Tag Archives: Richard T. Pascale

A Suggested Reading List For Those Interested In Issues of Social Justice And Poverty

Karl Krayer and I will soon complete our 13th full year of hosting the First Friday Book Synopsis.  At each of our monthly meetings, Karl and I each present a synopsis of a best selling business book.

For nearly half that time, I have also presented synopses every month for the Urban Engagement Book Club for CitySquare (formerly Central Dallas Ministries).  And just as people ask me about the best/most important business books, people also ask me about the best/most important social justice & poverty books.

Let me state the obvious – reading one book helps you a little, but reading a series of books, covering an important arena, builds a body of knowledge, and helps you know how to think, and then, what to do.

If social justice and poverty concern you, here’s a short list of books to put in your reading stack.  Read these, and you will begin to build that body of knowledge.


Read this book A comment, or two
How to get started…  Start here! The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck 


Yes, that The Grapes of Wrath (1939).  Just to grasp the human struggle of severe poverty.  Everyone should read this in their adult years!
To understand the plight of the working poor Nickel and Dimed On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich. Ehrenreich went “undercover” before Undercover Boss was ever conceived.
To go a little deeper into the plight of the working poor The Working Poor: (Invisible in America) by David K. Shipler Shipler is a Pulitzer Prize winner – and this is gripping, and sad.
To think about unequal education The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America by Jonathan Kozol Or – read his earlier book, Savage Inequalities.  Actually, read this one first…
So, what to do How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas by David Bornstein Comprehensive – helpful, useful!

To build optimism

The Power of Positive Deviance: How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World’s Toughest Problems by Richard T. Pascale, Jerry Sternin, Monique Sternin

Some encouraging success stories.  The Sternins were used as a success story in the book Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.


Of course, there are many worthy, valuable books not listed here.  If you compiled your own list, it would be different.  But I think this is a pretty good list to start with.

The Life Span of Corporations – A Quote for the Day from The Power of Positive Deviance

Without comment, from The Power of Positive Deviance: How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World’s Toughest Problems by Richard T. Pascale, Jerry Sternin, Monique Sternin:

It is an empirical fact that most of the world’s cities live forever.  Corporations, on the other hand, live half as long as the average human being…  Corporations, in the name of efficiency, suppress variation by “getting all the ducks in line.”

The Power of Positive Deviance – One of the Two Good Books for this Friday’s First Friday Book Synopsis

Bob Morris, my blogging colleague and general all around font of amazing knowledge and wisdom, reads books by the bushel full.  I read fewer – far fewer.

And, more times than not, in the last couple of years, I have chosen a book that Bob tells me “would be a good one for the First Friday Book Synopsis.”  This Friday I am presenting The Power of Positive Deviance: How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World’s Toughest Problems by Richard T. Pascale, Jerry Sternin, Monique Sternin — one of Bob’s suggestions.  An excellent suggestion!  Look at this hint about the book:

(A Leadership for the Common Good book.
Published in partnership with the Center for Public Leadership)
.  (Read Bob’s review of the book, on our blog, here).

It will take me a while to process all that the book says.  The book presents the principles, the “guts” of “Positive Deviance,” and then illustrates the concept with story after story of breakthrough findings that flesh out the concept.

By the way, Monique Sternin, one of the authors of the book, leads the Positive Deviance Initiative.  Read about it here.

Here are some key quotes from the book, setting up the concept:

As a problem solving process, this approach requires retraining ourselves to pay attention differently…

What matters far more (than the “what”) is the “how” – the very particular journey that each community must engage in to mobilize itself, overcome resignation and fatalism, discover its latent wisdom, and put this wisdom into practice.  This bears repeating:  the community must make the discovery itself.  It alone determines how change can be disseminated through the practice of new behavior – not through explanation or edict.

People are assumed to be rational, and their social system adaptable, and it is sufficient to “give them the answer and expect them to get on with it.”
The standard model is probably the best course of action for roughly 70 to 80 percent of change problems encountered.  But when empirical experience leads us to conclude, “we’ve tried everything and nothing works,” harnessing local understanding may be the only way to break the impasse.

Pay attention differently
Focus on the “how” – results matter!
Don’t assume that people are rational.  You can’t just say, “do this,” and expect people to do it.  “They” (any group that needs a breakthrough) have to discover the “it” from among themselves.

These are just some of the lessons of The Power of Positive Deviance.  More to come as I finish my reading of the book.

If you are in the DFW area, come join us this Friday morning.  My colleague, Karl Krayer, is presenting his synopsis of the new Tony Schwartz book, The Way We’re Working isn’t Working.  These are two really good books, and you really can learn the key content and transferable principles from these books at our event.  Register here.