Sept. 14, 2020

#97: How Do We Rebuild Capitalism in a World on Fire?

#97: How Do We Rebuild Capitalism in a World on Fire?

In Episode #97, Quinn digs into how we can rebuild capitalism for the world, for your company, and for yourself.

Our guest is: Rebecca Henderson, Harvard professor behind the wildly popular class Reimagining Capitalism. Rebecca's research explores the degree to which the private sector can play a major role in building a more sustainable economy, focusing on the relationships between organizational purpose, innovation, and productivity in high performance organizations.

Rebecca published Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire in April 2020 — but she probably didn’t expect the book to become so literal so soon.

The crux of what she discovered over the last decade of research is that focusing on shareholder profit is a terrible way to run a company in the long term, and it’s going to burn this whole thing down. This has never been more apparent than the current state of the world, where we can watch in real time as every major American institution chooses profit over the health and safety of… anyone. The silver lining is that the five or so catastrophes that this country faces at any given moment may also present an unprecedented opportunity: the market cycle has already been broken and there has never been a better time to rebuild these systems.

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Important, Not Important is produced by Crate Media

Transcript

Quinn:                                  Welcome to Important, Not Important. My name is Quinn Emmett and this is the podcast where we give you the tools you need to fight for a better future for everyone. The context, straight from the smartest people on earth and the action steps you can take to support them. Our guests are scientists, doctors, nurses, journalists, engineers, professors, farmers, politicians, activists, CEOs, astronauts, even a reverend.

 

Quinn:                                  This is your friendly reminder that you can send questions, thoughts, and feedback to us on Twitter at ImportantNotImp or you can email us FunTalk@ImportantNotImportant.com. You can also join tens of thousands of other smart people and subscribe to our free weekly newsletter at ImportantNotImportant.com where we give you the most important news items of the week and all the action steps you can take to fix them.

 

Quinn:                                  So this week's episode, we're going to try to answer a pretty fundamental question here and I think we did a pretty good job. How do we rebuild capitalism in a world on fire? Our guest, we are so lucky to have her here is Rebecca Henderson. She is a Professor, Research Fellow, and expert in about a 100 different areas of innovation and organizational change and she believes the private sector can help save the whole kit and caboodle, but it's going to be hard work. Please listen in to this very special conversation to find out how identifying purpose can reinvigorate your company and yourself and also reverse the plight of the American work, small potatoes, if not, the actual climate crisis itself. Let's go talk to Rebecca.

 

Quinn:                                  Our guest today is Rebecca Henderson and together we're going to figure out how to rebuild capitalism for the world, for your company, and for yourself. Rebecca, welcome.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Thank you, Quinn. I'm honored to be here.

 

Quinn:                                  That's very kind of you. Rebecca, if you don't mind, could you tell us real quick who you are and what you do?

 

Rebecca Henders...:        I'm a professor at the Harvard Business School where I developed a course called Re-Imagining Capitalism: Business and the Big Problems. I have 20 years of research into innovation, technology, and change. I ran the strategy group at MIT but 10 years ago I came to Harvard. I was convinced that business needed to do something about the big problems facing our society and I set out to try and work out what. This April I published a book called Re-Imagining Capitalism in a World on Fire, which summarizes what I think I learned about what business can do to make a difference in the world.

 

Quinn:                                  Well, it's pretty timely. It's necessary, timely, and again, it seems like this past decade was well spent. The book is fantastic and I really appreciate you sharing it all with the world.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Thank you.

 

Quinn:                                  Awesome, so Rebecca, and reminder to everyone, our goal is to provide some quick context for the question at hand and then we're going to dig into some action oriented questions and what everyone out there can do to fight the good fight. Rebecca, we do like to start with one question, it's a little ridiculous but it sets the tone. Instead of saying, "Tell us your entire life story," we like to ask, Rebecca, why are you vital to the survival of the planet as know it? I encourage you to be bold and honest. You're here for a reason, figuratively and literally.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Because we are in so much trouble and one of the reasons we're in trouble is businesses become persuaded, too many business leaders have become persuaded that all they need to do is maximize shareholder value. This may have been true historically but right now, it's a huge problem. So my role on the planet at present is to stand up and say, "I'm a professor at the Harvard Business School. I have credentials up the Yin Yang, I'm a card carrying middle class school economist. I'm a member of the Academy of Arts and Science in both England and America. I have the citations and I'm telling you focusing only on shareholder value is a terrible way to run the company and is going to bring us to disaster. We need to switch." That's my role as I see it.

 

Quinn:                                  That's pretty fantastic. It reminds me a little bit of the role of scientists in Hollywood films that try to warn everybody that the wave is coming or the aliens are coming and everyone's going, "Get out of here, Scientist," and then they inevitably show up and just like go, "Ah, I told you so." Sounds right, Ellen. So let's dig into this thing. Just some quick just contextual thoughts here. I'm not sure if you follow the incredible Journalist Ed Yong over at The Atlantic who is one of our best Science Journalists but also has been doing some incredible work on COVID right now, but he wrote just this truly comprehensive, wonderful, very sad, basically, post mortem on America's institutions this week, saying, and I quote, "Water running along a pavement will readily seep into every crack and so too did the unchecked Coronavirus seep into every fault line in the modern world."

 

Quinn:                                  And that is to say, I think, the virus didn't break us. Our failing or neglected or in some cases poisoned institutions or runaway institutions have been splitting apart for years and decades and the climate crisis came before COVID, it is still here, it is part of what made COVID, and it will be here for long after we're not trapped in our living rooms, wearing masks anymore, at least for this virus. But it is very clear as you alluded to, and we'll talk about today, the democracy that we designed here and that have existed in other places and the businesses and industries we've built alongside those democracies, in partnership with them, really just are not ... are both not prepared for what's coming but are also part of what's coming, because inequality among government and businesses and citizens is drastic and damning and capitalism isn't working for most people and it certainly in not working for the environment.

 

Quinn:                                  Our never ending cycle of growth and quarterly earnings reports has destroyed much of the outside world we depend on and this is a ticking clock. So this crisis though, all of these crises mashed together, right, and there's about seven of them, might also be our best opportunity. There is no market cycle for the foreseeable future as we know it. We can start over, but it's going to have to be top to bottom and so I do want to talk about rebuilding capitalism for what is the actual 21st century or as, Rebecca, you so eloquently put it, "For a world on fire." I do want to talk though, perhaps, about the most glaring part of our mission here, which is that, more than ever before for a lot of folks, capitalism is going very, very well. The markets are booming, if a little more volatile, than in sort of the peak hockey stick era the last 10 years, but they're also fully disconnected from the reality in the ground a lot of ways. Does that feel correct to you?

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Yes.

 

Quinn:                                  I feel like I can count on like two or three fingers ... and I know there's been progress made here, but from my perspective, my very limited perspective, the sort of 21st century externalities that are actually priced into our industries and our products and our profit and the stock prices, I think, despite the past 10 years of growth, I would bet that there's a huge percentage of people, especially young people that are pretty shocked at the way the markets have performed in the age of climate and COVID, but maybe they shouldn't be. Rebecca, if I had told you six months ago that a minimum of whatever it is today, 700,000-ish people would be dead across the world from a perfect virus, from a pandemic that's locked in our homes, where you would have expected the market to be in reaction to that?

 

Rebecca Henders...:        I would have expected it to fall. I think what's happening in the market is extraordinary. My personal belief is it reflects two dynamics, one is the belief that governments around the world will do everything they can to keep finance alive and afloat, so we won't have a massive credit crunch. Second, that we're pumping enormous amounts of money into the economy and we did so ... I mean we had a massive tax cut in this country at a time when we were booming. I mean, where is that money going?

 

Quinn:                                  Sure.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        So I think part of what's going on is a simple asset inflation and this is old fashioned but I think this might be a speculative boom, I really do. Markets are so irrational. I can't comment on the valuation of any particular company ...

 

Quinn:                                  Sure.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        But those companies I know well, when I look at their expected cash flows, even under fantastic scenarios, I don't see them connecting to the valuations we're seeing. So I'm reminded of what was that great phrase in 2008, "I know prices are too high, but as long as the music plays, I have to play, too."

 

Quinn:                                  Sure.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        I think we're in for a crash.

 

Quinn:                                  It's pretty daunting and obviously, I mean the market has seen so many cycles over the past 100 plus years, but it is incredible sort of, what these big five tech companies are doing to carry, for example, the SMP these days and there really are sort of black holes sucking up everything around them in this just incredible cycle of, yes, like practically more of us are spending time and money and energy online because we're trapped at home and also because it's 2020, but at the same time, it's truly incredible and thinking about those companies, for example ... I mean, look, to be candid, right? I'm all for completely reforming capitalism and the markets and the modern worker and I really want to talk about that worker today, but it's clearly a problem that's too big for capitalism alone and I believe those companies have failed to prove they're capable of self-regulating themselves into even incremental progress.

 

Quinn:                                  I mean government is required but a very different government that is younger and more flexible and adept and understands the externalities that are happening, but it seems like if ... I mean if capitalism is a ship, that's difficult to turn around, government feels like it hit the iceberg six hours ago, right?

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Well, that's not fair. You know, when I give your speech, when I say, "We won't rebuild our society without strengthening government, that we need a democratic transparent, accountable, capable government," people look at me and say, "Well, that's what not government is." But what we're seeing right now is the result of a sustained attack over, you name it, 30, 40, 50, years on government as the problem.

 

Quinn:                                  Sure, sure.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        And a flood of money, uncontrolled money continually stressing that, "No, government is evil, government is wrong," and I mean, you see it most clearly in the most recent administration which appears to be actively trying destroy the state.

 

Quinn:                                  Sure, what was the famous Reagan quote, "If someone knocks on the door and says it's the government here to help, you know you're in trouble." Something like that.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        The 10 most dangerous words in the English language.

 

Quinn:                                  Right, right.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        "I'm from government, am I here to help?"

 

Quinn:                                  Yes, yes.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        I mean, closely followed with, "We need to drown government in the bathtub." So we are in the grip of a movement which has decided that government is the enemy, which has systematically starved and attacked it and so it's no wonder that it's not working terribly well. But the good news is we have models of government that work, it's not that we don't know what needs to be done, and how it could be done. It requires a massive political and cultural movement to get it going and the efforts of millions of us working as hard as we can but we can do it and I can't resist adding to this. It's been a mistake, even if you're a business person. I mean, I think for individual business person, the idea that we just cut taxes, get rid of government, get rid of regulation, I mean, it sounded wonderful. I have 25 years of corporate board experience.

 

Quinn:                                  Right.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        I mean, it sounds fabulous, but it turns out that if everyone does that, it crashes the entire system, and I'm meeting more and more business people who can see that.

 

Quinn:                                  Well, I think it's interesting and I mean you talked ... I'm trying to remember and I apologize if it's in one of your papers or your book about how only, I think it was one third of young Americans and Brits feel it's necessary to live in a democracy, but I mean, I as you just pointed out, because this assault on government has been happening for 30, 40 years. The people that have been assaulting it and the people from the inside with this administration have not only assaulted it, they've changed it to the point where ... I mean, I don't think that these young people that feel it's necessary to live in a democracy, I don't fault them, because they're not really living in a democracy at this point, as its traditionally defined, right?

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Exactly.

 

Quinn:                                  And the apparatus that they pay taxes to doesn't actually do anything for them, especially if you're a ... I mean, if you're a black or indigenous person in America, I mean, forget it.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Well, I think this is so important, 70% of Americans said before COVID, that the system was rigged against them.

 

Quinn:                                  Right, wow.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        The statistic is 25% of people under 30 think democracy's not necessary. Well, what they think of as democracy is a system that has delivered nothing. Sometimes when I'm hanging out with my other Cambridge pointy headed liberal friends and they're ragging on the republicans, I say, "And what did the democrats do? What did the democrats do for the white working families in Ohio? We talked a lot of race and social ... What did we actually do? Could we go over that again?"

 

Quinn:                                  Yeah.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        I mean I think we're all complicit in this. We're all complicit in this lovely fantasy that if we only made the economy big enough everyone would benefit. I mean there have always been people standing on the sidelines, jumping up and down, screaming about structural reform, but it was so easy to ignore them. What COVID has done is make it so clear that we can't just keep going in this way and, no, I mean we need a real democracy, where people have real facts, real votes, and everybody gets to participate.

 

Quinn:                                  No, I think, you're absolutely right and I want to comeback to that notion as it is now of everyone getting a vote and everyone participating because I firmly believe that there are more forces at work against the average American, young American voter than they realize and I want to get into that. Let's talk about sort of one of the guiding principles as I could tell of sort of your thesis. Maybe the North star's that change in business and certainly government requires a purpose and direction, but as someone who's worked at a number of big and small companies and seen mission statements that really are just a mash up of synergy and other corporate words, it feels like purpose or the statements need to pass muster in the 21st century as we look forward. Whatever this new found purpose is that someone uses, to me needs to be practical and tangible and something that is achievable and measurable, right?

 

Quinn:                                  But not in just some internal way, but for the public good and so that makes me think of sort of these, the standardized measurables that have come out in the past 20 years and they're slowly being picked up like ESG and things like that. Where are these being standardized and accepted? I guess, what's working and what's not and please tell me all the ways I'm wrong about the idea of the more practical purpose?

 

Rebecca Henders...:        You're not wrong at all. My measure of, my first test of whether a company is authentically purpose driven is whether it's expensive. That is are they spending real resources to do the right thing? Are they making the tough choices? Are they investing in the future? Otherwise, it's just fluff and words and I'm not here to tell you that that's easy to do. I spent 20 years studying corporate change. I mean I spent a year trying to persuade Nokia that Apple was an important threat and you can see how well that worked.

 

Quinn:                                  Sure.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        But so I know how tough it is to switch, to move organizations, so this is a difficult lift but it's completely possible. There are firms that are there. The only way we'll keep them there and get more there is if we measure what they're doing. If they have clear metrics that are, yes, linked to public benefit as well as to profit and if those measure are replicable and auditable, so absolutely, that's where we need to go. What's happening on that front? Well, I think depending on how you think about it, it's either a hopeless cacophony or a new world waiting to be born.

 

Quinn:                                  It depends on the day.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        It depends on the day. I say in my book, I didn't realize that accountants were the people that hold the key to the future of civilization.

 

Quinn:                                  The whole thing, right?

 

Rebecca Henders...:        But they really do. I mean this is super important. So here's the good news, it took at least a 100 years to get financial accounts to the place where they are now. In the '20s when PNG published their annual report, they said, "Well, our revenues were $20 million and our profits were $340,000. If you're an investor and you want to know more, you're welcome to apply at our office in Cincinnati in person." We take for granted financial accountant but in fact they're ... The outcome of years and years of fighting and trying and measuring and improving and so I think the really good news is you pic a number 20,000, 30,000, 40,000 people including all the major accounting firms, but a whole bunch of other people are working this problem as hard as they can.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        It's clear that it's absolutely critical, that without it, everything else is just talk. It's not easy, but we're seeing groups like SASBI, the Sustainable Accounting Standards Board, which is going industry by industry, working with firms, trying to identify the right metrics, testing them out. We're seeing initiatives like the Impact ... It's at the Harvard Business School, it's run by one of my closest friends and it's called something like the initiative to do impact measures, but it's a collection of all the great academics in this space really putting their energy and time behind this. I think the good news, Quinn, is that it's imminently possible. I mean you can see we're going to be able to do this and once we have it, then not only investors can push firms to do the right thing, which I hope they will, but employees and customer can, too.

 

Quinn:                                  Well, and I want to, I guess, come back to two things there, which is it's been really interesting the past four, five months to see many of these ESG aimed companies doing pretty darn well and these indexes that these companies comprise, doing pretty darn well. And I'm not sure if that's people grasping at straws, if that's people looking at the other incumbents and realizing they're not ready to take these measures and so they'll look elsewhere finally. Are we looking at investors who are finally a little more long term and aren't as worried about quarterly earnings reports or is it these companies able to finally translate the definitions from their accountants out into these quarterly earning reports so that people are able to understand them better all the down to the retail investor?

 

Rebecca Henders...:        I think it's mostly the big tech companies look pretty good on ESG metrics, and they've been doing very well. That said, there's a ton of research and this is the subject of my scholarly work, suggesting that firms that authentically embrace purpose and couple that with a pragmatic strategy that's rooted in the heart of the firm, there are all kinds of reasons to suggest that they are going to be significantly more productive, creative, innovative, and resilient than more conventional firms. I mean all the way from the psychology of meaning and triggering intrinsic motivation in the employee base to the importance of trust in complex organizations and to the ways that authentically purpose driven firms are much better positioned to build trust, to the fact that if you're really authentically purpose driven, you're looking at the whole vision, the whole scope of the world, and you can see how the world is changing.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        I mean, my personal belief is that we will struggle our way to a more sustainable and equitable society and we will transform nearly ever industry on the planet and it's the purpose driven firms that are out there trying to drive that transformation. And for some of them, they're going to hit pay dirt and some of them are already doing so. So I think the existing research is really clear that doing well on ESG metrics and embracing purpose does not hurt performance. I mean, we have cast iron, hundreds of studies that suggest that's true. What we're beginning to see in the data is if you can meld purpose to strategy, if you can really put it in place and act on it, and those places, we do have good measures of that, which is not yet ESG. But where we do have good measures of that, you're seeing significant out performance.

 

Quinn:                                  And that's kind of the key, right? And I don't think either of us are saying that this is an easy job.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        No.

 

Quinn:                                  I mean, to turn this around maybe if you're a startup, sure, and I just had a wonderful conversation with the young woman who runs sustainability at Allbirds, who makes those incredibly comfortable shoes.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Oh, sure.

 

Quinn:                                  They're fantastic, but her talking about how sustainability and ESG and things like that are built in from ... they're in every conversation about product and marketing and strategy and hiring practices and such like that, and that's easier to do as you're getting started, of course. For the larger companies, not so much. I wonder if you could ... I loved the part of your book that talked about ... and I just frankly forgotten about ... what Jet Blue went through to get to where they are and how actually early they were going about it.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Sure. Oh, I love that story. Sophia Mendelsohn, who is the Chief Sustainability Officer at Jet Blue is fabulous. So here's what happened, Jet Blue was getting pressured because their passengers didn't like the fact they weren't recycling soda cans on the flight. So Sophia was hired to run a recycling program. You know, "Yeah, you're the Head of Sustainability, but really we've got to get rid of these soda cans."

 

Quinn:                                  Sure.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        She's wonderful, she put her head down, she said, "Okay, I get what's going on around here. I have to make money for the company." So she's very quiet ... She's not very quiet, but she's very polite, she started talking to everyone in the organization. Like, "What's going on? What are your problems? How can I help?" And she discovered fairly quickly that she could start saving the company money. So one of my favorite examples is she suggested that every plane take off with less water in the water tank. Because it turned out, everyone was landing with a half full water tank and it's expensive to fly all that water around because fuel was the major expense and so super simple idea, cut the water tank in half, great.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Well, then she started to try something a little bit harder. "Okay, well, I see that your major expense is fuel and volatility in the fuel price is driving volatility in the stock price, why don't we go out and see if we can get anyone to give us biofuel based jet fuel." And this is more than five years ago.

 

Quinn:                                  I was going to say, this is not like leading edge right now. This was pretty ahead of the game.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        No, no, no, this is more than five years ago and she went out and she signed a contract. At the time is the largest contract ever signed for a flat price and it was a good price and everyone's like, "Whoa, this woman kind of knows what she's doing. This is good. What else can we do around here?" And she kept doing these kind of small things and then the big and big effort that's in my book, but you should talk to her now, there's no stopping her.

 

Quinn:                                  I would love to, yeah. I'd love it.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        She's doing a ton of things, but the big thing that's in my book is she went to investor relations and said, "Well, can I help you?" And they said, "Well, no, no. Sustainability, we don't care." She said, "What's your problem?" And the investor relations people said, "The problem is people keep coming in and out of the stock that we have mostly hedge funds and short term oriented investors, and we want long term oriented investors, because we think we're building a firm which is all about treating our employees well, going the extra mile for our customers and really building a different kind of airline and we can't seem to tell that story." And she said, "Well, you know what you need? You need SASBI, you need the Sustainable Accounting Standards Board."

 

Quinn:                                  I love it.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        "And we need the measures," and so she was the first airline in SASBI and she put the metrics in place and she trained the investor relations people like how to have those conversations and they love her. She changed the ... Who knows what really change the composition of the stock, but when you look at the data, it's very clear, the number of long term investors in the stock went up significantly. Volatility of the stock went down. I mean, and everybody loved her, so her approach has been like, "What can I do to make this company more successful?" And what she says is that now she's done it, now she has this language of sustainability and she has some things under her belt, now she can begin to do much more. That just as your friend at Allbirds says it's part of every conversation, that's beginning to happen at Jet Blue.

 

Quinn:                                  Which again is not an easy thing.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        No, super hard, I'm talking about a six year journey, an incredibly energetic, thoughtful, and smart person, but she was working with a firm that, whose values at bedrock were pretty good and I think that's very helpful.

 

Quinn:                                  Sure. How do you feel like our fictional company X can translate their new purpose down into the ranks of the workers? How do they earn that trust? Because it's not ... Again, pivoting backwards, it's not just about performing ESG on the outside for your earnings or your bottom line or the markets, but internally as well and part of being a happy employee and a productive employee means feeling valued and feeling challenged and productive and that obviously starts with ... and a lot of places don't do this ... actually paying them a living wage in money, but also in benefits, like parental leave and to challenge them so that they can be invigorated by this new company wide shared purpose, spiritually, but also practically down to the worker. How do we find that that best trickles down, please?

 

Rebecca Henders...:        So to me it's not about trickling down, it's absolutely fundamental. The phrase I use in the book is high road employment practices, this radical idea that you should treat everyone with dignity and respect, as a full human being. One of the firms I know of that does this talks about everyone as someone's precious child. The full realization of everybody's humanity and then you put in place a high performance work system, what does that mean? For sure it means a living wage and decent benefit and stable employment and significant investments in training, but it also means, because you can't afford to pay those increased wages unless you do the rest of the stuff, it means empower the work force. Designing work so that having people on the front line who are totally engaged with the work and able to make decisions really makes a difference to the business.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        So you can't just write a larger check, I mean, yes, that will get you some ways, but we know for all kinds of reasons it's not enough. You need to change the way you think about work and the way you manage, the way you talk to people. And how do you signal authenticity? You don't behave like a bastard.

 

Quinn:                                  Sure.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        You treat people as if they're really people.

 

Quinn:                                  The threshold is quite low at this point.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Yes, and what is so puzzling about this, Quinn, it's just so bizarre is my great friend and colleague, Zeynep Ton, who's a professor at MIT and has this fabulous book called The Good Jobs Strategy, she has all this data showing that managing this way gives you so many better outcomes and then I went back when I was writing my book and we have data from 200 years ago and a 100 years ago and 50 years ago. I mean there was a plant in Procter & Gamble that started running this work system and it became so much more productive and so much more innovative but the management hid the data, because they didn't think anyone would believe it.

 

Quinn:                                  Wow.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        But the trouble is this way of working requires ... Whoa, can I say this on your podcast?

 

Quinn:                                  You can say just about anything on this podcast.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Emotional vulnerability, self-knowledge, a belief in the underlying goodness and capacity of human beings. It requires not putting yourself first. I mean the leaders who enable these kinds of firms, they're super people. Now my experience has been you don't have to like change out the entire workforce. It's people want to be managed this way, they really do. It's providing the space and deciding to make the investment. I mean it's a tough transition. It takes a couple of years to put this in place before people really believe you're serious. You need to change how you think about the work, but it is absolutely possible, and, oh, my goodness, it's so much more fun when you're on the other side.

 

Quinn:                                  Sure, but I do imagine, like you said, and I don't want to discount it here, that like making emotional vulnerability part of your company's mandate, I imagine in some cases, if not a number of cases, that that's a tough one to quantify for those accountants that we've realized do hold the keys to changing this whole thing.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Well, let me give you an actual fact, which is very helpful.

 

Quinn:                                  Please.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        It turns out that in the average industry, the top 10% most productive firms are more than twice as productive as the bottom 10%. That is they take the same inputs and they produce more than twice the output. I spent 20 years in windowless conference rooms at the National Bureau of Economic Research trying to make this result go away. We all thought it was measurement error. That somehow, if you could control for differences in capital or differences in human capital, educational levels, where the managers were trained, maybe it was price cost margins and some firms had many monopolies in the markets they served. Controlling absolutely everything, the result does not go away. It's now a standard result in modern economics, empirically, the theorists are still like, "What? What is this?"

 

Quinn:                                  Right.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Because it turns out that management really matters and my colleagues John Van Reenen and Nick Bloom, who I think will get the Nobel Prize for this work, got measures of productivity and measures of management practice from thousands of firms across the whole world and the result is absolutely there, and it's correlated with high performing teams, with strong levels of communication, with high investments in training. I mean, it looks easy. If I showed you the list, you'd go, "Ah, no problem. Just do it."

 

Quinn:                                  Sure.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Toyota's been doing it forever.

 

Quinn:                                  Oh, God, forever.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        You look at that list and then you watch firms try and do it and without a real commitment to values and purpose and to people, you can't make it work. You have to have super high levels of trust in the organization, and you know a dominant management mode, which is, "Excuse me, we're in this for the investors and most particularly, we're in this for me, I'm in charge, the rest of you are minions," is not a great way to manage this way and gets you into all kinds of trouble.

 

Quinn:                                  And that's of course, I try to keep coming back to the things that are built into now our society after this 30, 40 year push and our economies and our industries that these ideas and these measurables and these progressive companies are fighting against and there's things like CEO pay is mostly tied to stock price and stock prices are for some of these companies out of control and so the workers are making ... nowhere near the same percentage as they were 25 years ago, 30 years ago as the C board in these companies. And that's hard when all we see, like you mentioned the tax cut from whatever ... What was that now? I mean time means nothing at this point but was it two years ago? And what did we mostly get? Buy backs.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Right.

 

Quinn:                                  The American worker is still just suffering for the most part, it seems like.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        And the case I keep trying to make is this is a problem for business. Part of the issue is many senior people spend their times in a kind of bubble. They travel on jets, they meet people like them. When you meet them, often their heart's in the right place. They think they're doing the right thing, but it's burning out there. One of the things I've learned as I've been talking about my book is how many people want to throw capitalism out the window.

 

Quinn:                                  Sure.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        They say to me, "Why should we re-imagine it? Why don't we just get rid of it?" And I tell groups of business people, "We keep going this way, where we end up, you are not going to like." I mean, unchecked climate change is going to be an economic disaster, but the social costs and political costs of continuing to flaunt your wealth and do nothing about people who are struggling to hold body and soul together, and working just as hard as you are, at much less interesting and engaging jobs, may I say.

 

Quinn:                                  Sure.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        This makes no sense. Now of course, that means we have a collective action problem, right? Business as a whole would love it if we rebuilt our institutions and put the right rules in places, I think, I hope. It' trying to persuade business to act on that collective case that's tricky, but I don't think it's impossible.

 

Quinn:                                  I don't think it's impossible either, and again, I come back to a few things, one is which ... Again, it's hard to say to people like, "Look, we can make democracy work for you," and them going, "Well, I'm under 40 and it's never worked for me." And I feel like it's important to point out to them like, "Yes, but this isn't democracy, that's why it hasn't worked for you is because this is ... The thing I'm trying to sell you is not the thing that you've been experiencing. It's something entirely different, and so it does take rebuilding it from the way it was supposed to be, which is where you actually have a voice in the matter."

 

Quinn:                                  And for instance for a company, you actually, if you're a worker, you're part of the workers who get to add a few seats to the board. Instead of you look at something like Facebook, where Zuckerberg has basically unlimited power and the employees can be incredibly unhappy about privacy or about climate or about all the racial, artificial intelligence stuff that happens there, and it doesn't matter. They have no power.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        For sure. I think the good news, and I'm sure you do this, is there have been times and places when both capitalism and democracy have worked much better. The examples I like are Germany, post World War II.

 

Quinn:                                  Sure.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        I talk a lot about Denmark. Do you know, I talk about the US in the '50s and '60s and '70s? Now when you do that, you have to put a big asterisk. You have to say, "Without all the racism and misogyny," but if you can imagine, but at the time, General Motors had a stakeholder chart in their annual report. "Here's the value we're creating for stakeholders." The idea that the jobs they created should be good jobs was taken for granted. The idea that business should sit down with unions and try and work out a way that worked for everyone, that worked very well. Now when I say union, people freak out for all kinds of good reasons but when you look at Germany and how they've been able to use unions to force real investments in training and in apprenticeships, when you see average levels of wages, I mean Germany is a manufacturing power house.

 

Quinn:                                  It's incredible.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        They've created so much value and how did they do that? By making nearly everyone in that society fully trained and doing a job that they loved and really, really making a difference. And people say to me, "Well, you know, the Danes, well, Denmark's small and the Danish have this wonderful culture. They all love each other." And I say, "Well, you should read a bit more about late 19th century Danish history. That Danes are just like the rest of us." They got to the place where they are now, because in the late 19th century, they've just lost a major war. Capital and labor were completely at war with each other, the country was falling apart and one of the business leaders said, "Wait, this is not working. Let's sit down with labor, with government, and try and build a society that works for us, and they've had a 100 years to practice doing that, and my goodness, they're in a much better place.

 

Quinn:                                  Yeah, it takes time.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Yeah, it take time. No, there's no magic bullet. We cannot snap our fingers and we are badly of course here in the US. It's going to take a while to get back on track.

 

Quinn:                                  I want to just talk for a minute ... Again, because I don't want to ... I want to say clearly, like I do believe that these things are possible, in part because of the ticking clock. These are not optional things anymore, rebuilding capitalism and rebuilding democracy. They have to happen or it's kaput. I mean we're already going to have mass suffering as it is and a lot of places already are in that place or we're seeing, we have to pick the cities we're going to abandon, et cetera, et cetera. But I do always want to be sort of objective and especially in our sense of trying to stand in for our audience.

 

Quinn:                                  And I woke up, this is something nobody should ever say but I woke up this morning thinking about the Koch brothers. When we see everyone marching in the streets recently and we talk about these companies that on the other hand that are doing their best and standing by their workers, but you've mentioned before ... and again, I apologize, I can't remember if it's in one of your papers or speech or in the book ... but how one of the traits of an extractive political economy is influential but opaque interest groups. Did I get that correct?

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Absolutely, you did.

 

Quinn:                                  I've kind of always felt but even more so than ever these days, I really feel like most Americans don't understand how pervasive that is here and how little control the young American voter has, what they're really fighting against. If you don't mind just ... I've been trying to work this out in my head all morning.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Sure.

 

Quinn:                                  Sort of how comprehensive the system is and at any point, please just say that's incorrect or lead me down a different ...

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Sure, sure, I mean, so I have good news and bad news.

 

Quinn:                                  Please.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        The good news is most Americans have emotionally a very good sense of what's going on. When you ask Americans, "Should we take money out of politics?" You get bizarrely high levels of agreement regardless of party. They know how corrupt this is. That number I gave you, 70% of the system is rigged, people know.

 

Quinn:                                  True, right.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        For sure.

 

Quinn:                                  And like you said, that was before COVID.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Right, that's before COVID, so that's the good news. Here's the bad news, oh, my goodness, we're in a tough place. I talked to Anand Giridharadas, the guy who wrote Winners Take All, and he said, "Rebecca, plutocrats got to plut." "What are you talking about?" So couple of ways to think about this. First, I am not optimistic in the sense that if you ask me, "What are the odds we're going to solve this and we're going to be fine?" I'd say pretty small. If we just, things just continue to roll ... I told you, I was the Eastman Kodak Professor of Management. I know how hard it is to change firms and this is when they're looking death in the face. They still can't get themselves to change. So I understand that, but I am hopeful. So why?

 

Rebecca Henders...:        COVID has shown us ... I love your description from Ed Yong's article, "It's soaked into all the cracks." COVID has soaked into all the cracks that were already there. We can see what's happening. The reason I continue to believe that it's important to talk about business as part of the solution is that it's really important to split the elite. We're always going to have a group of people with infinite money, who think the free market is the only way to go and anything else will make things worse, and maybe they actually believe it, and it makes them incredibly rich, and they're spreading that money around to reinforce their position. But there are thousands of business people and hundreds of CEOs of very large organizations who can see that where we're going is the road to nowhere.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        I think, I was talking to a bunch of CEOs in January before COVID, maybe 90 people in the room, there were two women. When I first walked into the room, I lost for a moment and I said, "Are there no women in this room?" Which you're never supposed to say, but I actually said it, because like it was so male, it was so old, it was so white, and I started talking about Climate Change and I was teaching a case about ... I think it was about Unilever in the tea business and, you know, "You can make money and do well and purpose is the future." I promise you, everyone in that room was sitting back with their arms crossed, "Yeah, yeah, when can we get on to the next lecture?"

 

Rebecca Henders...:        And about half ... this was so bad, that about half way through I just lost it and I said, "Tell me, what do your children think about Climate Change?" And everyone in the room lit up, they leant forward and they started talking with another part of their mind. It was so interesting and "Yes, it's a huge issue and my children are after me all the time and they want me to do things at the firm and what can I do?" And once I got them there, then we could have a real conversation. If we can persuade a significant share of business people that it is in their interest to do the right thing, and put some daylight between them and the shareholder value maximization at any cost, I think that will be hugely helpful. My reading, when I looked through history to try and find times when business had really made a difference, it was when a portion of the business elite said, "Okay, we'll stop fighting. We will sit down and work with you."

 

Rebecca Henders...:        So of course, we need a massive political and social movement, absolutely. We need to change out our politicians. Everyone of us needs to be as engaged as we can be as consumers, as neighbors, as voters, as employees in pushing for this change. That's what will really drive things, but to have a group of business people say, "How can I help?" And, and here the Strategy Faculty Member in me says, "If we can persuade them to begin to build our business model on doing the right thing, they have a strong economic interest in insisting that everybody else does, too."

 

Quinn:                                  Sure.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        So I think there's a virtuous circle here that we could get going, but again, I wake up thinking about the Koch brothers.

 

Quinn:                                  It's not great.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        It's not great and let's talk about Mexico and let's talk about China and let's talk about Russia, I mean it seems to be the history of the human race that the rich and the powerful try and grab everything for themselves. What do we know about what fights back against that? It's organized power, it's the rest of us getting together and saying, "This is not okay." So that's what we need to do. Organize.

 

Quinn:                                  Yeah, I'm ... Throws down the microphone. Walks out. I guess a few things on that note, which is it feels like I'm a big fan of ... and I've been asked a lot in recent months as people kind of go like, "Oh, my God, what the hell is happening with the world? I should have listened to you on Climate Change and now there's COVID. Like can you come coach or consult or whatever as sort of a generalist, please, trying to connect the dots as much as possible?" But I haven't done that, because I'm trapped at home with my children, but I do believe in taking the facts that are on the ground and you can extrapolate a little bit into the near future to things that are ... or most likely going to happen ... Again, it's all probabilities at that point and then, we don't have a whole hell of a lot of an idea past that.

 

Quinn:                                  But I do believe, like you said, of course, we need to overturn democracy and get everyone new into power and young people and smart people and diverse people. But business is more powerful than it's ever been, so we have to use that, like you said, and I do believe if you take a company like Apple, which is nowhere near from perfect, but if they will ... Who was it, a few weeks ago said, they're going to go carbon neutral by ... I don't remember what it was ... 2035 maybe, 2050. That is truly an incredible undertaking, because of their supply lines and if we can have more companies like that doing that ... I mean it feels like all the associations of mayors that stepped up in the cities and such when we backed out of the Paris Agreement and Trump got elected who said like, "Well, then fine, then cities will do it or states will do it."

 

Quinn:                                  It feels like if companies are going to be this powerful then we need to push them to ... not to fill in the gaps but to use their power for good, I guess, to go back to Spiderman.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        It's not the business can fix it. It's not that we can say to CEOs, "Okay, [inaudible 00:48:12] firms, you've got this." Absolutely not.

 

Quinn:                                  Right.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        But I do think if we had some section of the business community really focused on these issues, people would experience what it means to be properly treated to work in these kinds of firms. They would start demonstrating, they are demonstrating the kinds of business models that will work to create great jobs and address environmental problems, and make money. So that then politicians, when they come to drive these kinds of changes, can point to them and say, "Look, don't tell me I'm going to put you out of business. Firm X is paying wages Y and benefit Z and firm Alpha has cut their carbon emissions to zero and they're doing fine and here's how to do it."

 

Rebecca Henders...:        And then and business is ... I mean I'm on the board of a non-profit called Series and I've seen how politicians react when business people walk into the room in a good way and say, "We need carbon regulation. We need decent education. We need a reasonable health care system." It's very helpful to have business moving in this direction and I ... so many people spend so much time at work, imagine that at work the people around you are talking about the big problems and how they can be fixed and really sharing the data. That I think could make a real difference.

 

Quinn:                                  And that, just to me, comes down more and more to ... Especially with these younger generations, listening to your workers, right, and making, re-making the American worker as stakeholder in the business, in the industry and our economy.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Absolutely, I could not agree more. I mean I talk in the book about employee owned firms, which is not a form for every one, but is incredibly powerful and we know from the data that when a firm is genuinely employee owned and controlled, whoa, wages go up. Wealth goes up and the business does just fine. There's so much energy and excitement and power in ... I hate the word ordinary people ... in us.

 

Quinn:                                  True.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        In us.

 

Quinn:                                  No, but it's true and I think it's important because the ... America, especially these days, has become a system of castes and again coming back to the Koch brothers, they haven't just ... and so many others like them, they're just sort of the figurehead, the bad final boss of this dark money side of it ... but they haven't just campaigned to take everything for themselves. They have outright ... and in such a comprehensive way ... spent decades reducing the status and the power of the ordinary American, literally from birth, right?

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Right.

 

Quinn:                                  And, of course, again, everyone is affected, but especially black people and Latinx people. The average American, right, is born healthy, less healthy than other developed countries on average, but ... Because our health care system's a nightmare ... But better than much of the world, but their parents can't take paid leave from their hourly job, so probably only one parent works, so they can't send them to preschool, because we don't have universal preschool. But they can go to public elementary school, which is probably not that good, because people like the Koch brothers have destroyed public education in availability and quality. So now that student I less prepared for higher eduction, right, and less prepared for knowledge work, which seems to be the only thing that pays, but they've also funded these efforts to cut taxes everywhere so again, the corporations have spent so much more on buy backs than on their workers that wages haven't gone up to match health care or to match college funding so-

 

Rebecca Henders...:        And you haven't mentioned actively smashing unions ...

 

Quinn:                                  Of course, no, I mean ...

 

Rebecca Henders...:        All research suggests that without unions it's super hard to keep wages or buying politicians who would keep minimum wage laws low.

 

Quinn:                                  Exactly.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Or turning a blind eye, I mean to ... this is a crazy thing. I'm British and when I first learned that every town funds its own educational system, I was like, "You're kidding, right?"

 

Quinn:                                  Ah, God, yeah.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Because that means if you're born in a poor place you have crap education.

 

Quinn:                                  Yeah, and it just ... how does that get better? It doesn't, right?

 

Rebecca Henders...:        It doesn't.

 

Quinn:                                  But it also ... it's crazy because ... Oh, my God. It's like the ... so you've got all these ... They'll reduce taxes and then they ... The tax cuts of a couple years ago, but these have been going on for so long, that means, reduced government income, right? Again, we're coming back to the ordinary person.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Right.

 

Quinn:                                  We just did a conversation on how one of your fellow Brits did this incredible groundbreaking investigation on how drinking water is unaffordable for so many people in America. Drinking water, the one thing that everybody needs, right? And part of that is because there's reduced government income, because there's reduced taxes and so our infrastructure is a complete nightmare.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Right, right.

 

Quinn:                                  So this average American worker, the ordinary person you mentioned, and I swear this ties in to like how to reform business ... They're less educated, they're less able to participate in capitalism, because they can't afford any of these stocks. They eat less healthy food and drink less clean water. Stay stay in their job because the only way to get health care ...

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Right.

 

Quinn:                                  I mean Obama care's a mess. The only way to get health care is to have a job and to pay off their student loan debts, so they're not getting ahead or anything. Like you said, unions don't exist, so they can't actually fight for higher wages or benefits in any way, and all the politicians are totally bought already. I mean, we have these incumbents for six years.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        And listen to what you're saying, business has shot itself in the foot, because then when you turn to the workforce and half the workforce is going to be people of color very quickly.

 

Quinn:                                  Yeah.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Half the consumer base is going to be people of color very quickly, but if you've turned a blind eye to the fact that so many people in this country have no chance of making good or building a decent life for themselves. Like what kind of country do we have, what kind of workforce do we have, what kind of market do we have? This is so short sighted. It is, it makes me so heart broken and so angry, I hardly know what to do. You started a podcast. I wrote a book.

 

Quinn:                                  Yes, I know, I always joke, and of course we're very proud of our work here and we're very proud of like any difference we can make but I always joke, like my children are going to grow up and say, "Dad, when the world was on fire, what did you do?" I'm going to say, "Well, I started a podcast." But no, look, I want to turn it back to where you were, forgive my long rant there, which is what I literally woke up this morning thinking about, but this system has been designed, to be clear, by guys who look like me for a 100 years to ... it has been designed to reduce the American citizen and worker's role in democracy, in capitalism, but these workers, they don't want to leave ... I mean some want to leave America. Most don't want to leave.

 

Quinn:                                  For the people of color, they cannot. They want it to work, right? For her, for her parents, for her children. One of my favorite conversations was with the now editor of the Boston Globe Opinion Section, Bina Venkataraman, who said, "We have to find a way to be better ancestors," right, and we're counting on this next generation, because all the boomers are about to retire.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Right.

 

Quinn:                                  Right? But if this worker, as ... Excuse me for one second ... as fucked up as everything is, if she gets a job at one of these new purpose driven companies we've talked about today, she will live an entirely different life. From paying her bills to working towards practical solutions for water or Climate Change or clean energy, than the one described above ...

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Right, right.

 

Quinn:                                  And to me that is why business can take this leadership role so, I mean ...

 

Rebecca Henders...:        That's why I do this work. Because the system is one thing, but if you work at a firm and you have some power, you have the opportunity to change the lives of 20 people? I'll take it. 50 people, a 1,000, 10,000.

 

Quinn:                                  Sure.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Really, you said it. These jobs are quit different jobs and it's not just the pay and benefits. It's the respect, it's the power, it's the knowledge that you're making a difference where you work. People need dignity as much as they need food. Now I'm not knocking food.

 

Quinn:                                  No, but, no, they're important.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Nor living hand to mouth, but the whole package is what's needed to make a whole human being and we can do that. We have the technology, we have the resources, we have the wealth.

 

Quinn:                                  Of course, I mean, we do. It's just that only a few people have the wealth. Would you say to that young woman, now in 2020, five months into COVID, with the climate crisis barking down our back, but knowing what you know about the ESG that has these companies, and these indexes that have proven all the studies that show that these companies do better and that more of them are coming and that there's from Jet Blue to Allbirds, would you say this young worker, is she going to get the opportunity to work at one of these companies and what will it take from the rest of us to help her do that?

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Statistically, it's going to be hard. We're still at the beginning, maybe 5% of companies, maybe 10%, but it's not zero, so I think in her lifetime, she will ... odds are very good, she'll get that chance and I'm doing everything I can to increase the odds and I know thousands of people who are trying to do that, too. It really feels to me, as if COVID may have opened a door that we can no longer kid ourselves that things are okay. They're not okay. And so many people are moving and trying to make change and we can see the path and it's profitable. I think we can do this.

 

Quinn:                                  Mm-hmm (affirmative), I hope so. On that note, I want to talk about these specific action steps that our listeners can take to support this mission of yours that is might be the only mission that's worthwhile, because we have to save the place. And as we like to say, some semblance of using their voice, their vote, and their dollar. Again, one of our over arching goals is to shine a light as practically as we can on where we need to go as a people, so what would you say are maybe some of the big but actionable and specific questions that our listeners should be asking of their representatives? And I guess in that case, as shareholders as well, of the companies that either they work for ...

 

Rebecca Henders...:        I was going to go as shareholders and employees as well.

 

Quinn:                                  Yeah, absolutely.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        So if you're a shareholder, push your firms and your investment managers to invest in purpose driven firms, which have a proven track record and good, clear measures. If you work at a firm, look around, Sophia at Jet Blue changed the whole firm and in the beginning she was just the lady hired to get rid of the soda cans. Many firms are very badly managed and they would be hugely improved if they were more purpose driven and thinking more about the common good. So do what you can at work. Join together with friends.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        As a neighbor, pull to get ... you must say this all the time on this show, but you know a friend of mine founded an NGO called MOther's Out Front, which was all about addressing Climate Change, because she thought mothers had a real interest in the long term health of the climate and they're passionate about their kids. And what she has found is that 20 mums showing up to hearing after hearing make an enormous difference. Her group identifies gas leaks, works with regulators to insist that the gas companies fix those gas leaks, because gas is just methane, it's a horrible green house gas and it's leaking out across every city in the country. Insist that your representatives put in place decent regulation to make sure we head off Climate Change.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        I'm sure you've had other shows where you've talked about the details, but essentially, it should be expensive to burn fossil fuels and as soon as we do that, we can really transition the economy. But insist on minimum wage legislation, on paid sick leave, on decent child care, on the right to unionize, and to get together with other people, so that you can argue for your rights. And insist, please the most important on free elections, let's get money out of politics. Let's make sure that gerrymandering is illegal. Let's enforce the Voting Rights Act. Let's make sure that everybody has a vote, because all the policy ideas could give you ... I could give you around education and heath and so on will mean nothing if we don't have the politicians in place who can elect them. If we don't find a way to fight back against the power of money and I'm a big fan of a Wealth Tax myself.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Perhaps it's okay that Mr. Gates himself is rich beyond the dreams of avarice, he did create a lot of value, but I'm not at all clear why his children should be that rich. To be fair, Mr. Gates shares my opinion, but excuse me, why are the Walmart children between them richer than the bottom half of the American population. What did they do? Why should they have that much power? I really don't get that.

 

Quinn:                                  Yeah, I'm firmly with you and, again, I think it all comes down to ... Look, voting still works, but it's pretty damn hard to come by at this point and again, you want to go back to the Koch brothers, like one of the biggest things they founded, I mean how difficult it is right now for a black person and a brown person, a Latinx person to vote, all the way fro getting time off at their hourly job to having four voting locations where there used to be 400.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        It's a national disgrace. I mean ...

 

Quinn:                                  It's a disgrace and it feels like ...

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Just as CEOs step up and say, "LGBTQX discrimination is not acceptable," every business leader in the country should be standing up and saying, "Voter suppression is completely unacceptable."

 

Quinn:                                  Yeah, it just feels ... I mean, and it's crazy, it does feel like we're on the plains of Mordor here a little bit in a sense that it's 2020, and be districting and gerrymandering is on the line and Climate Change is on the line and we're fighting with one hand behind our backs because all these people can't get to their voting locations or they've been stopped from registering to voting.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        I know.

 

Quinn:                                  But we have to win it.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        We have to win it anyway, yeah.

 

Quinn:                                  And the thing I come back to is we have to win it because we have to but we have to win it also because should we win it, there is such an incredible future ahead. The things that are possible as far as ... Like there's so much of the climate crisis and carbon that is baked in, of course, but the things that are possible from clean energy to medicine are really astounding and we just have to get there.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        It's amazing, so yeah, I mean, we need to change the current administration. We really need to change the current administration but we have the science the technology to build a world that works for everyone. We'll never be able to heal the planet completely but my goodness, we can go a very long way. I was professor at MIT for 20 years, the technology I see is out of sight. If we can find a way to put it into place, we can build a truly just and sustainable world.

 

Quinn:                                  I'm with you. I'm there. I'm ready to do it. Listen, Rebecca, I know you've got to run soon. I won't keep you for more than another couple of minutes. If you have any other ... First of all, thank you for all of your time and everything you're doing in your incredible book. If you have any recommendation for other world changing humans such as yourself, we should talk to, please feel free to send them to me. We always love recommendations. Last couple of questions and then I will get you out of here. I swear, they're quite quick.

 

Quinn:                                  Rebecca, when was the first time in your life when you realized you had the power of change or the power to do something meaningful?

 

Rebecca Henders...:        It's so mundane.

 

Quinn:                                  Not at all.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        The first time one of my students sent me an email, saying, "Rebecca, I used what you taught me in my company and it made a real difference." That was like the best moment and there's still the best moment when people tell me that something I said was actually useful.

 

Quinn:                                  That's pretty special, I mean, I'm the son of a teacher and ... of a public school teacher and you really can have all of the influence in the world, in the most wonderful way.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Yeah.

 

Quinn:                                  Doing that. Rebecca, who is someone in your life that has positively impacted your work in the past six months?

 

Rebecca Henders...:        It's hard to choose. I've met so many amazing people on this journey I'm on. I think the person who's had the most impact on me is a British Economist called Kate Raworth, she wrote a book called Donut Economics.

 

Quinn:                                  Oh, I love that book.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        I love that book. I was on a panel with her. She is totally amazing. There's something she says I don't agree with but her general sense that like, "Excuse me, we have to completely redo the structure of the economy. We cannot grow on cutting all the forest, poisoning the oceans, and treating people like dirt. It's not going to work." She's so direct, she's so funny, she captures the ideas so quickly and so well, and she's really given me a shot in the arm, which is to say what I really believe, even it's a bit radical and people are going to disagree, because we don't have any time, and we have to change the world. So I loved meeting Kate, it was just 20 minutes on a shared panel but that's what I really remember as I look back.

 

Quinn:                                  Oh, that's fantastic. Well, I'm so glad she's enabled you to go forward with your sword of fire to tear into this incredible issue. On the subject of the ticking clock, Rebecca, what is your self care these days? What do you do when you're like, "That's enough fighting for a good world today?"

 

Rebecca Henders...:        I'm reading all the Harry Potter in sequence.

 

Quinn:                                  Ah, nice.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        And watching the movies when I get to the end of the book with my husband and son and we are having so much fun.

 

Quinn:                                  My seven year old's doing the same thing right now.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Well, I'm not ashamed.

 

Quinn:                                  You should be pleased, don't be. I just reread them a month ago.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        There's something about stepping into a controllable world and such a wonderful and a world where good wins in the end, so ...

 

Quinn:                                  Ah, it's just nice.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        That's my major self care project at the moment.

 

Quinn:                                  I love it. Yeah, I exclusively read fiction at night these days because like you said, it is a controllable world and it is not this one. Last question, if you could send ... We have an incredible list of book recommendations from past guests. They're all up on Book Shop, people can find that in our show notes but the question we usually use a guest to drive that recommendation is, Rebecca, if you could send one book to the president of the United States, what book would that be?

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu.

 

Quinn:                                  Perfect, perfect, we're allowed to do it, and I'm sure he will not understand it, but that is a good one. Rebecca, where can our listeners follow you online?

 

Rebecca Henders...:        I'm ReCap Rebecca on Twitter and I'm active on LinkedIn, so you could just find me, Rebecca Henderson on LinkedIn.

 

Quinn:                                  Fantastic. Rebecca, I cannot thank you enough for your time today and your thought and all the work you've put into your years of teaching and this book, this great sum of all the parts that makes all of your wisdom and the operable wisdom so much more accessible to so many more folks. And I'm excited to use it as a blueprint going forward.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Wow. Thank you for your kind words, Quinn. You know, in the end, none of us are going to make any difference. We're all just pebbles, star dust, star dust in the wind. But it's pebbles that start avalanches, so I think we can change the world. Thank you very much for all you do.

 

Quinn:                                  Absolutely. Thank you so much and we will talk you to you again soon. I'll call you after the world is saved, it'll be great.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        We'll have a party. Take care.

 

Quinn:                                  It'll be fantastic. Take care, Rebecca, bye-bye.

 

Rebecca Henders...:        Thanks, bye.

 

Quinn:                                  Thanks to our incredible guest today and thanks to all of you for tuning in. We hope this episode has made your commute or awesome workout or dish washing or fucking dog walking late at night that much more pleasant. As a reminder, please subscribe to our free email newsletter at ImportantNotImportant.com. It is all the news, most vital to our survival as a species.

 

Brian:                                    And you can follow us all over the internet. You can find us on Twitter at ImportantNotImp ... just so weird. Also on Facebook and Instagram at ImportantNotImportant, Pinterest and Tumbler, the same thing. So check us out, follow us, share us, like us, you know the deal and please subscribe to our show wherever you listen to things like this and if you're really fucking awesome, rate us on Apple podcast to keep the lights on. Thanks.

 

Quinn:                                  Please.

 

Brian:                                    And you can find the show notes from today right in your little podcast player and at our website, ImportantNotImportant.com.

 

Quinn:                                  Thanks to the very awesome Tim Blane for our jamming music, to all of you for listening and finally, most importantly, to our moms for making us. Have a great day.

 

Brian:                                    Thanks, guys.