Karl Krayer and I will soon complete our 13th full year of hosting the First Friday Book Synopsis. At each of our monthly meetings, Karl and I each present a synopsis of a best selling business book.
For nearly half that time, I have also presented synopses every month for the Urban Engagement Book Club for CitySquare (formerly Central Dallas Ministries). And just as people ask me about the best/most important business books, people also ask me about the best/most important social justice & poverty books.
Let me state the obvious – reading one book helps you a little, but reading a series of books, covering an important arena, builds a body of knowledge, and helps you know how to think, and then, what to do.
If social justice and poverty concern you, here’s a short list of books to put in your reading stack. Read these, and you will begin to build that body of knowledge.
|Read this book
|A comment, or two
|How to get started… Start here!
|The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
|Yes, that The Grapes of Wrath (1939). Just to grasp the human struggle of severe poverty. Everyone should read this in their adult years!
|To understand the plight of the working poor
|Nickel and Dimed On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich.
|Ehrenreich went “undercover” before Undercover Boss was ever conceived.
|To go a little deeper into the plight of the working poor
|The Working Poor: (Invisible in America) by David K. Shipler
|Shipler is a Pulitzer Prize winner – and this is gripping, and sad.
|To think about unequal education
|The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America by Jonathan Kozol
|Or – read his earlier book, Savage Inequalities. Actually, read this one first…
|So, what to do
|How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas by David Bornstein
|Comprehensive – helpful, useful!
To build optimism
The Power of Positive Deviance: How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World’s Toughest Problems by Richard T. Pascale, Jerry Sternin, Monique Sternin
Some encouraging success stories. The Sternins were used as a success story in the book Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.
Of course, there are many worthy, valuable books not listed here. If you compiled your own list, it would be different. But I think this is a pretty good list to start with.
Cheryl offers: On the front page of Sunday September 19’s New York Daily News and the Wall Street Journal was a picture of several women in Afghanistan. They were dressed in blue veils and garments to identify them as voting poll administrators. These women were there even though the Taliban had threatened to harm anyone participating in the voting process.” WOW” was all I could think as I stared at the picture. These are truly brave women! It occurred to me today as Randy Mayeux delivered a book synopsis of How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas by David Bornstein that the stories about Florence Nightingale in that book could also be about the women in this picture. You see, Florence didn’t listen to conventional wisdom nor heed warnings from others. She made history by following her passion about what she knew but couldn’t necessarily prove. She was one of those “obsessive people who have the skill, motivation, energy, and bullheadedness to do whatever is necessary to move them (new ideas) forward: to persuade, inspire, seduce, cajole, enlighten, touch hearts, alleviate fears, shift perceptions, articulate meanings and artfully maneuver through systems.” The only word missing from fully describing the Afghanistan women in that picture was courage; the kind of courage that inspires and motivates. None were likely named Florence, and yet they share more than a name – they share her spirit. WOW, am I lucky to have witnessed this!
We all keep wondering just what sets the most successful individuals above the rest. What do they do? Well, here is a principle that is clear. The most successful practice constant improvement. How do they do that?
#1 – they figure out just what needs to be improved – starting with self!
#2 – they work — specifically, intentionally, diligently — to make such improvement.
Here are two quotes to help us understand just how important this trait is:
“People with a high level of personal mastery are acutely aware of their ignorance, their incompetence, and their growth areas.” (Peter Senge)
“Because of their motivation, highly successful entrepreneurs are highly self-correcting. This may seem a simple point, but it cannot be overstated… The entrepreneur’s inclination to self-correct stems from the attachment to a goal.”
(David Bornstein, from How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas).
Your assignment is simple (not easy, but simple): first, figure out where you need to improve, what you need to correct. Then, start self-correcting.
“I asked Jeroo what she had learned from her work with Childline in India. She thought for a moment, then replied: “If I have to summarize it in one line, it would be, ‘Learning to let go.’ Everything will not be exactly the way you want it. You have to let people take charge. The best thing is not to have a picture of what you want, but to have basic principles… It happens because it has to happen. It is not because of me.”
(from How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas by David Bornstein).
There are a lot of ways that the world has changed. Here is a big one: you don’t always get what you want. And when you don’t you have to adapt – quickly. And, this is a perpetual practice—you have to adapt, and adapt again, and again…
I was recently revisiting the terrific book, How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas by David Bornstein. It is a book about social change, designed for the social sector – you know, the nonprofits that work diligently on issues of social justice. It is a rare “crossover” book for me, which I presented both at the First Friday Book Synopsis and the Urban Engagement Book Club – it has great wisdom for both audiences.
Here is what it says about entrepreneurs:
The Entrepreneur: the source of the “creative destruction” necessary for major economic advances; one who builds something (brand) new
• Here Are The Five Traits Of An Entrepreneur:
• An orientation to action, to risk, and to growth
• One with an “internal locus of control”
• One obsessively committed to change. They seek out and exploit change
• Highly, highly motivated… motivated more than confident, persistent, or knowledgeable
• Highly self-correcting
• And Here Are Six Qualities Of Social Entrepreneurs
1. Willingness to self-correct
2. Willingness to share credit
3. Willingness to break free of established structures
4. Willingness to cross disciplinary boundaries
5. Willingness to work quietly
6. Strong ethical impetus
All of these are important, but I especially like these two: a willingness to self-correct and a willingness to cross disciplinary boundaries. We live in a competitive environment that requires constant self-correction, and we have to constantly cross boundaries of all kinds. We work with everyone, and we learn from everywhere.
And maybe the key of all keys is this: the entrepreneur has an “internal locus of control.” Intrinsic motivation, motivation coming from within, with a “true north” to guide every decision and every action, really can change the world.
How To Change The World – it’s definitely worth a re-look.
To purchase my synopsis of How To Change the World, with audio + handout, go to 15minutebuseinssbooks.com.
“A few years ago, students came to business school thinking they would get rich right away,” Dartmouth’s Mr. Fairbrothers says. “But now, I think students are trying to focus on doing reasonably well while doing some good.”
This is the concluding paragraph in a Wall Street Journal article entitled: M.B.A.s Seek Social Change: Enterprises With a Cause Gain Ground on Campus.
There are two reasons given for this trend:
Some administrators say it’s a generational progression of business-school students who have grown up more socially aware. Others say a lack of traditional jobs has spurred an interest in entrepreneurial ventures—and the focus on societal impact is partly a matter of trying to escape the stigma of the “greedy M.B.A.”
What’s more, a for-profit enterprise with a socially responsible backbone is more attractive to nervous investors during economic turbulence than traditional business plans, argues Gregg Fairbrothers, director of Dartmouth College’s Entrepreneurial Network at the Tuck School of Business.
I find myself in the middle of this discussion, in a very personal way. I present (at least) two new book synopses every month: one is a business kook for the First Friday Book Synopsis, and the other is a book related to nonprofits/social justice/poverty at the Urban Engagement Book Club for Central Dallas Ministries. (If you live in the Dallas area, I invite you to attend. It is the first Thursday of each month. Read the details here). So I am constantly reading books that deal with business, and then others that deals with the concerns of the social sector. And the more I read, the more I sense that these worlds are coming closer together year by year.
Let me recommend a couple of titles that describe the great human problems, and the attempts made by increasingly innovative nonprofits and foundations to alleviate such human need, even while seeking to build business capacity.
The first title we might label as one of many good books that help us understand “the problem” (this one dealing with the working poor in our own country).
The Working Poor: (Invisible in America)
New York: Alfred A. Knopf. David K. Shipler (2004)
Here’s a key quote:
Most of the people I write about in this book do not have the luxury of rage. They are caught in exhausting struggles. Their wages do not lift them far enough from poverty to improve their lives, and their lives, in turn hold them back. The term by which they are usually described, “working poor,” should be an oxymoron. Nobody who works hard should be poor in America.
And this book might be one that you can put in the category of “solution:”
How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas
Oxford University Press. David Bornstein (2004)
Here are a couple of key quotes:
Social entrepreneurs have a profound effect on society, yet their corrective function remains poorly understood and underappreciated. Although they have always existed, for a variety of reasons their presence is on the rise today.
This book sees social entrepreneurs as transformative forces: people with new ideas to address major problems who are relentless in the pursuit of their visions, people who simply will not take “no” for an answer, who will not give up until they have spread their ideas as far as they possibly can.
If I learned one thing from writing this book, it is that people who solve problems must somehow first arrive at the belief that they can solve problems. This belief does not emerge suddenly. The capacity to cause change grows in an individual over time as small-scale efforts lead gradually to larger ones. But the process needs a beginning – a story, an example, an early taste of success – something along the way that helps a person form the belief that it is possible to make the world a better place. Those who act on that belief spread it to others. They are highly contagious. Their stories must be told.
I hope you will check out these books. And I add my voice to say: I think that it is an encouraging sign that MBA students are considering the social sector as they consider how to invest the years of their lives.