Saving the World at Work by Tim Sanders – Book Review

Tim Sanders first wrote about love in Love Is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends. The moral: get ahead at work by being a lovecat. It was one of the first business books I ever reread, and I still keep it on my desk.

Then he switched to being well liked in The Likeability Factor: How to Boost Your L-Factor and Achieve Your Life’s Dreams. The moral: being likable is a great way to get along better in life. It’s a good read, though perhaps a little more conventional and very Gladwell-esque once Gladwell became a household (or at least office) name to the point where you didn’t even need to mention his first name (Malcolm).

Now he’s on to saving the world in Saving the World at Work. The moral: any individual can be an agent of change at the workplace, and any workplace can be an agent of change in the world.

Sanders continues to be accessible, writing with memorable anecdotes and providing concrete steps for taking action. It’s not just some do-gooders’ guide; as a business book, he makes a case why environmental sustainability is a do-or-die cause businesses must take part in to retain and attract both employees and consumers.

Part One of Saving the World describes the five phases of business revolutions:

  1. Circumstances change
  2. A new values system arises
  3. Innovators arrive
  4. Disruption ensues
  5. A new order arises

He applies these to other phenomena, such as the quality revolution that took hold mostly in the 1970s and 80s. As for sustainability, we’ve basically experienced the first two phases and the the next two are hitting (it gets a little messy so it’s not all perfeclty linear).

Part Two lists the Six Laws of the Saver Soldier – you know, the people who are actually doing the whole world-saving thing. Yes, it’s a little hokey. I was reluctant to read the Love book because of the whole lovecat thing. This time around, the term’s a little too militaristic for my tastes. Still, it’s all good advice here, and it’s the part of the book centered on helping people get ahead, and not just relating to sustainability. For instance, the first law, The Law of the Ledger, states that everything one does at work must have a positive impact on the company’s bottom line.

Finally, in Part Three, he lists actionable steps people and companies can take to improve one’s workplace for everyone in it (mentor coworkers and partners, provide natural light, share your network), build greater bonds between your company and the community where it operates (sponsor community organizations, offer your office as a meeting place, buy local), and then save the planet (print less, recycle, and green up partners, products, and buildings).

The anecdotes may be the best part of the book. For instance, he describes the partnership between Timberland and the City Year service corps. While I knew nothing about City Year, I wound up meeting several people connected with them while covering the ServiceNation Summit last week (in the Flickr slideshow, you’ll see several photos of Usher against a City Year backdrop). The book then became a fun topic of discussion (so it’s clear, I was reading a pre-release galley of the book; it’s also possible some things changed between my review of this galley and the book’s publication this week).

Tim’s books have a way of being conversation starters. When I was reading Love in advance of interviewing him, it led to a discussion about the book with a Starbucks barista. Maybe this one’ll lead to a few conversations that wound up saving the world.