How to change the world

Social entrepreneurs are the doctors of society. Since there is a unipolar world and capitalism is the only system we have, there are many side effects no doctor, unfortunately, is able to cure. Social entrepreneurs are creative individuals who question their environment and try to repair the system in their own way.
David Bornstein is the author of “How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas,” and in his book he tells the fascinating stories of remarkable individuals in different parts of the world from Brazil to Hungary, providing examples of positive deviants in the social sector.
In South Africa, one woman, Veronica Khosa, developed a home-based care model for AIDS patients that changed government health policy. An American, James Grant, is credited with saving 25 million lives by leading and “marketing” a global campaign for immunization. Another American, Bill Drayton, created the pioneering foundation Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, which has funded and supported these social entrepreneurs and over a thousand like them, leveraging the power of their ideas across the globe. The success stories described in the book are the cases supported by the Ashoka foundation.
One of those fascinating stories belongs to Fabio Rosa. In Brazil, Rosa helped bring electricity to hundreds of thousands of remote rural residents. Rosa saw that high water costs were a significant obstacle for local rice farmers in Palmeras and that lowering these costs could improve productivity and wealth. To address high water costs, Rosa understood that there was a need of an invention that would provide low cost electricity. At the time, 70 percent of rural residents in Palmeras were living without electricity. Rosa favored expanding access to electricity through a new invention, which turned out be an inexpensive mono-phase electrification system developed by Professor Ennio Amaral. However, the system did not adhere to certain technical specifications as set forth in Brazilian law. Amaral and Rosa waged a war against the government and big energy companies. With very primitive and insufficient facilities, but a very big heart for villagers, they won the battle. The use of mono-phase technology reduced the costs of electricity for each of these rural households from $7,000 to $400.
All of these success stories are the stories of ordinary people. They have extraordinary skills and approaches, but most of them started their journey as an ordinary person. This book is evidence that anybody who has a dream can change the world. Ordinary people — social entrepreneurs — are increasingly stepping in to solve problems where governments and bureaucracies have failed. “How to Change the World” shows, as its title suggests, that with determination and innovation, even a single person can make a surprising difference. For anyone seeking to leave a positive mark on the world, this will be both an inspiring read and an invaluable handbook.

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‘Freakonomics’

Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, the authors of “Freakonomics,” meld pop culture with economics. They study daily life data rather than stock exchange data.
There are very interesting examples in the book. In 1984 Paul Feldman started a bagel company in which he delivered boxes full of bagels to different businesses each morning (I guess there is no such job today). There was also a collection box at each locale, meaning payment was on the honor system. At the end of each day, Feldman collected the boxes and money. The overall payment rate was 87 percent. Small company employees paid more consistently because stealing is easier to detect in close-knit environments. Interestingly, the payment rate of the top executives of a given company was less than for the regular employees. Businesses in which the employees knew and liked Feldman also stole less frequently than those that did not. The most common type of theft was to take bagels without paying. It was very rare for someone to steal the collection box. People cheated more often during bad weather and around stressful holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. “Free holidays” like Independence Day and Presidents Day produced the opposite behavior. Morale thus strongly influenced stealing.
Another topic covered by Levitt and Dubner is cheating by teachers. Teachers are alternatively rewarded or punished based on whether their students do well or poorly on standardized tests. There is therefore an incentive for teachers to cheat on these tests, and there are a variety of means for doing so. Teachers will try to cheat standardized tests by privately altering the written answers given by their students. Such a teacher would maximize the effect of their cheating efforts by focusing on changing the answers to the hardest questions, which the largest number of students probably got wrong. This would create an odd score distribution in which a surprising proportion of the hardest questions were “answered” correctly while a seemingly large share of easy questions were answered incorrectly. Students in the cheating teacher’s class would also have unusually high test scores when compared with past and future academic years. The Chicago public school system instituted high-stakes testing in 1996 and found that some student cohorts experienced suspicious one-year gains in scores at various points during their academic careers. Upon the re-testing of the suspect students along with re-testing of a control group of other students for comparison, it was observed that the results were statistically anomalous and a dozen teachers were fired for cheating.
One of the most intriguing studies in the book is about the socioeconomic patterns for naming children. Parent socioeconomic status and education level correlate with the name choices for children. For instance “Taylor,” “Madison” and “Cody” are perfect examples of white names. A set of names (like Taylor and Cody) is preferred among rich whites, and a different set is preferred among poor whites. Names cycle through periods of popularity and disuse. New names continuously enter into the mix and sometimes gain currency. Once a name is popularized among rich parents, lower socioeconomic status parents whose children are born, let’s say, 20 years later, take it up because they associate such a name with success and they want success for their own children. However, this is not the case because someone never becomes successful just because of his/her name. It is more about socioeconomic structure and background. Once the name becomes common, the rich drop it and find a replacement.
In 1958, a New York City father named Robert Lane decided to call his baby son Winner. Three years later, the Lanes had another baby boy. Robert decided to name this boy Loser. Loser Lane did in fact succeed. He went to prep school on a scholarship, graduated from Lafayette College in Pennsylvania and joined the New York Police Department, where he made detective and eventually sergeant. Although he never hid his name, many people were uncomfortable using it. To his police colleagues today, he is known as Lou. The most noteworthy achievement of Winner Lane, on the other hand, now in his late 40s, is the sheer length of his criminal record: more than 30 arrests for burglary, domestic violence, trespassing, resisting arrest and other mayhem
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First, break all the rules

Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman of The Gallup Organization present the remarkable findings of their massive in-depth study of great managers across a wide variety of situations in their book “First, Break All The Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently.”
Some of the managers were in leadership positions, and other were front line supervisors.
Buckingham and Coffman explain how the best managers select an employee for talent rather than for skills or experience; how they set expectations for him or her — they define the right outcomes rather than trying to fix his weaknesses; and finally how great managers develop people. They find the right fit for each person, not the next rung on the ladder. This research — which initially generated thousands of different survey questions on the subject of employee opinion — finally produced the 12 simple questions that work to distinguish the strongest departments of a company from all the rest.
In my opinion, these 12 questions give a bright insight into how to manage people. I will examine each question one by one.
The first question: “Do I know what is expected of me at work?” People perform their best when they have clear objectives. Without a clear objective, they cannot make progress.
The second question: “Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?” Every employee should have the necessary materials and equipment so they can have no excuse for failing to do a good job. According to motivation guru Frederick Hertzberg, hygiene factors into the workplace and a lack of sufficient hygiene cause dissatisfaction. The third question: “At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?” A person cannot show his ability to drive when s/he has no car. So, one of the most important factors of performance in the workplace is the availability of the opportunity.
The fourth question: “In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?” The scarcest resource in the workplace is the recognition of employees. People need praise and recognition as much as water and as food. Even a simple “thank you” can motivate people.
The fifth question: “Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person?” We are human beings and we have emotions; we are not machines. So, we want to feel that our managers remember this reality. When making a decision, a manager should consider that we have families and are sensitive creatures.
The sixth question: “Is there someone at work who encourages my development? In my personal view, one of the best motivators is the opportunity for development. People realize that their own development is more important than money and they look for training options and opportunities to gain experience.
The seventh question: “At work, do my opinions seem to count?” The opportunities for personal contribution are very important for many people. This is because, if they can contribute, they feel that they are valuable; if they cannot, they feel they are worthless.
The eighth question: “Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?” James Collins and Jerry Porras, two management gurus, claim that companies’ main goal should be more than profit. The profit is a consequence of a meaningful service. People want to work for companies that have meaningful missions.
The ninth question: “Are my coworkers committed to doing quality work?” The social environment at work is also important. Like minds are best fit for a work environment.
The 10th question is not an unusual one: “Do I have a best friend at work?” If your best friend is at your workplace, it is a place where you want to be. People run home after work because there is a split between their work life and their personal life. The 11th question: “In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?” Feedback is very important. Without it we cannot understand how we perform. The final question: “This last year, have I had the opportunity at work to learn and grow?” As I mentioned earlier, people look for opportunities for development, and they want to see evidence of it.
Even the book’s title, “First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently,” does not break any rule in management. Clear goals and objectives, a significant vision, development opportunities, constructive feedback and opportunities to contribute are typical concepts in management. However, what is important in this book is that this management mantra is supported by a survey of 100,000 people
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Drive

From Daniel H. Pink, the author of the bestselling “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future,” comes a paradigm-shattering look at what truly motivates us and how we can use that knowledge to work smarter and live better.
It is believed that the best way to motivate ourselves and others is with external rewards like money — the carrot-and-stick approach. That’s a mistake, Pink says in “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” his provocative and persuasive book. According to Pink, the secret to high performance and satisfaction — at work, at school and at home — is to give a challenge rather than rewards.
In the first pages of the book, he gives an interesting example of the Harlow Puzzle. Harry Harlow from the University of Wisconsin carried out an experiment with eight monkeys. He prepared a puzzle using a pin, hook and cover. When confronted with this puzzle, the monkeys tried to solve it. They learned how to remove the pin, slide the hook and open the cover. They were not rewarded with food, affection or even quiet applause when they succeeded. They solved the puzzles frequently and quickly; two-thirds of the time they cracked the code in less than 60 seconds.
I staged a similar experiment in one of my MBA classes, but this time with students rather than monkeys. I brought a puzzle to class and showed it to the students. All of the students tried to solve it.
As you can guess, the conclusion is that people are motivated when they meet a challenge. One of the most interesting phenomena of the 21st century is Wikipedia. There are more than 200 million contributors to it and all of them do this voluntarily. Even a small feeling of gaining a reputation by contributing to Wikipedia is not possible because the system does not let anyone put their names on articles they edit. So there’s no monetary award, and there is no recognition award. The only thing Wikipedia offers is the feeling of doing something good.
Sometimes monetary awards can do the reverse; they can de-motivate people. Two kids painting fences for fun love what they do. But if you start to pay them for their work, they may lose their motivation. Suppose a group of children play scrabble for fun; when you start to pay them an hourly wage to play, they will start to look at their watches and lose the pleasure they get from playing the game.
Pink claims there are three elements in motivation: autonomy, mastery and purpose. Our default setting is to be autonomous and self-directed. We come to this world with autonomous minds, but we learn to become robots. We need autonomy over the task at hand (what we do), the time (when we do it), the team (who we do it with) and the technique (how we do it).
According to Pink, mastery begins with flow — optimal experiences when the challenges we face are exquisitely matched to our abilities. We can only master if only we engage. A quote from Albert Einstein articulates Pink’s idea: “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
The third element, the purpose, is very important in motivation. Purpose maximization should take the place of profit maximization. If people believe in a purpose, they intrinsically work. But if they don’t believe in the purpose, they give up. The best example of purpose maximization is Wikipedia. When people contribute Wikipedia, they feel they have reached their intrinsic aim.
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‘China’s Megatrends: The 8 Pillars of a New Society’

 
John and Doris Naisbitt, longtime China observers, provide an in-depth study of fundamental changes in China’s social, political and economic life in their book “China’s Megatrends: The 8 Pillars of a New Society.”
With extraordinary access, and using the same techniques behind John Naisbitt’s International bestseller “Megatrends,” the Naisbitts have traveled the country, interviewing journalists, entrepreneurs, academics, politicians, artists, dissidents and expatriates. With the help of 28 staff members of the Naisbitt China Institute in Tianjin, they monitored local newspapers in all of China’s provinces to identify the evolving perspectives and deep forces underlying China’s transformation.
Their research reveals that China is not only undergoing fundamental changes but also creating an entirely new social and economic model, what the Naisbitts call a vertical democracy that is changing the rules of global trade and challenging Western democracy as the only acceptable form of government.
The Naisbitts have identified eight pillars as the foundation and drivers of China’s new society. These are the freedom of thought, planning by trial and error, equal opportunity for everybody, creating a climate for entrepreneurship, organizing innovation, balancing top-down with bottom-up, supporting art, improving education and integration with the world economy.
After the Cultural Revolution in 1978, the Chinese administration tried to emancipate the mentality in China. Chinese people started to think for themselves and make their own decisions, and reawakened the Chinese entrepreneurial gene, opening the eyes of the people to all kinds of business opportunities. They decided to establish at the national level high-tech industrial parks with favorable policies to encourage the creation of new and innovative companies. Besides these, China revitalized state-owned enterprises through various strategies, such as “healthy enterprises would carry a sick one,” “privatization is a gradual process” and “‘invite’ global players to help handle non-performing assets.”
Balancing top-down and bottom-up
The most interesting pillar on which the sustainability of the new Chinese society rests is balancing its top-down and bottom-up forces. The evolving Chinese dynamic of top-down government directives and bottom-up citizen initiatives is shaping a new model the authors call “vertical democracy.” The top-down part of decision making is familiar; however, the Chinese type of bottom-up decision making is quite different. Indeed, there is no bottom-up decision making process in the West. We only vote for parties and they make decisions. In China, in spite of a one-party-based government, the government organizes surveys, learns the tendencies of the society and makes decisions based on survey results. The numbers of decisions based on these surveys are probably limited, but they may increase in the future. In my opinion, this practice is much better than in Western democracy-type decision making processes.
Another point that the Naisbitts emphasize is China’s “trial and error” culture. The Chinese government tried some new strategies and retained the successful ones. “Framing the forest and letting the trees grow” was the major strategy in developing innovative Chinese companies. The rules for entrepreneurial and innovative ventures provided for both Chinese and foreign investors. The Naisbitts give one interesting example from history and use it as a metaphor to explain the approach to foreign investments in China.
The Naisbitts retell a third-century Chinese legend. Gen. Zhuge Liang sat on the banks of the Yangtze River facing the enemy army of Cao Cao on the other side. Rather than attack directly, Zhuge sent over various boats packed with straw. Cao Cao’s archers, perceiving an attack, sent a hail of arrows down onto the boats, whereupon Zhuge retrieved the vessels — and stole his enemy’s ammunition. China employed the same “borrowing arrows” strategy when it invited foreign capital and industry into the country, starting with Volkswagen in 1978. Other large Western firms followed, including Boeing and IBM. In time the Chinese learned to produce cars, computers, planes and so on. It looks like China learns from global corporations while providing an advantageous production environment for them.
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Click-The magical connection

 
Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman’s book “Click” is about the instant connections between people. The book starts with a “love at first sight” story. When two people with very different personalities meet there’s conflict, but then they fall in love and get married.
The authors report that “love at first sight” marriages surprisingly have more endurance than traditional marriages. In the second example, Jim West, one of the first African-Americans to earn a Ph.D. in physics in the US, and Gerhard Sessler, a World War II emigrant and scientist, meet. Though they both come from very different backgrounds, they click and become a powerful team that invents the microphone and solves many difficult technical problems.
The term “click” refers to a magical moment, which is euphoric, energizing and thrilling. By clicking, people have a quick-set intimacy with a special person. As the authors explain: “In other contexts, the words quick and instant don’t necessarily sound like positive descriptions (think instant coffee or quick TV dinners). But when it comes to human relationships, the bonds formed by quick-set intimacy can be surprisingly strong and create a tenor in the relationship that may be lifelong.”
The Brafman brothers explain the research on clicking in their book. The first factor in clicking is vulnerability. Under normal conditions, people try to look self-assured and as perfect as possible. However, even though a lot of authors and specialists claim that self-confidence is very important in human relationships, vulnerability seems to be more important than self-confidence. When people talk about their weakest points, they are more clickable. I think there is something that looks contradictory, but works in harmony. Self-confidence and vulnerability are two sides of the same coin. If one has self-confidence, that means he can be vulnerable. Being open in personal matters is a kind of authenticity that invites other people to become closer to you. When you tell somebody that you were not good at being a father or you lived in poverty as a child, people think that you are a reachable person.
Proximity is one of the surprising concepts of the book. People used to think that the popularity of a person was based on his/her personality. However, the Brafmans’ book argues that popularity is a function of place. The best friends in the schools are the students who sit together coincidentally on the first day of class or live in the same dormitory room. Proximity creates a click between these people. People in the heart of a network are the most popular people within this network because of location, not personality. According to the researchers, the most popular students in MIT dormitories stay in rooms in the middle of the dormitory.
Another point that the Brafman brothers uncover in their book is joint adversity. People who have experienced difficult times together click with each other. People who suffered the oppressions of a war, survivors of a shipwreck, or even members of the same Boy Scout troop might easily click. The Brafmans talk about high self-monitors that act as network hubs. Some people have fluid personalities that can easily modulate their emotional expressions and quickly incorporate norms.
What can we do with the concept of click in the business world? People can use these concepts for networking. Managers can create teams by considering click factors; I marketing, we can click with our customers. The readers of the book can begin a journey full of questions: How can our company become vulnerable? How can we train people to become self-monitors? How can we use the principle of “proximity” in business life?
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