charles handyFor a few months now I have been espousing a concept called “New Collaborative Enterprises“, as the basis for a radical, post-capitalist society. The idea is to create a new economy based on small self-selecting partnerships of people with unique and complementary skills, who would work for their mutual benefit as absolute peers. Now I discover that one of the very first ‘management gurus’, Charles Handy, has been calling for something like this for fifteen years.

Strategy+Business magazine has just published a comprehensive bio of Handy (requires free registration to view — well worth the effort) written by Lawrence Fisher, a technology writer for the New York Times. Handy calls for the creation of “villages of like-minded individuals, bound by a common purpose and managed by reciprocal trust.”

For many years, Handy, who had spent most of his life in business management (with Shell) in the UK, and teaching it at the London Business School, delivered his thoughts on BBC’s three-minute morning show Thought for the Day. These thoughts were published in 1992 as Waiting for the Mountain to Move and Other Reflections on Life.

By that time Handy had rebelled against the increasing pervasiveness of the cult of efficiency in business, and began to espouse a new humanistic vision of business in The Age of Unreason (1989) ó its title taken from a George Bernard Shaw observation that all progress depends on unreasonable people, for they are the ones who try to change the world, while reasonable people simply adapt to it.

The sequel, The Age of Paradox (1994), according to Fisher, “has a more wary tone. Chapter One is titled ‘We Are Not Where We Hoped to Be,’ and subtitled ‘It Doesnít Make Sense.’ In essence, this book concedes that socioeconomic change has proceeded at an even faster and more deranging pace than the author had anticipated, creating a world full of paradox. Technology has increased wealth and consumption among a few while reducing employment and incomes for many. Opportunities for personal fulfillment are complicated by demands for ever-greater efficiency, and the new freedom to pursue more flexible lifestyles that account for our personal and professional lives only increases the inequities between the skilled or talented haves and the less fortunate have-nots. Mr. Handy returns in The Age of Paradox to the notion of the village, here called the Existential Enterprise, which he suggests should better serve a host of constituencies ó employees, neighbors, customers ó as well as shareholders.”

Handy explores these concepts further in The Hungry Spirit: Beyond Capitalism — A Quest for Purpose in the Modern World (1997). Critics, says Fisher, “were not kind to the book, with some suggesting that it was disingenuous for a person of Handyís affluence to say that money is a means, not an end, and others accusing him of being anticapitalist. Handy says he felt stung and misunderstood.”

In his recent works, Handy has called for employees to shake off their shackles and use their skills to their own advantage, rather than for the advantage of increasingly indifferent employers. “Figure out what you like to do and who will pay for it, and be a vendor to the elephants, rather than their employee”, he says in The Elephant and the Flea: Looking Backwards to the Future (2001). ìIt is a much more satisfying, adult-to-adult, relationship, versus being an employee, which is always child-to-never-satisfied-parent.î Handy says the existing hierarchical, paternalistic business model makes most employees feel that could not negotiate such a relationship, and hence feel dependent (like children) on corporations to employ them. He says those people underestimate their value and their worth in today’s economy, as a result of their own diminished self-worth. They need to look more closely at their own abilities, he says, and need more training in entrepreneurship.

In a conversation with Fisher, Handy said “The whole notion of shareholders as owners of the company is an outdated fiction. Most shareholders never put any money into the company; they simply trade shares with other traders. They deserve a return on investment, but not a say in how the company is managed or the power to sell it to would-be acquirers. That power should reside with the founders and the staff members: the community.” I almost did cartwheels when I read this. This is precisely what I was saying in my prescription for New Collaborative Enterprises. To hear such a venerated business expert say this is wonderful news.

Handy told Fisher he knows this model may be a long time coming, but he says he is just as certain that the current model is no longer sustainable. ìMy solutions are far too radical for the short term,î he says. ìThe idea that the ownership models of companies have got to be abandoned in favor of community models sounds mad. But I sincerely believe that it will come to that within 20 years.”

I think that’s a perfect time horizon — one generation to render the old order obsolete by building a new and better one in its midst. I’ll be rushing out tomorrow to buy as many of Handy’s books as I can find, but I fully expect my next career, starting in 5-10 years, will be helping as many people as possible to realize Handy’s vision — and mine — to create a new economy based on small mutually-caring enterprises instead of huge mindless and uncaring corporations, on self-sufficient ‘villages’ of people making a living together producing something valuable, useful, meaningful, of high-quality and customized to the individual user’s needs, instead of rapacious, polluting enterprises trying to maximize profit and minimize what they give back.

Stay tuned to the ‘business’ category of How to Save the World. I’ll be blogging more on Handy’s prescription as I read, and might even produce a ‘handbook’ on how to be a New Collaborative / Existential Enterprise pioneer. Important ideas coming together.

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  1. Nui says:

    Hi, I’m a new reader to your blog. I’m with a course in the McLuhan Program of the University of Toronto. We’re studying how media affects our minds and society, and blogs are the focal point of practice and discussion.I have a couple of Handy’s books on my shelf. Look forward to reading your blog on Handy’s work. This idea of companies owned by the community is not so new, maybe not so popular, but not new and actually already exists in reality. Just wanted you to know that a couple of NGOs in Thailand actually implement the concept, some of them are rice-growing communities. My interest in them dates some five years ago, don’t know how they are doing now, will look them up when I go back to visit. I’ve been inspired by the weblogging phenomenum, and am studying it also with the purpose to see how it can be used to set up what you call New Collaborative Enterprise. We don’t have to wait 20 years, let’s focus on empowering the soon to be 20 years old generation, and you’d be surprised what can be done, and the internet somehow makes things happen incredibly faster!

  2. Dave Pollard says:

    Nui: I’m very impressed with your blog — you offer some great new perspectives on communication and culture. I also appreciate your enthusiasm and agree that we can’t wait 20 years, we have to (as Gandhi said) ‘Be The Change’, so that we’re catalysts and enablers of it.

  3. Michael J. says:

    I posted a lot of reference links to cooperative enterprise structures on my blog in July. Just pointed to this entry. Thanks for the pointer.

  4. Evan says:

    Dave, thanks for this post, I’m headed for the library and I think I’m going to like this Charles Handy fellow very much.The poet David Whyte, who does seminars on creativity in the corporate world, said something once about corporations that I found very striking. I’m paraphrasing, but it was something like this: You have to make a profit, it’s like the in-breath and out-breath of the organization, and so you arrange for there to be profit just as you arrange to be able to breathe, but there doesn’t have to be this obsessive fixation on profit, any more than breathing is the purpose of your life.I found that a rather radical concept, and it prompted me to look at corporations with a new perspective, and I realized that the story we’ve been told forever about the purpose of corporations being to earn a profit for the shareholders is absurd. That’s merely one of its functions; it’s not the reason any company *exists*. It exists and persists because its founders and staff wanted something interesting and lucrative to do; the instant they no longer wanted that, the company would cease to be.So, like you, I wholeheartedly agree with Handy that shareholders shouldn’t have a say in the running of the company. Running things that way is what creates this bizarre value inversion that makes the shareholders’ interests the only organizing principle of the company. Wonderful to see someone with credentials like his saying so.Metaphorically: The beekeepers are welcome to take away the excess honey, but they shouldn’t be telling the bees how to make it.

  5. Indigo Ocean says:

    If you’ve been reading my blog lately you’ll see that things are really moving along with the efforts of my friends and I to form our healthy village, a “[village] of like-minded individuals, bound by a common purpose and managed by reciprocal trust.” We have been blessed at every turn, something which signals to me that what we are doing is in alignment with the general current of the coming changes. I will stay tuned to the business angle you present on this Dave and I hope you will be able to stay tuned to the housing angle presented on my blog. Thanks for the great links too.

  6. Jon Husband says:

    Charles Handy and David Whyte have been two of the most impoortant influences on my thinking about organizations and work for the last fifteen years or so, and have contributed mightily to my development of a severe “allergic reaction” to the management consulting career I had. I found myself nolonger capable of selling and trying to implement the firms’ “solutions”, and I have long struggled with my inarticulate and inchoate attempts to bring these ideas into some form of awareness in my practice as an independent, and with clients.I see their ideas as “common sense”, set against a structural backdrop that reinforces power and dependence.I had the immense good fortune to participate in several “master classes” with Charles in London in 1992 – just ten of us in a room with him for five days. For someone passionate about human systems and the reasons why and how we work, it was like going to a long and very good concert. I was buzzing for days, and it was one of the catalysts that started me on the path of disliking the assumptions and concepts found in the then-and-still current tools for organizational design and development. And their ideas have also played a large part in my continuing to try to develop the (IMO) inherently democratic concepts I have been trying to articulate with “wirearchy”.All of the books by both authors I have found invariably thoughtful, well-written and inspiring.

  7. Dave Pollard says:

    Jon: I’m jealous — you’ve met with him personally. I went to that &$%#%* Chapters Indigo superstore last night and they had a whole row display of looney-tune Coulter’s book and several books by equally-loony O’Reilly, but nothing by Handy, Daly, Jensen, Lovelock, Monbriot, Merkel, Kozol, Wm Strauss, or even Canadian left-winger Michael Adams. Very strong right-wing bias by this company that owns all 4 of the biggest book chains in Canada. So I’m back to buying from indy McNally Robinson over the Internet.

  8. Steve says:

    People are greedy. Isn’t that the post in the middle of the room that we must dance around? The system in place was shaped by greed and is supported by greed. People aren’t about to stop their greedy ways. How would a new system break that hold and satisfy that greed?

  9. Dave Pollard says:

    Steve: People in our culture are greedy. People in most other human cultures, past and present, are not — they were/are invariably content to be hunter-gatherers and work just hard enough (about an hour or two a day) to get what they need to survive comfortably. Our culture (read this article by Jared Diamond to see what I mean) somehow got disconnected, after the invention of agriculture and animal domestication for food, from the rest of nature, got paranoid about scarcity, and since then war, greed and the whole damn thing has been the result. I don’t think humans by nature are greedy — we just need to rediscover our true nature by reconnecting to the rest of the interconnected organism that is our Earth.

  10. Indigo Ocean says:

    I agree wholeheartedly, Dave. By reconnecting organically with a healty system (the Earth) that is going to be dominant in our lives whether we embrace it, ignore it, or fight against it anyway, we will be able to make the most out of our existence on this planet. Greed does not exist when people feel connected and secure within that connection. Greed grows when people feel vulnerable, generally because they feel separate from a protective and loving society that values you by virtue of who they are, not by virtue of anything they have to do or accomplish. We can cure greed. The way to do it lies within reaffirming our sense of connection to one another and reaffirming the importance of loving relationship in how we deal with even the greediest among us – they are the ones most needing love and the most dangerous in not receiving it. They need tough love, wherein the intent is entirely for their good and that of all others, but honesty is rigorously applied even if they don’t want to face the truth. It is hard work, but work that I have successfully done with ex-convicts to reintegrate them into society. It can be done with the wealthy just a successfully. They too must be helped to overcome their savagery and be reintegrated into a civil society.

  11. Nui says:

    Indigo Ocean, well said, sometimes it is also language that binds us to destructive patterns, or maybe the values we invest into our language. Greed can be positve when we are hungry and starving, wouldn’t you say it might just save our lives? But when we are not starving, we must learn to let go of greed and transform it into more useful purposes. Getting rich also is not bad because it give us more means to help the world, it’s when we’re rich and don’t try to help the world is when it is negative.Dave, thank you for visiting my blog, as a new blogger that really means a lot to me.About Handy, I like the part where you highlighted Handy’s view about emloyer-employee relationship, thought it was a pretty original way to describe the relationship, but strikes straight to the heart of the issue. Left that kind of relationship myself some 6 years ago, and in that process, am re-“valuing” myself. I’ve studied economics, and feel that it is limited and limiting tool to address today’s problems. With, Handy’s method of “unreason”, I feel that the issue of unemployment and income is being looked at from a wrong angle. Statistically (an economic tool, which can be improved upon in many ways), there seems to be unemployment, because statistics cannot capture properly the picture of people who have re-defined their priorities and values in non-economic terms, and a large part of the society is moving towards these intangible, unmeasurable ways of earning their living. Of course, there are serious unemployment issues, but we might deal with it in a more empowered way if we were able to see it in a wider context.I see that you are passionate about “New Collaborative Enterprise”, and Handy (and the insight about Indigo was useful too). May I dare to suggest, wouldn’t it be great to have Handy blogging as well, or at least join in this discussion? Maybe our friend, Jon, who has met him could help make that a reality. Maybe a wiki could be a way to get the discussion out there faster, and in a joint effort. Could I also suggest Joi Ito’s way for his discussion on Emergent Democray as an interesting alternative to starting something going on for “New Collaborative Enterprise”?ps. I also appreciate “what the blogosphere wants more of”, thanks again.

  12. DaveNot entirely on the same lines but it may be worth taking a look at Beyond Branding and Mutual Marketing and also Brand Activism. The concerns here are very similar (though not identical) to your own and that of Handy and seek to move to a mutual future where brands (companies) are sustainable by being at one with their stakeholders. The idea of the new collaborative enterprise seems to me to be within their thinking.

  13. Ton Zijlstra says:

    Hi Dave,your post resonates with a lot of stuff that’s been going around my mind in the last year or so. I’m increasingly convinced that the fact that most organisations no longer are solely in control of their own success, but dependent on others will have to lead to organisations working in groups/packs to achieve their goals. This is already a more community-like way of operating, in stead of “us against the world” which is now mostly the norm. (even though we also see a move in the opposite direction in the creation of megacorps/dinosaurs to achieve the seem thing: one organisation trying to incorporate everything into itself and its control structure)Also when I look at facilitating knowledge workers, a view of the company as a subset of relations between a number of individuals, who also have their relations outside the organisation, yields much more interesting results regarding e.g. learning, value-creation and trust than viewing the organisation as a monolith containing a bunch of processes (codified grids of relations?) leaving people out of the equation. Paul Goodison mentioned Beyond Branding (whose authors are a bunch of very intriguing people by the way, and great to spend time with!) which deals with look-alike issues.Combine this with aspects like, as you say individuals seeking to sell their way of working and skills, as opposed to fitting a predefined slot in a process. Or shifts like everybody being able to become a producer of media (blogging) instead of only consuming them. In the end such individualisation will have to result in willful community building, imho. (as opposed to ‘forced’ community building by geographical, natural or economic constraints), making communities the firstmost type of organisation likely to succeed.To explore further the relation between community-building and the creation of value I’m actively involved in a LETS-system, where trustbased transactions take place without money changing hands. The problems there to keep the system going are all in the area of trust, troubled relationships, conflict and anonymity.For most of my thoughts on this I’m sometimes labeled an idealist, even though I tend to regard myself more as a conservative. I only try to look to what doesn’t seem to work (anymore) and ways of how we can change that without compounding the errors we made earlier.

  14. Nui says:

    Ton Zijlstra, tried linking through your name, couldn’t get a contact point. Would be interested to discuss about your experience with LETS, one of the communities in Thailand I observed for a short while was a pilot project to put community currency into practice. Pls email me, Thanks.

  15. Tim Kitchin says:

    Thanks to Paul Goodison for pointing me here.I agree that we will see a disintegration of business constructs where stakeholders interests are obscured or misrepresented, and where the means for resolving conflicts are enforced rather than negotiated.I hadn’t yet read Charles Handy’s book, nor this blog. At the risk of preaching to the converted it’s wonderful and important stuff…Haven’t got the hang of including links in here yet, but I’ll be exploring everyoine else’s.

  16. Dave Pollard says:

    Nui: Joi Ito’s Emergent Democracy wiki is a great summary of some of the issues, threats and possibilities of using new technology for or against democratic interest, but I find it rather unactionable. The idea of New Collaborative Enterprises is quite simple and down-to-Earth, and some past cultures (like medieval Europe with its guilds) would probably find it a no-brainer. But given today’s enormous power imbalance, and the sway of a handful of individuals and huge corporations, creating a new economy that operates with many small scale enterprises, working collaboratively, with no ‘absentee owners’, and then growing it so the old and unsustainable economy is undermined and ultimately abandoned, will take a huge amount of patience, work, and education. Handy’s 20-year transition is, in my view, the minimum period needed to achieve it. And remember it will be violently opposed by powerful moneyed interests who will see the risk ir presents to them.

  17. Dave Pollard says:

    Paul: Interesting approach, and the objective is worthwhile, but I think the Nike case (where they have sued for the right to lie to consumers about their social ‘responsibility’) shows that for most corporations it will be easier and more tempting to talk about being more responsive to human needs than actually do it.Ton: LETS sounds like an interesting ‘currency’ for building trust between New Collaborative Enterprises. It’s interesting, when you strip away money as the ‘language’ that completely defines business, it’s almost as if you need to invent a whole new humanistic business ‘language’ to explain the modus operandi of these new enterprises.Nui: You can find Ton Zylstra’s weblog on my blogroll at left.Tim: I’d like to believe that CSR (corporate social responsibility) can work, that the change can come from within existing business organizations, but I’m very skeptical. I’ve been part of CSR teams on and off for 25 years and haven’t yet seen one CSR program that has brought about enduring change. I don’t think you can change people’s behaviour. You need to just ignore corporate greed and irresponsibility (just like you ignore a child having a tantrum rather than getting into a shoting match); by setting up New Collaborative Enterprises that ‘wear their conscience on their sleeves’ (and stay small enough to be able to retain that conscience), you create a new model, and if enough people abandon the old model for the new (which requires them to put one or two things ahead of price in making their buying decisions), the old model will simply die. PS- I can’t show you the syntax for links here (because the system will take them literally and show them as links instead of displaying the syntax) but it involves using the ‘a href’ HTML tag, instructions for which you can find on any page that teaches HTML.

  18. Rob Paterson says:

    Hi Dave – great to bring up Charles Handy who has been a beacon for many years.I wanted to add 5 cents on the greed issue. Why are we greedy and many societies not?In the wortk I ma doing on how we raise our children one of the critical differences is that we have seem to have brought the corporate world home with us and have unattached relationships even objectified relationships with our small children. If you have missed the physical and emotional closeness that most traditional societies bring to their babies – maybe you will be hungry for it all your life?I am beginning to suspect that when we are treated as an object as a baby – we look to things to make us happy = we live a consumer life

  19. Tom Grey says:

    Dave I love the idealism here, but agree with you that CSR can’t work. Personally, I believe materialism can be viewed as a mental disease, with consumerism the symptom of the sickness — and yes, I’m infected. NCEs sound a bit like production oriented NGOs, no? The relation between big oppressive business, and big oppressive gov’t, has not yet been mentioned here, but is likely to be extremely relevant — most folks in power are greedy for more power; just like most who get rich are greedy to get more rich.Setting up an NCE should be your first step, to see what the real issues are — maybe with Hardy’s help (haven’t read his books yet). If you try or expect for a revolution, you can be certain that “leaders” of any successful revolution will be greedy for more leadership roles.But many, many folk are looking for more meaning in their life instead of forever money-grubbing to support mass consumption. Please remember that the POWER of shareowner capitalism is based on Kmart customers peacefully changing and becoming WalMart customers — for whatever reasons (usually lower price/ greed). A peaceful, voluntary evolutionary process is required if you want to have a peaceful, voluntary society. And virtually no gov’t actions are peaceful (OK, designating state birds is peaceful), law enforcement never is; justice systems are not peaceful. Neither is contract enforcement. So either you have a society which uses (state) force to enforce contracts (agreements); or you allow either side of an agreement to violate it with no forceful actions (for instance a commitment by the community to stop dealing with the welsher). So far only the first has resulted in civilization as we enjoy it.Good luck to all here. It’s as worthy a dream as going to the moon, and likely more valuable.

  20. Indigo Ocean says:

    Rob, I think you hit on a vitally important aspect of greed. I would round it out by saying there is lack of human connection and loving, unconditional relationship beginning in infancy and continuing on throughout life. I have fallen pray to that mentality in the past too. My family is very independence-minded and encouraged my sisters and I to get out of the house early, go to college, and live on our own. My little sister was never able to do any of that. For years many of us in the family (including her probably) secretly saw her as a failure because she was still living at home at 19, then at 21, then at 25! And she has been the most grossly materialistic one of us. She is completely obsesessed with buying things to enhance her naturally BEAUTIFUL appearance, wearing fake nails, high heel shoes for a walk in the park (which I of course am the one to invite her on, since she has no interest in “boring” nature), and so on. Everything that means anything to her involves buying something that she can show to others to represent her value. Only within the last year have I come to understand that not only has she needed to live at home, close to the security of our mother’s presence and getting free childcare so that her two kids are raised with far more caring attention than she could give them herself, but that this is okay. It is all right to need more love and receive it. It is all right to depend on other people. That is certainly better than going out to steal, cheat, extort, and grab for power and money with no ethical or moral constraints in a desperate attempt to “make it” when one lacks the abilities to do so in a healthy way. If anything I am now committed to trying to communicate to her that she has intrinsic value and doesn’t need to move out on her own to prove it. I think approval and acceptance will go further to undermining her materialism than any amount of disapproval ever will. I can finally come to this realization and response with herbecause I love her. She is part of my family. But this same loving acceptance needs to be extended to other people who we many not immediately view as family and who may not see themselves as part of a shared future either. Whether it is the conventional view or not, we are in fact all connected in the web of life. We are all family, and must learn to give love to each other freely and generously to lessen the perceived need to buy our respect or loving regard.Tom, I think it is useful to look at a smaller level while we in fact can only act at that personal level. The “revolution” begins with a group of people who live their lives differently from the norm of the old order. For example, if we are talking about a healthy community that is working together within a loving relationships that values (an is trained in) non-violent communication skills you aren’t going to need enforcement from outside. Law exists to protect us only once ethics and morality have broken down. It is only a first line of defense within a societal structure in which ethics and morality have been obliterated. The idea is to build a micro-system that doesn’t have that weakeness. Though some issues may come up with how outside forces impact the community, I think the overiding experience could be one of cooperation and communication to solve problems.

  21. Jon Husband says:

    Nobody – or actually hardly anyone – ever questions some basic assumptions we all live and work with and in, namely how we design work, the skeletal structure of organizations, and then the ways we “reward” people – the whole “compensation” issue. Salaries are meted out two weeks at a time, like the insulin or other mediacine drips that are put into our arms when necessary in a hospital, and the “carrot” of performance bonuses that make us re-frame (sometimes, or often senseless?) performance targets, and the “stick” of FIFO cultures (you guess what FIFO stands for !). The dependency this creates, the reinforcement of the Parent-Child model is clear, as opposed to movement towards and Adult-to-Adult. I wish I had the courage, and the articulateness, to issue a clear challenge to most smart people who act as consultants and advisors to corporations. Why are they paid so much (you know, the $250 – $700 per hour thing). Gee whiz. I’m almost ashamed that I worked as long as I did for a major compensation consulting firm. I can honestly say that when I started out, I didn’t know better. At least i didn’t stay because I was concerned about job security (I have often been concerned about economic security, but that’s a different story – I only have one life to live, and there are some beliefs I hold that I am NOT going to compromise).Handy’s book “Understanding Organizations” was elegant 25 years ago in its gentle but insistent explanation of where the fundamental assumptions came from, and its probing questioning of those assumptions. Honestly IMO not much has changed since, other than a real streamlining and stripping away of the “slack” (See David Weinberger’s eloquent expositions on this subject)we humans need to have in order to co-exist and co-operate.I have, in the appropriate company (meaning where I know I won’t be looked at as if I were a cross-dressing Martian), often called our era “the revenge of the cost accountants”. Spreadsheets and integrated IT systems have allowed us to calculate the nth degree of detail when it comes to cost, i,e, the cost differential between the red ink of the dots on an otherwise black ink business card, and so price the access to and use of everything so that the “slack” has been stripped from our current systems. This is most often in the service of monitoring the drumbeat of whther or not a company has met its previous-quarters guidance, so that the shareholders ‘ value is being maximized. And of course to maintain this, hordes of people are paid to talk and write on a daily basis about economic performance, enter data, count hours, verify information and otherwise explore the upper recesses of their colonic cavities.All the while our human systems, communities, self-respect, health, happiness, and so on are eroding. It isn’t what I understood the world would be like when I was a bright, curious, inquisitive, happy, eager, socially adept 8 year-old.Anyone here ever read David Korten’s “When Corporations Rule The World”? Is all this economic activity going on to better the effectiveness of our collective human system on Spaceship Earth, or are we the cowboys on the electronic frontier working to make the string of electronic zeros in a relatively few peoples’ (the ranch owners) bank accounts grow longer? No wonder “engagement” is a major issue on the workplace today.Charles Handy has made these arguments sing, time and again. I stand in deep admiration of him, and my “career” aspiration is to be a Little League version of this Major League MVP.

  22. Dave Pollard says:

    Rob: You’ve really defined the essence of what a ‘culture’ is, and how it subversively makes us over from what we are ‘naturally’ to frighteningly like everyone else. Present company excepted, of course ;-)Tom: Thanks for your kind words. The issue of greed is a critical one. I’m an eternal optimist and tend to believe that it’s uncertainty and stress that makes us greedy, like squirrels hoarding extra when there’s early snow, and that in a culture with greater equality and less excess there would be no ‘need for greed’. But I may be naive.Indigo: People who have studied the more intelligent ‘pack’ animals and birds suggest that those that behave unreasonably, defy the order and calm of the pack for no logical reason, don’t become the ‘Alphas’, but rather get ousted (or remove themselves!) from the pack. Alphas get selected quickly and with little violence and usually only when the old Alpha dies or withdraws (not what we are taught about ‘savage’ animals or shown on Fox ‘wild animal’ specials, which says something about the insecurity and arrogance of our culture). The reason this doesn’t happen in our culture is that, unlike ‘hunter-gatherer’ cultures, our tribes are enormous and we allow anyone in who doesn’t overtly violate certain arbitrary and arbitrarily-enforced ‘laws’. Small, self-selecting tribes (and NCEs) winnow out the greedy and others who are unwilling to cooperate and collaborate and help out the tribe. Big, impersonal social structures instead reward such behaviour, with obvious consequences for the rest of us.Jon: Elegantly put. The amazing perversity of our corporate value systems is that ‘costs’ (i.e. people) are squeezed out, and the managers that do so are rewarded, so the obscene ratio of CEO/line staff incomes is unprecedented in history. The way in which we ‘account’ for things perpetuates the system, and measures absolutely nothing meaningful, except to external banks and stock speculators, the group who should be the last ones we should be focusing on in making decisions, not the first. Alas, the way you get ‘engagement’ in such systems is to make them utterly political, to make the underpaid front line guy believe that if he works hard and does what he’s told and plays the game, he too could become the CEO and have more money than he knows what to do with, instead of not enough to live comfortably without stress. And I’ve read Korten’s work thinking it would be strident and it was extremely reasonable and if anything understated the situation.

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