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The Journey of Not Knowing: How 21st-Century Leaders Can Chart a Course Where There Is None

Adult; Business & Personal Finance; (Market)

The Journey of Not Knowing is a fast paced, entertaining read that gets to the heart of a critical state in today’s business climate and society overall: the constantly changing, ambiguous 21st Century and the uncharted waters ahead. This book will inspire leaders of any size organization to come to grips with the scariness of the unknown while it advances a new approach to leadership that leverages the discomfort of the new as a powerful source of inspiration rather than a deterrent to building a better future.

Written by former Amazon executive, coach and lawyer Julie Benezet, the book combines storytelling, business experience and human psychology to create a roadmap through the ambiguity of building something better in the context of the realities of humans in organizational life.

The book tells a story of a day in the life at Arrow, Inc., a fictional company.  It follows the defended behaviors throughout that day of its eight very recognizable leadership team members as they work first to avoid and then finally to solve the mystery of why a client fired them. The reward of the discovery is a critical piece of new business and substantial personal growth. To get there, each of team members must face their past, present and future.  The memorable characters in the book are persons with whom the readers may cringingly identify.  The book creates a framework them to confront their own resistance to change, and tools to start them on their way toward pursuing new possibilities for their lives once they can confront and embrace the scariness of the unknown.

The author opens the book with a description of an experience at Amazon that led to her belief about leadership and the unknown.  It ends with a primer on the Journey of Not Knowing leadership model, using the Arrow story to illustrate its principles. 

The Journey of Not Knowing forms the core of a leadership program that been attended by executives from around the world over the past five years. (


Former Amazon executive Benezet’s book works as an effective pitch for the author’s consulting firm but has less to say about the future of business as a whole. The book begins with a brief look at Benezet’s career at Amazon, revealing how she handled difficult real estate acquisitions during the company’s early expansion. This section is the most relevant and clearly written explanation of Benezet’s argument that true leaders are comfortable with new challenges and even welcome their associated discomfort. Elsewhere, the book is light on practical details. A large portion is taken up by a short story, based on an amalgamation of true stories, about a company trying to land a much-needed contract. The drawback of this section is that, as a work of fiction, its happy ending is preordained. A reference to Nelson Mandela also strikes a dissonant note, since most of Benezet’s advice is aimed squarely at business leaders. The essential message for leaders—to embrace the unknown and get out of their own way—is a smart one, but readers might prefer it to be delivered with fewer quotations and buzzwords. (BookLife)
Kirkus Reviews

Benezet offers a management handbook geared toward the unconventional in the modern business world.

In her nonfiction debut, Benezet, a consultant and executive coach, takes an unusual approach to laying out a broad selection of business-manual maxims about flexible thinking, team building, and workplace productivity. A great portion of her book takes the form of stories about a fictional company called “Arrow, Inc.,” its bosses, and its employees. Her main topic is mapping the ways that individual behaviors and complex interactions can create blind spots and unanticipated “box canyons.” After an opening section, in which Benezet very amusingly tells some anecdotes from her years as a manager at, she addresses the problems that Arrow employees face in dealing with a particularly important client. It’s a risky tactic, as it shifts much of the book’s performance from the author’s skill at distilling business-world lessons from her own extensive experience to her talent for writing fiction. But it’s a choice that largely works, and readers will likely be interested in the Arrow workplace adventures. However, business students, who likely make up a significant part of the book’s target audience, may find the concluding sections more to their liking, as they revert to more standard management-handbook exposition. In those parts, Benezet makes crystalline sense; for example, she writes relatively early on that it’s more important than ever for managers to know themselves—to know, as she puts it, “who you are and for what you stand” in a world of shifting expectations and constantly looming unknowns. This idea is related to the “core drivers” of her book, concentrated in the “Core Four” components (“Bigger Bets,” “The Risks of the Unknown,” “Hooks,” and “Drivers”) that deal with “the relationship between leadership and the unknown,” which she explains in a later section. In her explorations of these components, Benezet is at her most authoritative. 

A largely involving story-oriented breakdown of how to chart a steady managerial course in uncharted territory.