Towards Humanistic Governance? How Network Governance Structures Can Support Better Decision Making and Risk Management

29 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2010 Last revised: 2 Nov 2013

See all articles by Michael Pirson

Michael Pirson

Fordham University - Gabelli School of Business; Humanistic Management Network; Harvard University

Shann Turnbull

International Institute for Self-Governance; Sustainable Money Working Group; New Garden City Alliance

Date Written: September 19, 2010


This paper suggests a reexamination of current governance structures, specifically those of unitary boards after the financial crisis of 2008. We suggest that the existing governance structures are based on an outdated paradigm of business, rooted in economics. We propose an alternative paradigm, a humanistic paradigm, which allows conceiving alternative, network oriented governance structures. As hierarchical firms grew larger and more complex, the risk of failure increased from biases, errors, and missing data in communication and control systems. These problems are exacerbated by information overload on senior managers, directors, and their respective regulators. In contrast to traditional corporate governance, network governance introduces a division of power via multiple boards checks and balances, and active stakeholder engagement (a humanistic alternative). We argue that those features could have prevented the stresses and failures of financial firms in 2008, since they were anticipated by both individuals within firms and external commentators. However, those exposed to risks possessed insufficient influence in either governing and/or regulating firms to take corrective action.

Keywords: Corporate Governance, Humanistic Governance, Humanism, economism, risk Management

Suggested Citation

Pirson, Michael and Turnbull, Shann, Towards Humanistic Governance? How Network Governance Structures Can Support Better Decision Making and Risk Management (September 19, 2010). Fordham University Schools of Business Research Paper No. 2010-008, Available at SSRN: or

Michael Pirson (Contact Author)

Fordham University - Gabelli School of Business ( email )

140 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10018
United States

Humanistic Management Network ( email )

St. Gallen

Harvard University

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Shann Turnbull

International Institute for Self-Governance ( email )

PO Box 266 Woollahra
Cell: +61418222378
Sydney, New South Wales 1350
+61293278487 (Phone)
+61280655905 (Fax)

SKYPE: shann.turnbull

Sustainable Money Working Group ( email )

Holyoake House
Hanover Street
Manchester, M60 0AS
United Kingdom

New Garden City Alliance ( email )

113 Guinness Court
London, UK, SE1 3TA
United Kingdom
+44 207 378 1902 (Phone)


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