Feb 9, 2023 5 min read

Birds on the Cover?

The book is done! The journey here was a true slow lane effort. And yes, I still love the birds. Here is how they got onto the cover!

Birds on the Cover?

“Thank you.”

It has been an incredible journey to get here, and now The Slow Lane book is complete. You can even pre-order it. And I am back to writing!

In her beautiful foreword to The Slow Lane, Anne-Marie Slaughter, the CEO of New America wrote, “I plan to put the lessons of this book to use immediately, in my personal and professional relations. Perhaps I will be more effective in bringing about changes I would like to see at home, in my workplace, or in the work I hope to see done in the world.” And Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, wrote that The Slow Lane is “A must-read for anyone dedicated to sustaining real, positive change on every level”.

I hope that you, too, will enjoy the book. Completing it, to the end, was truly a slowlane effort. Over a hundred readers helped me develop the title “The Slow Lane”, and the best tagline “Why Quick Fixes Fail And How to Achieve Real Change”. Then, together with our production manager Ashley Ingram and designer Frances Baca we developed the cover over six rounds of consultations, collecting ideas and feedback from hundreds of people who care about the book.

It was a fitting finale, since writing the book had been such an extraordinary process. It started out as an idea during my Fellowship at New America, then I just did it, writing the first draft as a weekly series of posts, engaging in real-time conversations with readers and colleagues. Then, with the guidance of Steve Piersanti, my amazing editor at (and founder of) Berrett-Koehler publishers, things came together into a real book. The result is a beautiful book, easier to read, and sharpened in its recommendations on how you and everyone can contribute to meaningful change. At home, in a movement, in society, in government, and in business.

What's with the birds?

One recurring point of conversation has been my use of images throughout. Everyone kept asking me: Why are you posting images of birds with the Slow Lane? Now, that they have made it to the cover of the book, too, (instead of a protected bike lane as so many of my friends on LinkedIn demanded), I feel, I owe you a small explanation.

When I started to write about the Slow Lane, I was looking for something to visualize its shape. After all, it is made up of millions of movements for social change. Images of roads, lanes, or highways seemed wrong, not just because I am not a friend of cars, but because the Slow Lane isn’t organized in that way. It is not that millions of movements are heading in the same direction, following someone or something.

I looked at galaxies. In fact, I found beautiful images of the Milky Way. I liked that these images came close to the scale I was writing about, with literally millions of stars in an image. But readers couldn’t make sense of this, it was simply confusing. After all, the Slow Lane isn’t about astronomy or astrology (cosmic time is a whole genre to itself!). That brought me to swarms of insects, and ultimately, I settled on flocks of birds. I love that they travel in gigantic numbers, forming functional (and beautiful) shapes. And yet, with birds, there is no one leader in charge. That seemed to capture not just all Slow Lane movements together, but each movement on its own. And the extraordinary result of this leaderless collaboration is that these birds migrate to safety, find food, and protect one another.

In some cases, I used images of a single bird, or nesting, or birds on a power line to signal emotions like solitude, pensiveness, care, or scale.

Like any visual metaphor, let's not labor this any further. I am not an ornithologist and not certain that the way flocks actually work (there is a lot of hunting, warning, fighting off enemies going on) has much to do with how real change comes about. These images are just a cue, to trigger an emotion alongside the stories, and create a moment of curiosity. They represent the workings of scale, care, collaboration, expression, imagination and shared leadership in The Slow Lane.

With this post, I am back to more regular postings and welcome your ideas! Note, that if you are subscribed, you can now comment on my posts or simply reply to my mails to be in touch. Or use this form.

Please take a look at The Slow Lane: Why Quick Fixes Fail And How to Achieve Real Change. Any ideas for collaborations, talks, conversations or further stories are welcome!

Welcome back, to The Slow Lane!

Sascha Haselmayer
Sascha Haselmayer
I am a social entrepreneur and author. I also work for Ashoka, where I help realize our vision of a world in which everyone feels invited and capable of making a contribution.
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