Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More


Custodian Of Scholarly Papers, Financial Genius

Napa Valley, California, USA

April 2, 2024

"I became convinced we should work to get this kind of transformational material into the academies. I consider Mr Erhard to be one of the great intellectuals of the century."
... Dr Michael C ("Cole") Jensen, Jesse Isidor Strauss Professor Emeritus of Business Administration, Harvard Business School*
"All truth passes through three stages: first, it is ridiculed; second, it is violently opposed; and third, it is accepted as self-evident."
... Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation
This essay, Custodian Of Scholarly Papers, Financial Genius, is the thirty first in an open group on People: I am indebted to Michael Jensen who inspired this conversation and contributed material.

Legend has it that a family member called him saying she had done this thing called The Landmark Forum  which had had a profound impact on her life. As she shared her experience of it with him, he was intrigued and enrolled, and touched, moved, and inspired. Eventually he registered to experience it for himself. Whatever he got from it was so profound and so powerful that it not only transformed his life but also altered the very direction in which Werner's work was going, making available possibilities and futures which until then had only been dreamed of. Although in theory it's totally feasible, it's still simply stunning to consider that one man (just one  man, just one regular guy  like you and me) participating in Werner's work, could be / do / cause what he did.

In real life, he's one of the most influential financial minds of all time, having made three major contributions, each of which have had huge impacts. First, he's one of the most cited economists ever, with over 340,000 citations on Google Scholar  as of April 2024 (much of his work focuses on agency problems within organizations, especially publicly traded corporations). Second, he was the co-founder of and for many years the editor of the erudite Journal of Financial Economics  which became the top academic finance bulletin almost immediately after its founding. Third, he co-founded the what would soon be widely referenced SSRN  (Social Science Research Network) which is now the leading custodian of academic working papers not just in finance but also in many disciplines (the complete catalog of Werner's scholarly papers is available there). In a Harvard Business Review  article, he prescribed (the first time the idea was floated) executive stock options as a mechanism to incentivize executives to maximize shareholder value. Today that's a de rigueur  notion, so widely deployed that it's become almost passé  (as any wannabe  Silicon Valley CEO will attest to) yet at the time it was revolutionary, a breakthrough idea.

He eventually (inevitably) met with Werner, and together they established an initiative that teased out the brilliant ontological / phenomenological model of leadership which laid the groundwork for what would later manifest as the internationally acclaimed Leadership Course: Being a Leader and the Effective Exercise of Leadership: An Ontological / Phenomenological Model. That was just the start. With Werner, he also co-authored many scholarly papers such as

 1)  Four Ways of Being that Create the Foundations of A Great Personal Life, Great Leadership and A Great Organization;
 2)  Putting Integrity into Finance: A Purely Positive Approach;
 3)  and more.

I've had the great pleasure of enjoying many encounters with him. Even before we actually met face to face for the first time, he afforded me the privilege of being in a protracted e-mail conversation with him. Then one day I was in a town in the central United States, having traveled there to be with Werner. We were scheduled to go on a long drive together in his car. I waited patiently for the meeting he was in, to end. But it wasn't Werner who came out from that meeting first. It was he (as it turned out, he had a meeting with Werner in the time slot just before mine). I didn't know if he would recognize me, so I stood up and said loudly, boldly "Hello! I'm Laurence.". He immediately opened his arms and embraced me, saying (savoring) "Laurence!". We talked for a while (I fully realizing my good fortune) when suddenly he stood up and headed straight back into the meeting with Werner, exclaiming as he looked back over his shoulder at me "I have to get back, it's my integrity!", smiled and was gone, having disregarded whatever it was he'd left the meeting to deal with.

His being / his presence alone firmly established the beachhead for Werner's work to be made available to and accepted by and later even offered  by academia. Let that sink in. Academia traditionally have their own courses studying topics of interest. What he facilitated wasn't simply academia studying the work of transformation. It was incorporating it into their syllabi and delivering it for credit. It's largely because of him that Werner's work has become mainstream, having been presented for the following respected institutions, and then in many cases included by them in their catalogs of course offerings:

  • Clemson University, College of Business, Clemson, South Carolina
  • Erasmus University Law School, Rotterdam, Netherlands
  • Dartmouth College, Hampshire Geisel School of Medicine, Hanover, New Hampshire
  • IC (Initiatives of Change) Center for Governance and MW (Mukul and Warij Kasliwal, founders) Corporation, Asia Plateau, Panchgani, Maharashtra, India
  • Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
  • Texas A&M (Agricultural and Mechanical) University, Mays School of Business, College Station, Texas
  • UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles), Los Angeles, California
  • United States Air Force Academy, Center For Character and Leadership Development, Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • University of Rochester, Simon School of Business, New York, New York
  • Zayed University, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
There are more, many many more, whose names I have not yet received clearance to publicize. His is such a massive contribution, it's actually hard to take it all in. The degree of credibility and acceptance he has brought to Werner's work just by being who he is and doing what he does, is beyond astonishing.

* Some biographical material courtesy wikipedia.

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