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February 06, 2013


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Jessica Margolin

People acquire the credential of an MBA for so many more reasons that it appears you assume. I wonder if your own imagination is as robust as you believe.

Perhaps there's an entire area of study yet to emerge about the niche cultures of what you lump antagonistically as "business people," but academics are too concerned with bifurcating society to legitimately inquire.

For example: I received an MBA after pursuing graduate work in science. That was itself a poor decision, as I was originally a musician. As the daughter of a feminist artist and a child psychoanalyst, I really had no idea what business was actually about, and thought the MBA would be the fastest way to understand that puzzle. It was an immersive study in the people as well as the discipline.

When I talk about metrics, it's because I know that numbers bring some people comfort. I know that for some people, logic makes them feel safer than a story. For others, the story is the truth, and any measurement is by definition a smaller amount of information. There is an art in bringing those two things together, so that people can communicate from where they happen to be, not from an abstract ideal of where one wishes they were.

For example, there's a video circulating about "training" for violence in schools. This is the kind of thing where people apply their anxieties along with a traumatized moral compass to come up with a horrifyingly poor way of addressing a crucial problem. How do you convince people who think that enacting a battle scene at a school and then vomiting that onto the internet is a good way to plan for actual scenarios of violence at schools? Real violence in schools - my housemate's blog post on this will be up shortly - has to do with things like the placement of locks on doorknobs, and having a room full of street-smart 8 year olds who nevertheless want to make just one call: to be sure their mommies are safe.

The way you convince people to address the real problems and not the fantastical ones is to look at both: stories and statistics, back and forth, so everyone can engage on an excruciating issue at an emotional and cognitive level that elicits their compassion and effectiveness.

Phil Cubeta

Thanks, Jessica. On a personal note, I spent over 25 years in business with a Fortune 100 company, the last 15 heading up a unit that taught business planning to financial advisors, who were were in some ways social entrepreneurs. They exhibited the highest good sense, as did I!


The way I would convince people to address the real problems, as against the imagined, is first to convince people that I have the wisdom to distinguish between the two. Or is that a day three issue?

If so, do we get a break for lunch?

Phil Cubeta

You don't need wisdom if you have a model by which others are measured. They need the wisdom to hit their targets. And Curator, I note, you are falling behind last month, in terms of impact per dollar. And your reports are coming in later and later. What gives? Can I help you in any way?


It takes at least one product cycle to seamlessly extend fully researched quality vectors and synergize optimal growth strategies.


I see the Tutor's voice still slips in at every chance. But discipline is lax, have they retired Candidia already? Curator would never have been so glib in the old days.

I wonder if someone will actually engage the question of what value an MBA brings. As someone more that literate in number who could have gotten an MBA at any point in his career, still could, I just don't see the value of it.

And Jessica, your endorsement is far from compelling, no? Did you learn anything there worth recommending it to others?

Phil Cubeta

The Happy Tutor is so busy in the chill room as a pick and pack specialist third class, in an increasingly competitive environment, that he does not have much energy left at the end of the day to provide unsolicited moral counsel to the higher ups.

Phil Cubeta

Your background in moral philsophy could be helpful as these Leaders who hold the values of the social enterprise in their hands have to make the difficult tradeoffs between helping others and helping self.


I find that the focus of managers on numbers and supposed tangible measures is at best short sighted, at worst incompetent and retrogressive. The best managers are focused on the social dynamics and structures of their work: http://gerry.wagn.org/Gerry+Process_Architect.

I'm only interested in the most global numbers, they are used for top down guidance. They help you measure the overall health of the whole organization. Note that the focus of educational districts on high stakes testing is the opposite of that. I can measure how well schools districts and regions are doing by sampling, not by testing everyone. That's a waste of resources.

At the micro level, we are interested in flows and and trends. This is where markets function as an information processing system that measures the forces of supply and demand. This is great on a micro level, and it is what all of Adam Smith's first book was about. The market fundamentalists never read his second book: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Theory_of_Moral_Sentiments

Markets are a terrible way to decide what to do as a society at any scale, they are not a decision making system, they are an information processing system. It leads to what we see. The Pareto effect lands a bigger share in the hands of some, and market forces in the global limit ensure the outcome to anyone who has played the game of monopoly to its conclusion.

Democracy is a set of systems human culture has developed to make decisions in a different way, but it isn't working very well these days. Some of the winners of the monopoly game have used money to buy particular outcomes in politics, and they have captured democracy. When I put on my process architects hat, I need to identify the forces and structures involved and the needs of the communities, and learn how to intervene to produce the right kind of structures in the future.


Speaking of metrics, Phil, I recall finding on this blog one or more orgs dedicated to measuring the efficacity and self-abnegation of a wide swath of philanthropic organizations. The tool would let us enter a name, and it would spit back proportions of revenue spent on actual work as opposed to marketing, staff, etc. Can you suggest one or two of the best such tools if they're still around?

Side note: Your array of links to this multitude of philanthropic groups is amazing. One would almost think humans (other than the dumpster dweller) are all about forming groups; actually changing the world might then be a fine pretext.

Appreciate any help with the metrics.

Phil Cubeta

We see it the same way. Good to see you here again.

Phil Cubeta

MarketsforGood, Charity Navigator, Guidestar, Philanthropedia, and this http://www.giirs.org/ would be entry points. Stanford Social Enterprise Review has many articles on it, as does Bridgespan and FSG. You could follow this as a full time job.

Phil Cubeta

Metrics via a third party rating service or taxonomy holds the charity responsible for "results" but also to funders. Who defines "results"? Trusted intermediaries and global rating agencies. These are now being put in place. Why do we need this? To "do the most good." So money goes where it does no just some good, but the most good, maybe 10-11% more than the second best provider, as measured on the grid. Probe further and you are told, "Our investors are used to such reports. So we must produce them, just as... so also...." Just as we have Standards and Poors, so also we need and now have Global Impact Investment Rating Service.

This is not about democracy, open source, open society, social activism, social movements, self organizing systems or volunteerism. It is about the control of all things considered from within an ideology of cost/benefit means/end management. The urgency of the demands being made is the urgency of those who want more power (for the good of all, course), and who see the oportunity to seize it with funding from Gates, Hewlett, and other busines minded foundations. They gain power by controlling the definitions that go into what is allowed to count as "results." They gain power through consulting contracts and the creation of the intermediary structures, as well as through the daily operation of the result tracking resource allocation infrastructure.

The result is that autonomy at the grassroots level is replaced by working to tasks that trigger "results" as measured by the higher ups in Taxonomy Central. Only when such results are triggered is good being done, and only then will funding flow. Play the game or starve. We have all seen this endlessly in corporate life, and in government funding. (No child left behind, standardized testing for every student every year, body counts in Vietnam). Metrics may measure the wrong things, but they serve as a reliable, scalable and repeatable control mechanism. And control is far more important to those with wealth than the "result" of an empowered, and democratic society working on its own from below and from the edges. Colonialism.

Of course this is not how the social impact people see themselves. And they get very huffy when described this way. My description is insubordinate. They are Leaders doing well by doing good. They deserve respect, deference, and compliance. As did the Oxford and Cambridge grads who shouldered the burdens of Empire, up river in the Congo. Bringing results in ivory production, and englightenment as well.


Phil, we have to teach them not that what they're doing is self-aggrandizing and all that, but that they are playing a small game. The big game is the growing and learning self, and collaborating to live well on a small planet in a big universe. Anyone can sell trusts and managed investments, or compete to suck the air out of the room with the next great social media invention to capitalize, but only a visionary can do what is impossible.

Phil Cubeta

Good approach. Provide a large frame.


Thanks for the pointers. Even more for the lucid description of the power play of definitions, and the use of metrics therein. We are seeing this in Florida in real time, where the Gov. wishes to reduce a university degree to $10,000, at the expense of large sectors of what used to be thought of as the universe of human knowledge. Nietzsche wanted to hammer coercive definitions into pulp. How detach the work of critical construction from the thinktrains full of dining cars and wagons-lits?

Phil Cubeta

You notice as I do that the Future of Good & Evil is being given an instrumental definition, backed by metrics external to what is measured, and enforced by flows of funds. Education becomes vocational training. And "Leadership" studies is what remains of what we were taught to consider humane learning. The Leader holds the vision and value of the organization in his hands. and the fate of nations. The rest of us? We are the threadbare soldier rolling the canon up the Alp in the famous painting of Napoleon.

Christine Egger

Yes, please.



just, wow.

I agree. it's colonialism in a new garb. You said it Phil!

I'm totally quoting you in a blog post right now.


Phil Cubeta

Improving wealth creation and extraction within an ideology that the colonized are encouraged to embrace, as they give up their prior ways of life. The Englightenment. Offshore are the gunboats. In this case the force is the taxonomy of good that will drive resources to those who play along and deprive those who don't. All for the good of humankind so that the most good can be done.

Jon Husband

"Brave New World" minus (to date) the decanting of children ?

Phil Cubeta

the leader holds the values and vision in his or her hands, Jon. All is well. You just have to do as you are told and respond to the metrics and incentives provided, so you can Do the Most Good.

Jon Husband

All hail Ford. (and oass around the soma, please)

-Mustapha Mond


Human Resources Performance Dashboard. A red light is blinking by Jon Husband. Seems he is in need of remediation. Fit in or F off training.

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