Introduction to the Eight Great Goods

June 04, 2011 3 min read

Good people disagree often — and sometimes violently. 

This fact bothers me … and not just because of the “violently” part. At a very deep level, it seems irrational that people who are trying to be good would be disagreeing in the first place.

In the middle of a disagreement — where I firmly and fundamentally believe that only one option is clearly “correct” — it’s a lot easier to believe that the opposing views are either inherently “bad” or they are at least a “bad” choice in this instance. If that were so, I could paint almost every debate in pure whites and blacks without all those annoying grays.

Along the way, however, I’ve come to think that people — generally — are trying to be good. They are – generally – trying to do good things and make good decisions. Anywhere in the world, when people disagree, they are usually doing it from the goodness of their hearts.  

If the top line equation in any decision algorithm is “Because _____ is Good, I will do _____”, then there must be a way to categorize the Goods we are deciding amongst. This book is an effort to do just that. 

Through interviews and surveys with over 2000 people in more than 20 cultures, I’ve come to understand that there are Eight Great Goods. All of our decisions in life can be sorted pretty easily into these categories. In one experiment, I found that a simple prioritization of these Eight Great Goods could predict a subject’s stance on issues ranging from the burqa ban in France to health care reform in the US to Liu Xiaobo receiving the Nobel Prize. Once you understand the Goods — and accept that they are all “good” — you will have a different conversation with someone on the opposite side of that issue than you’ve ever had in the past. You will never again believe that a contrary viewpoint is evil. 

In this book, I’ll explore the topic from many vantage points: individual, organizational and national. I’ll draw on disciplines as disparate as sociology, neuroscience, business management, philosophy, education, economics, psychology, and political science. I am proposing a fundamentally new way of looking at goal setting and decision-making in areas as far-ranging as consumer behavior, conflict management, and even nation building. Actually, since human existence is nothing more than a constant series of decisions, the Eight Great Goods offers a new model for thinking about life itself.

Abraham Maslow proposed a model of individual needs that has served the world well as a model for our individual lives for the last 70 years. I am suggesting a “Maslow’s hierarchy” for our social life. The theory of The Eight Great Goods will help you and me to understand us.

I have set a few optimistic goals for the readers of this book and here’s what I anticipate you’ll get out of reading it:

A Better understanding 

- of how you and people around you are making decisions 

- that there are eight big categories of trade-offs in our choices

- of why our brains naturally care about these eight categories

- that having a different decision-making algorithm does not make someone evil

- of why Growth is not the only Good that can or should drive your organization or your country

The ability to improve

- relationships both intimate and professional

- decision-making in organizations and in nations

- the way individuals see the big issues behind any complicated decision

- national consensus building around any issue

The opportunity to create

- discussions from a perspective of Good vs. Good

- cultures that agree more than they disagree

- organizations that understand where their priorities lie and how to achieve their goals

- new ways of thinking about your place in organizations and nations

A really fun readthat will entertain, inform and give you something new to think about on every single page. 

With that, shall we begin?

If you’ve read this and are interested in more, please let me know.  I’ll be releasing some chapters pre-publication.