it seems prescient. It wasn’t. I wrote the headline, and moved on to the next thing. I had just edited an article that gave chapter and verse for some pretty dire predictions—read it with my own eyes—but did not recognize its import.

Q: In “Global Migration Patterns and Job Creation,” Gallup CEO Jim Clifton reveals “one of the single biggest discoveries Gallup has ever made… What the whole world wants is a ‘good job.'” What is the significance of this discovery for CEOs and managers everywhere?

Brewer: That finding, compared with some of the other changes writers discuss in the book, represents a shift in our