The Three Pillars of Society

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In his latest book, Henry Mintzberg describes how our society has become imbalanced due to a lack of consistent and equal support from the three crucial pillars of society.

Below, Henry described what each of these pillars does and what happens if it exerts too much or too little influence.

Pillar 1: 
What is it? The Public Sector—governments in all their forms

What is it responsible for? Many things—more than some people care to realize. But mainly protections, for example policing and regulating.

What happens if there’s too much emphasis on it? That’s called communism (or for some people, government in any form). Governments can be crude: too much government leads to a cold, crude, bureaucratic society.

What happens if there’s not enough of it? People lack protections, private forces run rampant. If you live in America, look around.

Pillar 2: 
What is it? The Private Sector—businesses in all their forms.

What is it responsible for? Providing us with many of out basic goods and some of our necessary services, but not for lobbying, not for bribing politicians with political donations, not for advertising to influence public policies, not for doing what governments have to do—at least not in any society that wishes to call itself democratic..

What happens if there’s too much emphasis on it? This describes the state that many countries are in today. Businesses can be crude; our societies are becoming increasingly crude.

What happens if there’s not enough of it? That’s what happened under communism: people lacked for many basic goods and services. They craved them, and so were desperate for capitalism. How many of those people have remained so?

Pillar 3: 
What is it? The Plural Sector, better known as civil society, the third sector, the not-for–profit sector, and other inadequate labels. It comprises all associations and organizations that are neither owned by the state nor by private investors. Some, like co-operatives, are owned by their members; many others are owned by no-one—Greenpeace, Harvard, etc. Some are associations but not organizations, namely social movements and social initiatives.

What is it responsible for? This sector serves many of our needs for affiliation, especially in communities. These days I believe that it had better take responsibility for getting us out of the mess that imbalance in favor of the private sector has put us into. For problems like global warming and income disparities, corporate social responsibility will not do it, nor will governments, so many of which are now co-opted or overwhelmed  by private forces. We shall have to rely on social movements and especially social initiatives to bring in new ways of dealing with our problems.

What happens if there’s too much emphasis on it? It becomes closed, society becomes closed—think of the Taliban, or of the New England witch hunts.

What happens if there’s not enough of it? Then we lack affiliations, and a capacity for the radical renewal that we require. A healthy society balances the power of its public, private, and plural sectors.


Why Be Happy? Here Are Five Reasons

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The book Sustainable Happiness shows what makes us truly happy are the depth of our relationships, the quality of our communities, the contribution we make through the work we do, and the renewal we receive from a thriving natural world.

But is there reason to be happy about what is going in the world? Are there signs that our communities and the work we are doing is really helping?

Yes, there are, and here are just five of these signs:

1. We use Social Media Better
While older generations may bicker and complain that the millennials are not "connected" to the world and aware, research published by the New York Times actually shows that millennials are more likely to use social media -- specifically Facebook and Twitter -- for news than any other generation of users. This means we are getting smarter quicker.

2. Medicine and health standards are improving very quickly.
Infant mortality is down about 50% since 1990 and we have significantly reduced the number of deaths from treatable diseases like measles and tuberculosis as well.

3.  There's a rapid decline in poverty worldwide.
Since 1981, the proportion of people living under the poverty line ($1.25 a day) has decreased by 65%. 721 million fewer people were living in poverty in 2010 than in 1981.

4.  There is a decrease in war.
We seem to think that violence is present everywhere and that we are constantly embroiled in one conflict or another, but the facts are that overall, war is almost non-existent when compared to previous decades, and it is in further decline.

5. Violent crime is also down.
We see reports of gang violence and gun violence every day but the truth is that violent crime and murders have been on their way down in terms of rates since 2001.

Five Moving Statements About Prison

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In Maya Schenwar's latest book, she discusses how prisons in the U.S. do incredible damage not just to prisoners but also to society due to the inhumane way in which prisoners are treated which leads to them being released back into a society where they are neither welcome nor familiar with, leading to high recidivism rates.

While the facts and figures speak for themselves, here are five strong literary statements by well-known historical figures and writers about the nature of prisons and what they do to people:

1. "It had long been true, and prisoners knew this better than anyone, that the poorer you were the more likely you were to end up in jail. This was not just because the poor committed more crimes. In fact, they did. The rich did not have to commit crimes to get what they wanted; the laws were on their side. But when the rich did commit crimes, they often were not prosecuted, and if they were they could get out on bail, hire clever lawyers, get better treatment from judges. Somehow, the jails ended up full of poor black people."

-- Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States

2. "How feeble is all language to describe the horrors we inflict upon these wretches, whom we mason up in the cells of our prisons, and condemn to perpetual solitude in the very heart of our population."
 -- Herman Melville, Typee

3. "To live in prison is to live without mirrors. To live without mirrors is to live without the self."

-- Margaret Atwood, Marrying the Hangman

4. "No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens but its lowest ones."

--Nelson Mandela, A Long Walk to Freedom

5. "There are worse prisons than words."

-- Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Shadow of the Wind


Five Pieces of Evidence Proving That Women Make Better Business Leaders and Partners

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Betsy Polk and Maggie Ellis Chotas' latest book argues for the need for more female partnerships in business. They dig deep to show how unfounded myths and shoddy social science has kept women from collaborating together for greater success.

Of course, there are bound to be many who may want to dismiss this sort of argument as "compensatory" or  being too "Yay! for women!" but not have any real substance, but the evidence speaks otherwise. So why not tackle this argument in the most male-centric corner of the economy: the entrepreneurial world? Here are five darn good (evidence-backed) reasons why women are taking the leading roles in independent and entrepreneurial business environments:

1. Women are better leaders. Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman conducted extensive research on women in business and their findings are quite impressive: women build better teams; garner higher respect as leaders and managers and demonstrate better awareness of their actions and thinking. Two of the traits where women outscored men in the highest degree were in taking initiative and driving for results -- both of which have long been thought of as particularly male strengths.

2. Women deliver better company performance. A recent Dow Jones VentureSource report concluded that venture-backed companies with female senior executives were more likely to succeed than those companies with only men in charge. This finding was echoed by the SBA Office of Advocacy which reported that VC firms that invested in women-led businesses performed better than all men-led businesses.

3. Women are better money managers in the most volatile marketplace:tech. Female-led private tech companies achieve on average a 35% higher return on investment, and when venture-backed, bring in on an average a 12% higher revenue than male-owned tech companies according to research conducted by the Kauffman Foundation. Illuminate Ventures recently concluded their research showing that high-tech companies built by women are more capital-efficient than the norm and could achieve comparable early-year revenues as those companies run by men but using on average one-third less committed capital.

4. Women are becoming more prominent not just as builders but as wealthy investors.  Women angel investors account for just 22% of all investors but that's still a 50% jump ftp, 2011. Mary Quist-Newin's research at the The American College of Financial Services shows that not only that women represent more than 40% of all Americans with gross investable assets above $600,000 but also that 60% of high-net-worth women earned their own fortunes versus inheriting it and the rate of wealth-growth among women in the US is at twice the pace it is for men.

5. Many prominent men think women are the answer. There are many men who are looked up to as the business gurus to emulate but not many realize that these men have publicly stated that the nation's economic future rests mainly with women being at the helm. Warren Buffett feels women are the key to national prosperity while Vivek Wadhwa continues to argue that women entrepreneurs are the future of tech. Prominent male entrepreneurs and researchers such as John Gerzema and Michael D'Antonio, or male-led firms such as Zenger/Folkman weren't seeking to do research to support the effectiveness of women in business, it's just where the data took them.

Is that enough "hard" evidence for you?