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Not Doing

Not Doing
The Art of Effortless Action

First Edition
  • Diana Renner - Director, Uncharted Leadership Institute, Melbourne, Australia
  • Steven D’Souza - Associate Fellow of Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.

July 2018 | 288 pages | SAGE Response

In a world of constant busyness and striving, Not Doing: The Art of Effortless Action is an antidote to a narrow view about how we get things done. Rather than push, control or work harder, this book proposes that we go with, rather than against the flow, working in harmony with the natural energy around us. By effortlessly adapting to the environment, like the river that wends its way from spring to ocean, we can discover a new way of living, working and succeeding, so that our actions can sustain us, our organizations and our environment for generations to come.

Foreword Margaret Heffernan
Part I – Not Doing
Chapter 1 – The Flow of Things
A Reframing of Not Doing

The Adventurer – Follow the Current

The Aikido Instructor – Efficiency of Action

The River Keeper – Connecting With Nature’s Energy

Part II – The Dysfunctions of Doing
Chapter 2 – Obsessive Doing
Crazy Busy

Clock as Lock

Joyless Urgency

Doing to Control

I Am What I Do

Chapter 3 – Why We Do What We Do
Paid To Do, Not To Think

Expectations – The Demands of the World

The Fear of Insignificance

Fomo – The 21st Century Challenge


Part III – Negative Capabilities
Chapter 4 – Let the Mud Settle

Create Space


The Sound Of Silence



Deep Listening



Chapter 5 – Let Go Of the Shore
Step Back

Let Go

Unlearn the Doing Instinct

Get Out Of The Way

Being There

Refrain from Reacting

Yield to Overcome

Say No

Less Is More

Chapter 6 – The River Knows Its Destination
Follow the Current


Let Things Emerge

Active Surrender

Stillness within Action

Embodied Action

Build Creative Capacity

Be Water

Wu Wei

Do Nothing

Chapter 7 – Beautiful Action




“Are you overwhelmed with busyness? See no way out from constant stressing and striving? These authors have a prescription for you—Not Doing. That doesn’t mean sitting back and letting life happen to you. Instead, it means something both bolder and more inspiring: Working with the energy of the situation, in tune with the environment, in a way that makes the best use of your limited resources. Try NOT DOING. It may be the best thing you’ve never done.”

Daniel Pink,
Author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

“In a frenetic and overextended world, Diana Renner and Steven D’Souza remind us that there is another way. Not Doing is a clarion call urging us to take action in a way that is sustainable as well as effective.”

Dorie Clark,
Author of Entrepreneurial You and Stand Out

“Reading this book offered a tremendous opportunity for self-reflection and self-questioning. It provides much stimulus to think about yourself and others you love and care for in a new and enriching way.”


Anna Simioni,
Executive Director, The Boston Consulting Group

“Not Doing is a book that can help minimise effort. It encourages letting things be and also letting things come, rather than over-striving.” 

Jonathan Gosling,
Emeritus Professor of Leadership, University of Exeter; Visiting Professor, School of Philosophy, Renmin People’s University, Beijing, China

“Many leaders today are sensing that, despite working hard, something is not right. Globalisation, digital technologies such as automation and AI, and pressures to find new sources of profitable growth are causing many leaders to work faster – but in many cases not creating the right outcomes. This book recognises these challenges and approaches them from what could be a non-intuitive perspective. Full of case studies, research and perspectives, it guides the reader to stop, step back and review how they are living their life. I can recommend it to anyone whose foot is hard down on the accelerator and feels that something is unsustainable.” 

Dr Andrew White,
Associate Dean for Executive Education, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

“Reading this book offered a tremendous opportunity for selfreflection and self-questioning. It provides much stimulus to think about yourself and others you love and care for in a new and enriching way.” 

Anna Simioni,
Executive Director, The Boston Consulting Group

“Being busy is not the same thing as being effective. Renner and D’Souza show how to stop pushing against immoveable objects and start achieving more by ‘doing’ less.” 

David Burkus,
Author of Friend of a Friend and Under New Management

“Not Doing nourishes the mind and the heart. It’s said that our personal life affects work. It’s also true that our relationship with work affects our relationships. Renner and D’Souza posit, ‘As goes work, so goes your life.’ If you want both to work, disrupt yourself and do less, not more.” 

Whitney Johnson,
Author of Disrupt Yourself, Thinkers50 Management Thinker, Exec and Performance Coach

“A truly inspirational insight into the art of Not Doing, which took me on a journey of learning and self-reflection both spiritually and practically. This book is a genuine must read for all who want to be the best version of themselves, are striving to achieve real success or looking to achieve true life balance and lasting happiness. Steven and Diana’s words will resonate whether you are a CEO, business leader or just starting your career, as well as with all of us who continue to dream big every day.” 

Sue Henley,
EMEA Head of Talent Development, Education and Diversity, CA Technologies

“As most leaders of organizations navigate their way through overwhelming digital, market and societal complexity, Not Doing helps simplify and de-code key human traits that we have forgotten or become less aware of, in the pursuit of a ‘greater good’. I found myself profoundly moved reading this book, which blends reality, poetry and rich metaphorical examples from people’s lives. Renner and D’Souza have written a beautifully thoughtful book – this is now a must read for my leadership team.” 

Rafat Malik,
Vice President, Dean of The Saudi Telecom Company Academy

Diana Renner

Diana Renner is a consultant, teacher and writer. As the di - rector and co-founder of the Uncharted Leadership Institute and the creator of Not Knowing Lab, Diana helps individuals and organizations navigate uncertainty and make progress on complex challenges. She has taught with Harvard University, The University of Texas at Austin, and universities across Australia. Diana is the co-author of Not Knowing, which was named 2015 Book of the Year by the Chartered Management Institute in the U.K. She lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and two children. She can be contacted at: More About Author

Steven D’Souza

Steven D’Souza is an international consultant,best selling author, educator, executive coach and experienced keynote speaker. He is the Director of Deeper Learning Ltd, an Adjunct Professor at IE Business School, Madrid, an Associate Fellow of the Said Business School, University of Oxford and a Leadership Consultant and Coach at INSEAD. He has authored or coauthored four books: Made in Britain, Brilliant Networking, Not Knowing, which won the CMI Management Book of the Year in 2015, and Not Doing. He has been listed on the Thinkers 50 Radar and HR Magazine’s top 30 ‘Most Influential’ list globally. He can be contacted at: steven... More About Author

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ISBN: 9789352807420