Positive Deviant

coverParkin, Sara (2010) The Positive Deviant: Sustainability Leadership in a Perverse World. Earthscan: London, England.

When I first started reading this book, I was really excited. The intro claimed the book was for those of us who “does the right thing for sustainability, despite being surrounded by the wrong institutional structures, the wrong processes, and stubbornly uncooperative people.” I was so hungry for a book that could help me and others deal with our role in society, of being Cassandra, trying to convince the oblivious masses on the Titanic that we need to turn the ship. I wanted tools and techniques, or at least some commiseration. But the book never fulfilled my hopes.
Section 1 is a nice review of the state of the world and sustainability concepts, with some new info I hadn’t seen (eg a table showing the rates of depletion of critical metals and minerals).
Section 2 covers our dysfunctional system including leadership models and business schools that contribute to the status quo.
Section 3 covers sustainability-literate leadership, including four habits of thought: resilience, relationships, reflection and reverence.
Section 4 is the global to do list.


Cover Pink, Daniel (2009) Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. London, England: Riverhead Books.

The best part about this book: The message. “When it comes to motivation, there’s a gap between what science knows and business does. Our current business operating system—which is built around external, carrot-and-stick motivators—doesn’t work and often does harm. We need an upgrade. And the science shows the way. This new approach has three essential elements: 1) Autonomy—the desire to direct our own lives; 2) Mastery—the urge to get better and better at something that matters; and 3) Purpose—the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.” (p203-4) Given the values of Gen-Y and the increasing need for creativity, this is an important message. This is an important aspect of social sustainability.
The most discouraging thing about this book: The message. Geez Louise. Marsha and I were teaching this stuff, along with Self-Directed Teams in the 80’s and 90’s. Eric Trist and Tavistock, where socio-technical systems theory was born, was in the 60’s. Alfie Kohn’s work, Punished by Rewards, was released in 1993. Why does each generation of managers have to rediscover certain truths about human nature? Why is it so easy for the ‘system’ to revert to paternalistic, controlling paradigms?
The best idea to emulate: The structure of his book. The table of contents includes little quotations from the text as an advance organizer. Then after engaging and witty chapters, he provides a set of tools for different audiences (how to help yourself, how to do this at work, how to do it at school). And at the very end, he provides a summary chapter, including a Twitter-length summary, the cocktail party summary and then a chapter by chapter summary. Brilliant.

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