The query in the title is one of the questions I’ve encountered most frequently over the past several months as Paul Polak and I have been promoting The Business Solution to Poverty around the country. So, to forestall more time lost on the road, here’s the answer:
It was all Steve Piersanti’s fault.
Both Paul and I had had books published by Steve’s company, Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Mine (Values-Driven Business, with Ben Cohen) came out in 2006, Paul’s (Out of Poverty) in 2008. I’d followed up my book by serving as editor of a series of six additional titles in the Social Venture Network Series. Steve wanted Paul to keep his nose to the grindstone with a follow-up, too – a second book. Paul had other ideas. Despite frequent attempts by Steve to persuade him to plan a second title, Paul insisted that he didn’t have the time. He was too busy doing the things Steve wanted him to write about.
Then Steve took another tack: he suggested Paul work with a coauthor. He even managed to hold a meeting in the Berrett-Koehler offices in San Francisco to explore the possibility with a couple of friends Paul thought might be interested. They met with Karin Hibma Cronan and Michael Cronan from the illustrious design firm, Cronan, and John Danner, a professor at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, but they couldn’t come up with a qualified co-author whom Paul and Steve both felt had the time and capacity to work with Paul and complete a manuscript within 12 months. So, Steve realized he’d have to resort to unorthodox measures.
Meanwhile, I had reviewed Out of Poverty on my book review blog. I entitled my review “A brilliant rural development specialist shares his ideas on ending poverty in the world,” which will give you some sense of what I thought about Paul. (You can read the review here.)
I can’t recall exactly on what pretext Steve informed me about his difficulty in finding a writing partner for Paul, but somehow it happened. That was in May 2012. Not suspecting Steve’s motives, I asked whether I might fit the bill, and that’s all it took. In short order, I was on the phone with Paul for an hour-and-a-half conversation that persuaded each of us that we could have a lot of fun working together. We submitted a formal proposal to Steve in June and got started writing in July, once we’d received approval from Berrett-Koehler’s Publication Board. Six months later – voilà! – we delivered the manuscript to Steve.
Now you know. Aren’t you sorry you asked?