The Noble Partners Institute is a non-profit based in Gainesville, Florida.
Our sister organization is Noble Partners Consulting, a for-profit management consulting firm with the purpose of building high-performing teams and healthy organizations, two leaders at a time.
FOUNDER BIO: T. Clark Durant
“Partnerships save lives. In our homes, in our workplaces, in our government, partnerships save lives because they save us – or can save us – from the worst aspects of ourselves.
“From our prejudices and blind spots. From our bad habits and our bad decisions. From our inflexibilities and our impulses.
“Partnerships reveal the shadow side of the selves we tend promote to others. We do not promote how we react when tired, overwhelmed, or afraid. We do not promote our limiting beliefs or our stories of self-justification. Often, only those closest to us can feel these things, see them and hear them. When confronted by the shadow, the fundamental choice for each of us is whether to deny and blame, or to accept and grow.
“I believe partnerships save lives because partnerships have saved my life. I now choose to accept and grow through the discomfort of this. But my preferred path – apparently – is to try denial and blame first, just to see how far I can get with that.
“Here is my story.
“I grew up in a conservative family in Michigan. I learned about classical liberal ideas from dinner table conversations with my parents and grandparents. They offered great insight and wisdom. But while I was taught to treat all people with dignity and respect, I somehow learned to see those with different political beliefs as adversaries. Some seemed corrupted by self-interest. Others seemed like victims of their own ignorance.
“As an undergraduate at Stanford, most of my friends and professors were left-leaning or liberal. I came to see that they too offered insight and wisdom. I found that most of it could be reconciled with what I had learned from my conservative family.
“Over time, I grew frustrated that my conservative family and liberal friends – all of whom I respected and appreciated – could not easily see or appreciate one another. I became obsessed with the strange fact that good, smart people can see the world so differently, particularly when it comes to politics and religion. And the tragic fact that this often leads to mutual distrust rather than mutual influence and learning.
“In 2003, I began a Ph.D. in Economics at George Mason University with two purposes in mind. First, I wanted to better understand the classical liberal ideas that meant so much to my parents and grandparents, learning from teachers like Pete Boettke, Dick Wagner, Russ Roberts, James Buchanan, and Vernon Smith. Second, I wanted to better understand how people got stuck in limiting political beliefs (whether conservative, liberal, classical liberal or something else altogether), learning from teachers like Tyler Cowen, Bryan Caplan, and Rob Axtell.
“I wrote my dissertation on how to design better ways to elect political executives, specifically on how to shift their focus from the short-term to the long-term, from conflict to collaboration, from working against the opposition to survive politically to working together to make continuous improvements in the structure, process and norms that shape how decisions are made, policies set, and services delivered. (This topic seems more relevant today than it did in 2007.)
“My dream was to be a kind of 21st century James Madison, jet-setting to constitutional conventions around the world, helping to make democracy work better for people everywhere.
“It wasn’t just a dream. There were a few heavy-hitters (a couple Noble Prize winners, a couple journal editors) who had affirmed that I was on to something promising. With their support, I was able to get a three-year post-doctoral fellowship teaching classes at New York University in the Economics Department: Political Economy in the fall, and Behavioral Economics in the spring.
“Over those three years, I struggled to get my ideas published. I had my core paper rejected more than a dozen times.
“At the time, I blamed the vagaries of the peer review process. But in retrospect, the fault was all mine. I had bitten off more than I could chew. I was not capable enough as a writer – or a thinker! – to convey my ideas in a way that would meet the standards of the discipline. And because I could not see that fact, I squandered my opportunity at NYU.
“When my fellowship ended in June of 2010, I had no academic opportunities lined up. I had fantasized about fixing democracy. I had assumed I would have a job coming out of my fellowship. But there I was unemployed. It was a dark moment. But from that darkness came new lessons and new possibilities.
“My sister Maggie worked at McKinsey & Company. She said, ‘You should try management consulting. It will give you a better toolkit to get your ideas into the world.’ This would turn out to be very prescient. Thank you, Maggie. I had never considered consulting before. I applied to ten consulting firms and was rejected from all but two. One of those was McKinsey. I started in McKinsey’s DC office in the fall of 2010.
“A strange thing happened. As I shifted my focus away from publishing my academic papers, they began to get picked up and published. In large part, this was because I began to collaborate with my friend Michael, who was then working on his Ph.D. in Government at Georgetown University. Michael’s expertise as a political scientist was complementary to mine as an economist. And he had time that I did not. Over the next few years, we published four papers together.
“By day I was serving regulatory agencies, criminal justice organizations, insurance companies and banks, with a focus on improving customer service or employee engagement, on developing more and better leaders, or on shifting the organizational culture to create more collaboration, more strategic thinking, or more entrepreneurial problem-solving. On nights and weekends, I continued to collaborate with Michael to get our papers published.