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Transcript: Why you need to view a company as 'a community of human beings'

Henry Mintzberg says we need to look at a company as ‘a community of human beings.’


KARL MOORE – This is Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University with Talking Management for The Globe and Mail. Today I am talking to my colleague Henry Mintzberg about his new e-pamphlet [Rebalancing Society] which you can download for free from his website,

Henry, you run two great programs, the IMPM [International Masters Program in Practicing Management] and the IMHL [International Masters in Health Leadership], one more [program] for business and NGOs and one more for health – how does this tie into your e-pamphlet?

HENRY MINTZBERG – Well, you know, one of the key themes – I mean it is a whole different pedagogy the way we work in small groups with experienced people in the classroom; they spend half the time discussing with themselves and working out their own issues. One of the key themes of both, they are both Masters programs, is this sense of community – both the sense of community in the class and encouraging them to see organizations as, the way I put it, a healthy company or a healthy healthcare organization [which] is not a collection of human resources [rather] it's a community of human beings. And that whole sense of community, both within the classroom and in their organizations that they go back to, is very strong in that program. To me, that is how you really create healthy organizations.

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In addition, the IMHL, the International Masters for Health Leadership, we describe it as a forum for the enhancement of healthcare worldwide and so people really come to that program with a sense of, "how can I make healthcare better?" Not just, "how can I make me better," or "how can I make my hospital better," but also "how can we contribute, as a class, to making healthcare stronger around the world."

KARL MOORE – It seems like appealing to our better nature is a central thing that you are doing. Having a sense of purpose and meaning beyond just ourselves.

HENRY MINTZBERG – Well, you know, the way I describe the economic dogma is 'greed is good,' and you have heard that often enough, 'markets are sufficient, property is sacrosanct and governments are suspect.' The way I put it in the pamphlet is as one view of human nature that may make some sense but as the view of nature it's nonsense! It is absolute nonsense and it caters to our basest, worst side. Who can be intrinsically happy with that kind of a thing?

I quote Eric Hoffer, the famous longshoreman philosopher, who said, "You can never get enough of what you don't really need." Too many of us are striving to get more of what we don't really need as opposed to really trying to build a better world. And it is not just building a better world – the world is in dire straits. There is a whole debate about how long we have got for global warming. I think that's the wrong question for two reasons – number one, if we don't know how long we have got then why bother doing anything? But number two is how long did the Philippinos have with their recent storm? Zero years.

It is not a question of how long we have got – some people have already got zero. It's too late for them. Other people are going to get it next year, or the year after. There is not going to be a big bang in 2050, there is just going to be increasing storms and other things and increasing exploitation and we have to stop that or we are doomed, I think, as a human civilization.

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