Foreword Reviews

The Journey of Not Knowing

How 21st Century Leaders Can Chart a Course Where There Is None

2016 INDIES Winner
Silver, Business & Economics (Adult Nonfiction)

Clarion Rating: 5 out of 5

The Journey of Not Knowing beautifully breaks the business book mold and should be required reading for leaders.

Julie Benezet’s The Journey of Not Knowing uses a cleverly constructed parable to demonstrate how to navigate business uncertainty.

In modern business, one of the most significant challenges leaders face is moving an organization forward even when the answers to critical questions may be unknown. Coping with “not knowing” is the theme of Julie Benezet’s expertly written book.

Benezet, a former Amazon executive who now runs her own consulting firm, employs the creative technique of wrapping her advice around a fictional story about a company’s executives who must collectively answer tough questions from a prospective client if they are to win a prized account.

The use of a parable in a business book is not uncommon, but here, the author executes it flawlessly. Benezet’s story revolves around a leadership team at a fictional company, Arrow, Inc., comprising characters whose personalities, past lives, and related experiences emerge as the story unfolds.

The characters’ interactions under pressure seem plausible, and the manner in which the story progresses and reaches its conclusion has an authentic feel, much like a good novel. In particular, the journey of Barry Sanford, the company’s CEO and founder, demonstrates how leaders must face uncertainty as well as admit their own shortcomings along the path to success. The story has a happy ending, but not before it explores the conflicts among staff members and the interrelated complexities of leading a business.

The importance of the Arrow story is that it dramatically illustrates the “Core Four”—the four components of the “Journey of Not Knowing” model developed by the author. These components (Bigger Bets, The Risks of the Unknown, Hooks, and Drivers) are ingeniously woven throughout the narrative. Prior to the story of Arrow, Benezet introduces the components conceptually, and afterward, she explains the Core Four in detail, pointing to the parts of the story that relate to them.

The Journey of Not Knowing also includes a sketch of the author’s own experiences as head of global real estate for Amazon. This is a nice touch, providing a reality-based example that complements the book’s fictional story. It proves that Benezet isn’t just theorizing about business uncertainties—she has lived through them herself.

Given the overabundance of business leadership books, it is not easy to conceive of one that breaks the mold. The Journey of Not Knowing beautifully does that in two key respects: relating a relevant, contemporary story that is in itself well told and highly engaging, and addressing a common but rarely explored business challenge—facing the unknown—and offering a practical method for confronting it. The Journey of Not Knowing is an important book that should be required reading for today’s overwrought business leaders.

Reviewed by Barry Silverstein

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book and paid a small fee to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. Foreword Reviews and Clarion Reviews make no guarantee that the author will receive a positive review. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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