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The Enlightened Capitalists: Cautionary Tales of Business Pioneers Who Tried to Do Well by Doing Good

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  60 ratings  ·  15 reviews
An expert on ethical leadership analyzes the complicated history of business people who tried to marry the pursuit of profits with virtuous organizational practices—from British industrialist Robert Owen to American retailer John Cash Penney and jeans maker Levi Strauss to such modern-day entrepreneurs Anita Roddick and Tom Chappell.

Today’s business leaders are increasingl
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Hardcover, 592 pages
Published February 26th 2019 by Harper Business
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D.L. Morrese
Apr 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Is it possible for a business to make money without exploiting workers, polluting the environment, dodging taxes (and other social responsibilities), or swindling customers? Well, sure. Probably, anyway. At least for a while, under certain conditions. But it's not as easy as one might think. And those that try often fail. In this book, a business professor at the University of Southern California profiles some 'enlightened' business leaders who have tried, and he explains why so few large corpor ...more
Luiza
Jul 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
The book brings several different stories of a variety of companies, which are very very interesting. The problem is that the amount of stories is so large that the book somehow loses the momentum and turns into "more of the same" very quickly. I believe it wouldn't be an issue if the author's opinion about the whole picture was presented in the beginning of the book, but the way the chapters were organised made the middle of the book (the stories themselves) be repetitive.

I would give the book
...more
Go2therock
Jul 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
It took me a while to finish this book - for which I take full responsibility. The tardiness was completely my fault, not that of the literature. What a timely read. It would be wonderful if this inspiring work were put into the hands of business leaders all over our country.

The author had high hopes that socially conscious ideals would be worked into our capitalist economic system back in the 70's and 80's, but our traditional practices took strong rein once more. The expectations that busines
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Daniel
Apr 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
The title says it all: The enlightened capitalists (who cared about the workers’ pay and living condition, environment, suppliers and customers well) tried to do well by doing good, but then they eventually failed. That happens even when they were able to follow the Golden Rule and make good profits and revive their town and workers are happy and suppliers and customers are fairly treated! Why?

The reasons:
1. They eventually sold to a big public corporation that behaves normally, that is, their m
...more
Harry Chernoff
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I spent my career at one of the companies described in the book (SAIC). The description of the company, its extraordinary success, the employee ownership approach instituted by Bob Beyster (founder, CEO, president, inspirational force) are all accurate. The section in the book on Lincoln Electric does, in fact, sound a lot like the approach Beyster took at SAIC (as noted in the book).

This business model works and it works at scale. Corporate America and the Federal government should spend a lo
...more
Jonathan Mckay
May 28, 2020 rated it liked it
26th book of 2020.

A book of stories with few answers. Each chapter tells the story of a different executive who found ways to make their company moral as well as profitable. In most cases they failed, in a few (and only the ones that didn't go public) they were able to build a lasting institution.

O'Toole gives a quick summary of the company, what made them successful, how they were enlightened and what happened after the founder disengaged. In the depressing majority of cases, the companies re
...more
Doug Cornelius
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Doug by: 17 BRRH2019 A business book
They tried. Business is pulled in two different directions: to make money and be a positive corporate citizen. The book tells the stories of dozens of business leaders who try to make their businesses go above and beyond the level of good expected.

Such early leaders often turned from social good to paternalism.

Most of companies' period of greater good come to an end. The decision to be so good is based on the decision of the leader at the time. As leadership changes, the devotion to the social
...more
Mark
May 14, 2019 rated it liked it
I learned from this survey of 500 years of enlightened capitalists & what worked or didn't in their broader purposed businesses. Some addressed externalities and others simply did "good". None really endured past the enlightened leader. Most came from altruistic motivations, not pragmatism or business sense. One takes away a jaded view, which is sobering but maybe also a bit cynical as historians can be. Good grounding and thought provoking anyway. Nothing is new? Or is it. ...more
William O. II
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Good read. Profiles of business owners who attempted to do well by their employees. Sadly, the majority of the businesses abandoned their good doing in search of profits after Wall Street got their hands on them.

Essentially, it's a book showing how capitalists have proven capitalism won't/can't work to support everyone and save the planet. The author doesn't say it in so many words, but he's, essentially, without knowing it, advocating for democratic socialism.
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Michael
I actually went into this book expecting him to be more negative about Enlightened Capitalism, but he's strangely positive. I do wish that he spent more time on B-Corps and Social Entrepreneurship. I also wish there was more about alternative theories of the role of corporations, corporate entrepreneurship, gig economy, etc ...more
Paulo Adalberto Reimann
Worth everything line

Lovely reading. Historical approach with a delightful approach. Which makes reading fun. Throughout history, economics, personalities, advancement, failure but mostly success. A must read.
Tomek
Apr 04, 2020 rated it did not like it
Interesting topic, but very dull format - story after story, missing overarching point
Dennis McGhee
Sep 15, 2020 rated it liked it
most non-fiction is about 20% too long, this book is like 50-60% too long. It might make a useful book to reference, but it's a very dry read. ...more
Anand Sampat
Nov 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
James O’Toole strings a number of great historical accounts together from US and UK business history together to paint a picture of enlightened capitalism across different eras.

Most notably, he provides a sobering view on the successes of these enlightened capitalists and their ability to affect meaningful change.

Eventually, he ties these historical accounts back to the present day with examples like Whole Foods and Patagonia, to reflect on the trends that make this movement all the more power
...more
Michael Dowling
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful book about business people who set an example for today's environment. You will read about people you may know nothing or little about and their contributions, such as James Penney, Robert Owen, Milton Hershey, Levi Strauss, Ken Iverson, etc. ...more
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  Rachel Lynn Solomon is best known to her fans for writing heartfelt contemporary YA novels like 2020's Today Tonight Tomorrow and her 2018...
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