The Truth, Who Says It, and the “Sophisticated Enterprise”
My last Museletter did all but hit replay on David Brooks' speech this year at the Aspen Ideas Festival. Every word he said was that good.
I also confessed that during the speech I kept a bead on Hank Paulson, our nation's 74th secretary of the treasury, the guy under GWB when our economy softened to quicksand. I think I speak for Hank, too, when I say the entire Aspen crowd that morning held its breath as a New York Times columnist-not a theologian-brilliantly laid out that every person has a sin nature.
Imagine those words in that venue. Brooks telling his elite audience we're at risk of forgetting that “sin is baked into us.” He said we humans have two Adams: Adam 1 of the Greek's Homeric code-the call in us to compete and conquer-and Adam 2, from the Bible, leading us to greatness through humility.
And it's all true. And why does this bring us straight to Jim Collins? Because in closing, Brooks named Collins as an example of a man whose Adams effectively fuse.
Oh, that had my attention. Not in least because in about three weeks, Collins would meet with two different Halftime groups, both of which would reflexively recognize the “Two Adams” as original sin . . . both composed of high-level successes (Adam 1) now using their considerable skills and social equity to serve (Adam 2).
And I can confirm, from my front row seat in both meetings, that Collins' fused virtues shone again.
And I'm still staggered at where the conversations led.
Day one, Collins met with social-sector leaders: pastors. Day two was 50 or so business leaders. Both groups were there to tighten their respective grips on a “Level Five Life” (my play on Collin's term). Both days the teacher brought the methodology, the laser-sharp questions. Both days the students-as with Collins' now-legendary student researchers-brought the raw data.
As Collins had instructed, each student came with a story of two people that shared a starting line but not a finish. One rose to greatness, one did not. In each pairing's gap, Collins helped his students ask why. Other things being equal, why do some people have a great second half-a great finish-and not others?
(Do it yourself: Think of two people once on parallel tracks for education, background, goals, opportunities-then one rose and one did not. What happened?)
It's the first day that took my breath away, after the pastors' meeting, when a line formed for autographs and photos with Collins. I'd forgotten my “Good to Great” book and, looking around, I grabbed a sheet of notepaper to hand to our speaker. Back came this: “You have helped build the most sophisticated human enterprises in the world! Jim Collins.”
Whoa, I thought, and I read it again. What's this? America's top business thinker, after a day with pastors of large congregations, just called the church a “sophisticated human enterprise”? I wouldn't press Jim to explain. I wanted to savor the idea for myself.
Now, a small reminder right here that Peter Drucker mentored both Collins and me. Keep in mind, also, that Drucker came to the US from Nazi Germany, where he had seen government go dark. Drucker landed here in faith that business was a means to restore society, a force for good. So it's especially poignant that, after his decades of leading businesses, he shifted his energies to the social sector-to churches.
Now here was Collins showing similar regard.
Dave Travis, CEO of our Leadership Network, serves pastors of megachurches. When he saw Collins' note, he said something like this: “America is losing community-it's every man for himself. And in that vacuum, the church is the rare call to mind and heart, to meaning and purpose, to a cause worthy of our lives and the lives of others. Given that changed people create changed communities . . . the church is an enterprise in its own right.”
Even more briefly: In ways no government or business ever can, the church-where Adam 1 meets Adam 2-is in the business of re-creating community.
At one point in Boulder, someone asked Collins, “Which is more difficult? A non-profit or a for-profit?” Collins, author of a now-famous monograph on the topic, shot back: “It's not even close. Making money is not even close to the issues in a non-profit.”
David Brooks bowled me over with his talk of original sin and our inner tension, if we allow it, between ego and humility. (I've long viewed that tension as the path from success to significance.) Then Brooks pointed to Jim Collins as a card-carrying member of that heroic moral code. Then Collins, and Travis, confirmed that the church, driving the social sector, is a last great hope to fuse Adam 1 and Adam 2.
Not surprisingly, Peter Drucker said it before any of us.
Government controls and business sells, Peter wrote in “Managing the Nonprofit Organization.” The non-profit “product” isn't shoes or effective regulation but a changed human being: a cured patient, a child learning, a young man or woman grown into a self-respecting adult.
I began the last Museletter by saying it was a magical month. It was magical because truth carries a mysterious, mystical quality. No matter the vocabulary, no matter the speaker, truth is truth. Maybe it's the unexpected confirmation of hard won truth-the David Brooks (Jewish) and Jim Collins (unknown)-that delights us, hands us new glasses, and recharges the conversation.
So what about you?
Where do you rate yourself on the spectrum between Adam 1 (success) and Adam 2 (significance)?
Next Museletter: a vastly different angle of insight that I call “Build a Parent.”