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A must-read book + excerpts: How to Change the World

The recent catastrophe to hit the Philippines underscored many realities and possibilities, two of which are:

(1) People–whether individuals or groups–feel most empowered and spring into action when their actions result in tangible, concrete, positive change.

(2) In times of urgent need, informal groups are often more effective at responding to social needs and social realities than formal, established institutions.

In both cases, we can surmise that it is sometimes the informal but impactful actions that help change the world; therefore, one doesn’t need to be in power to effect powerful, positive change.

A PERFECT book to read at this time and with this frame of mind is How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas by David Bornstein. In the book, Bornstein shares different stories of individuals who somehow challenged and changed the world order simply through the passionate, relentless pursuit of an idea.

This excerpt will give you a taste of the juicy morsels that changemakers-in-training will find in this book:

Image by BlaisOne - Todd A. Blaisdell, in Getty Images

Image by BlaisOne - Todd A. Blaisdell, in Getty Images

“Ideas whose times have come are all around us. Given the wildly shared concern about global warming, for example, one might imagine that “environmentalism” is an idea whose time has come. Today in the United States, it often seems to be an idea whose time has come and gone, to judge from the fact that millions of people drive sport utility vehicles (SUVs) that are highly polluting and less fuel efficient (not to mention more dangerous for both their own passengers as was as those in other vehicles) than the cars that were on the market twenty-five years ago…

“An idea is like a play. It needs a good product and a good promoter even if it is a masterpiece. Otherwise the play may never open; or it may open but, for lack of an audience, close after a week. Similarly, an idea will not move from the fringes to the mainstream simply because it is good; it must be skillfully marketed before it will actually shift people’s perceptions and behavior.

“This is especially true if the idea threatens the powerful or runs counter to established norms or beliefs. In his book, Leading Change: The Argument for Values-Based Leadership, James O’ Toole, an expert in management and leadership, observes that great thinkers throughout the ages agree that ‘groups resists change with all the vigor of antibodies attacking an intruding virus.’ O’ Toole examines a number of cases in which a potentially beneficial institutional change was resisted and finds that the resistance occurs when a group perceives that a change in question will challenge its ‘power, prestige, position, and satisfaction with who they are, what they believe, and what they cherish.’ He asserts: ‘The major factor in our resistance to change is the desire not to have the will of others forced on us.

“If ideas are to take root and spread, therefore, they need champions–obsessive people who have the skill, motivation, energy, and bullheadedness to do whatever is necessary to move them forward: to persuade, inspire, seduce, cajole, enlighten, touch hearts, alleviate fears, shift perceptions, articulate meanings and artfully maneuver them through systems.”

~  From Chapter 8: The Role of the Social Entrepreneur in How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas by David Bornstein (Penguin Books, 2004, 2005)

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