The Puritan Gift: Reclaiming the American Dream Amidst Global Financial Chaos
Financial Times Top Ten Business Book of 2007! The Puritan Gift traces the origins and the characteristics of American managerial culture which, in the course of three centuries, would turn a group of small colonies into the greatest economic and political power on earth. It was the Protestant ethic whose characteristics--thrift, a respect for enquiry, individualism tempered by a need to cooperate, success as a measure of divine approval--helped to create the conditions which led to America's managerial and corporate success. Thus, the authors contend, the drive, energy and acceptance of innovation, competition, growth and social mobility, all have their origins in the discipline and ethos of America's first wave of European immigrants: the Puritans. And, the authors warn, as Americans distance themselves from core values which produced their nineteenth and twentieth century business and economic successes, they endanger the basis for their prosperity and security.
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Adopting these practices – many of which are common sense – should produce better business outcomes. The inspiration for noting them down came from one of the best management books I have read in years: The Puritan Gift by Kenneth and William Hopper. It is a work of history and a study of how the Anglo-American financial system has gone wrong. It has its flaws but, overall, it is a magnificent and original text. Moreover, it offers redemption and useful rules about how the best organisations are run. It should be required reading for everyone who cares about the capitalist system and those in high office in the business world.
The writer is chairman of Channel 4 and runs Risk Capital Partners, a private equity firm
29-Jul-2009 in FT