Humanistic Management: Protecting Dignity-Promoting Well Being.

Cambridge University Press, 2017


In a world facing multiple crises, our foundational institutions are failing to offer effective solutions. Drawing on the emerging consilience of knowledge, Michael Pirson debunks the fundamental yet outdated assumptions of human nature that guide twentieth-century management theory and practice – as captured in the ‘economistic’ paradigm – and instead provides an urgently needed conceptual and practical ‘humanistic’ framework, based on the protection of human dignity and the promotion of well-being. By outlining the science-based pillars of this innovative system, Pirson provides a twenty first-century model for the responsible twenty first-century leader seeking sustainable ways to organize in a world of crisis. Highlighting relevant applications for research, practice, teaching and policy, this book is ideal for graduate students and professionals seeking to develop their understanding of responsible business, business ethics and corporate responsibility.


Michael Pirson anchors in scientific research the differences between the Homo Economicus (Economistic model) and the Homo Sapiens (Humanistic model) who is eusocial, emotionally driven human being with an unconditional respect of human dignity to reach its own well-being. His book is extremely timely when psychopaths, as described by Robert Hare, are currently in power at the head of large companies or being elected to lead our countries and trying to call for a political populism that could shape the policies of our future societies.

The thought provoking approach and factual research demonstrates that unless we reconsider our current Homo Economicus approach to society and business management that will lead to an assured extinction of our societies, our only path towards survival, economic success, well-being and the pursuit of happiness, is the awareness to rediscover our Homo Sapiens respect of human dignity. Michael’s work highlights again Jefferson’s truth that all people are created equal and that ultimately only a humanistic mindful organization will be economically and politically successful in the long term.

This book is an absolute must read to any business school student and leader of any type of organization, from profit to non-profit, small to large, business to political!

Christopher Arbet Engels, Chief Medical Officer Poxelpharma, former VP at Biogen, Boston Massachusetts

In Humanistic Management, Michael Pirson argues for a significant shift in how we all–companies and individuals alike–need to conceive the practice of managing today and most importantly tomorrow, putting the old ‘economistic’ paradigm behind us and moving rapidly towards a more humanistic paradigm for managing organizations and our economic institutions. Read this important, accessible, and beautifully-developed book. You will be glad you did!

Sandra Waddock, Galligan Chair of Strategy, Carroll School Scholar of Corporate Responsibility Professor of Management, Boston College

As a 30-year veteran of Wall Street, I lived through many of the examples cited by Dr. Michael Pirson in exposing the shortcomings of Economistic leadership.   His is a well-researched and compelling case for the critical importance of empathy, dignity and collaboration in the success of 21st century enterprises.

Ron D. Cordes, Co-founder of AssetMark and the Cordes Foundation

Humankind looks over the edge of a precipitous cliff, reflected in business scandals and public mistrust.  The path we have taken stops at the edge.  In Humanistic Management Michael Pirson points to another path, one away from the cliff, toward a future where dignity counts as much as maximization.

Thomas Donaldson, the Mark O. Winkelman Endowed Professor, The Wharton School University of Pennsylvania

“Finally! Here is a book that explains what ‘humanistic management’ is all about. Pirson’s work is an important step towards a change of paradigm in the way we think, teach, practice business.”

Prof. Dr. Claus Dierksmeier, Director of the Weltethos-Institut

This is an important book.  It explains how the narrative of business is changing, and why we should adopt this more human understanding of business.  Read it more than once.  We can and should make business better.

Edward Freeman, University Professor, University of Virginia, The Darden School

“This book is a revelation! So many people in senior management positions today feel a huge disconnect between their personal values and those of their businesses and the wider economy. They long for a new story-a new way of doing business. This brilliant book not only explains why they feel as they do but shows how to construct an economy that reflects who we truly are as people.”

Stewart Wallis, Visiting Professor, Lancaster University and previously Director, New Economics Foundation.

With Humanistic Management: Protecting Dignity- Promoting Well Being, Michael Pirson provides a sterling upgrade to the inadequate business economic theories that currently shape democratic capitalism. With this brilliant book, Pirson helps readers see a path toward better theory, which has the potential of spurring better practice and a more meritorious future for us all.

Roger Martin, Institute Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute and the Michael Lee-Chin Family Institute for Corporate Citizenship, Rotman School of Management.

“Michael Pirson re-introduces humanity into problems of economic organizing. His book is both a masterpiece of interdisciplinary scholarship and an easy-to-read appeal to common sense in how we live and work. If you are struggling to find purpose and meaning in these turbulent times, read Humanistic Management. It offers a clear, accessible, dignity-centered bridge to an economy in service to life.”

Chris Laszlo, Char and Chuck Fowler Professor of Business as an Agent of World Benefit, Weatherhead School of Management and Faculty Executive Director, The Fowler Center, Case Western Reserve University

Important book. It provides critical foundations for a new narrative of an economy in service to life.

Hunter Lovins, President, Natural Capitalism Solutions

Managers and policy makers who want to improve business and society of tomorrow should read Pirson’s thoughtful analysis. Shifting business strategy towards dignity and well-being can benefit not only employees but society at large.

Douglas Frantz, Pulitzer Prize winner and Deputy Secretary General, OECD.

This is an excellent book which expounds on the basics for stakeholder responsibility: protection of dignity and contribution to wellbeing.

Prof. Dr. Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum

Michael Pirson provides a much needed humanistic perspective on management given the pervasive mindlessness of current business practices.

Dr. Ellen J. Langer, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University.

In Humanistic Management, Michael Pirson questions decades of teachings about what motivates people and makes them happy. We humans are complicated beings, seeking not only stuff and security, but also connection and meaning. Pirson makes the case that with a deeper understanding of human motivation, we can design better economies and companies, which of course are made up of people. Backed by deep academic research and credibility, Pirson takes us an important and highly readable and enjoyable trip toward a new theory of management.

Andrew Winston, bestselling author, Green to Gold and The Big Pivot

Very few people have the intellectual breadth to accomplish what Michael Pirson did in this remarkable book. Weaving together insights from a variety of disciplines, he has shown us what lies at the core of our shared humanity–our desire to be treated with dignity– and how crucial it is to develop a paradigm for business that recognizes his fundamental truth. His passion for promoting dignity, wellbeing, and human flourishing come through his writing. Thank you, Michael, for this enormous contribution to our understanding of what the world needs to take us farther down the path of our development.

Dr. Donna Hicks, Associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University.

Humanistic Management is a much needed and timely articulation of humanistic perspectives on organizations. For researchers, managers, policy makers and teachers alike this book is a wakeup call to take humanistic perspectives seriously. However, beyond waking us up through research, examples, and arguments, the book provides direction and inspiration about how to move down the pathways toward greater well-being and human dignity.

Jane E. Dutton, Robert L. Kahn Distinguished University Professor of Business Administration and Psychology

Why does business have so little to do with what life should be about? Michael Pirson has explored the question for a decade and now offers us this cogent, insistent call to for humanistic business practices that draw businesses and the greater economy into serving life rather than the reverse. Pirson draws on the lessons of humanistic psychology to put two strawmen to rest: the cartoonish Homo economicus, for one; and maximizing shareholder value, which as an exclusive economic principle, lays waste to all it touches, except the few who profit. Pirson looks at business in the larger context. Humans are social beings, protective of our personal dignity and that of our family and friends, and driven to pursue ever higher levels of well-being (which has been confused as the endless appetite for things). Pirson’s “humanistic management” frames key questions, and provides good tools, for cultivating businesses that affirm rather than violate human dignity and further rather than thwart the advance of well-being for our own species and for nature as a whole.

Vincent Stanley, Director of Philosophy at Patagonia CBEY Fellow, Yale University Visiting Fellow at INSEAD, co-author of The Responsible Company with Yvon Chouinard.

“Michael Pirson provides the long overdue reembedding of economic theory and managerial practice into its scientific and real-life contexts: from ethics to democracy, from psycology to ecology. Something that got completely separated and fragmented is being healed and becoming whole again. “Humanistic Management” transforms an impoverished chrematistic ideology back into what it ought and originally was thought to be: an economy serving the common good.”

Christian Felber, Vienna University of Economics and Business, initiator of the international “Economy for the Common Good” movement.

We are living in a time where old understandings of politics, economic organization and management are collapsing under their own weight. The pernicious idea that corporations exist to create shareholder value has reached the end of its useful life. What would organizations look like in an economy organized around the creation of well-being? “Humanistic Management” provides a solid and grounded framework for creating these new ways of management.

Jerry Davis, Gilbert and Ruth Whitaker Professor of Business Administration, Michigan Ross School of Business, and author of “The vanishing American corporation.”

“An insightful book for the 99% — and the 1% who think that they run the world should take a close look, too.”

John Elkington, Chairman & Chief Pollinator, Volans; co-founder of Environmental Data Services (ENDS) and SustainAbility; and co-author with Jochen Zeitz of The Breakthrough Challenge.

“We are facing a crisis decades in the making; a crisis created by the belief that economic growth would -on its own- deliver human dignity. With a powerful combination of age-old wisdom and modern scientific evidence, Michael Pirson shows why this was not and what can we do to find our way out.”

Camilo A. Azcarate, Former Manager, The World Bank Group, Associate Harvard University

We live in an age of disruption. At the root of the current global social and environmental crisis is an old paradigm of economics and management that has outlived its usefulness. In this book Michael Pirson takes us on an intriguing journey of tracing the sources and foundations of an emerging paradigm that can inspire the next generation of management research, management practice, and leadership capacity building.

Otto Scharmer, Senior Lecturer, MIT Sloan School of Management; Founder, Presencing Institute; Author, Theory U

“In Humanistic Management: Protecting Dignity – Promoting Well-Being, Michael Pirson draws upon a wide-ranging and rich set of inputs – from economics, psychology, sociology, management theory, neuroscience, sociobiology, history – to craft nothing short of a compelling and inclusive new narrative for human activity. Pirson points out that although new knowledge has out-stripped and even debunked our previous narrative for business purpose and functioning, the old story still carries sway. In this relatively short book, given the breadth of its agenda, Pirson manages to define and defend just the sort of “new story” that our world so desperately needs and in so doing, he provides the “scripts” and arguments required for us to voice its case.

Mary C. Gentile, PhD, Creator/Director of Giving Voice To Values and Professor of Practice, University of Virginia Darden School of Business

“This is a critically important book in a time where the world is confronted daily with the limitations of the current economic system. It’s a comprehensive, well-researched and practical guide to an inclusive and sustainable global economy”.

Patrick Struebi, Founder and CEO, Fairtrasa Group, Ashoka global fellow and Schwab Foundation fellow 

In Humanistic Management: Protecting Dignity- Promoting Well Being, Michael Pirson provides a much-needed update of flawed assumptions about human motivations that have distorted policies and practices, showing how caring and humane organizations are essential for better lives, businesses, and societies. This excellent book is an important contribution to the growing leadership and management literature paving the way for a more partnership-oriented way of living and making a living.

Riane Eisler, author of The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics and President, Center for Partnership Studies

The influence of business and how business is done is now pervasive in our lives. Unfortunately, most of business has become dehumanized – people are treated as merely functions or objects in the pursuit of maximum profits. Michael Pirson shows us how we can restore human beings to the center, where they rightly belong. This book is a landmark contribution to our understanding of how to make this happen in practice and in our research and teaching.

Raj Sisodia, FW Olin Distinguished Professor of Global Business & Whole Foods Market Research Scholar in Conscious Capitalism, Babson College; Co-founder & Chairman Emeritus, Conscious Capitalism Inc.