Category: Books

Remembering Elinor Ostrom

I was saddened by the news that Elinor Ostrom passed away today. She was the winner of the 2009 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics (along with Oliver Williamson). She and I shared a common connection to the Kettering Foundation, but I first discovered her work some 20 years ago after the release of her seminal [...]

How Paradigms Shift

It’s been exactly 50 years since the publication of Thomas S. Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, a slim little book that introduced the word “paradigm” into common parlance and shattered our conventional way of looking at change. After half a century, it still represents perhaps the best thinking on how transformation happens, who drives it, [...]

Immigration: How Do We Fix a System in Crisis?

Immigration has always been a subject of heated debate in America. But the issue reached a flash point after a controversial Arizona statute was passed in April 2010 taking a tough — some say too tough — stand on illegal immigration. The measure required that immigrants carry documentation at all times. It also gave law [...]

Turning Outward

A few years ago, Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant conducted an interesting survey of nonprofit organizations to understand what makes them successful. Unlike for-profit organizations, which measure their success according to the bottom line, nonprofits judge their effectiveness based largely on social impact. What can we learn from high-impact nonprofits? Over the course of four [...]

Our Visionary Moment

Here’s a tough question: What does it mean to be a visionary? Here’s an even tougher challenge: Give your answer in 100 words or less.

Community: The Structure of Belonging

In his much-discussed new book, Community: The Structure of Belonging, Peter Block makes a point of not trying to define a healthy and well-functioning community. The idea isn’t to create a visionary ideal for people to try to live up to, he says. Rather, it’s to encourage a shift in our way of thinking about community [...]

Transformative Leadership

Some thirty years ago, historian and presidential biographer James MacGregor Burns introduced the concept of “transformative leadership.” It was a powerful idea, one that continues to shape how I think about great leaders — in politics, certainly, but also in organizations, in communities, and even in small and informal groups. Burns observed that most leaders approach followers [...]

Nobel Peace Lectures

World Scientific has just published the latest in a series of volumes of Nobel Peace Prize lectures, which I co-edited together with Irwin Abrams. These are the acceptance speeches of the laureates as they were given at the annual award ceremony in Oslo. The latest volume includes some brilliant and remarkable lectures from people like [...]

The Future of Books

After almost six years, I moved my office out of the old Lobero Building last week. I was astonished by the amount of stuff I’d accumulated during that time — the papers, yes, but especially the books. I receive a lot of review copies, but I’m also guilty of buying too many titles. It’s a tough [...]

On Scientific Breakthrough

The history of science shows that breakthrough lies not in discovering new facts so much as discovering new ways of thinking about and making sense of them. More: Thomas S. Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is still the best work on the subject Arthur Koestler’s The Sleepwalkers is another favorite because of its forceful argument [...]

On Stewardship

What motivates people to work on behalf of the common good? In a study I’m leading for the Harwood Institute, I’ve been exploring this question with community leaders from across the country — civic entrepreneurs working to reduce homelessness, address poverty, work with inmates, clean up the environment, and generally strengthen our communities. A word that comes [...]

What is a Paradigm Shift?

It’s been almost a half-century since the publication of Thomas S. Kuhn’sThe Structure of Scientific Revolutions, a slim little book that introduced the word “paradigm” into common parlance and shattered our conventional way of looking at change. Fifty years on, it still represents perhaps the best thinking on how transformation happens, who drives it, why [...]