The Gurus – Part 1
The Economist has a piece on management gurus this week. Pretty good synopsis of the problem with management gurus, but not much more. Indeed, perhaps the only writers besides those of business books with a poorer reputation for quality, from research and insight perspectives, are military ‘historians.’ Exact statistics on this don’t exist, but it sure seems that 90% of both – like of mergers and acquisitions – destroy value.
Why is this? In business, surely the rapid pace of change can make new, fresh, innovative, even radical ideas obsolete. As noted in the Economist article, five years after In Search of Excellence was published, many of the profiled companies hit the skids. And several companies in Good to Great and Built to Last have struggled since their publication in the 1990s – and Circuit City went bankrupt this year. These instances would seem to denigrate the ideas in those tomes, and perhaps they do. Or perhaps those lessons have been learned, and new practices and ways now differentiate successful management from the average.
The question remains: Why are so many business books so bad? Why are so few worth reading? Maybe business books do not differ from other kinds of writing – few authors stand the test of time. But, as I stated, business authors seem particularly unremarkable in their insights: just perusing a local Barnes & Noble business section, can you really say that most of the books on the shelves are worth their weight in paper?
More thoughts later, including my list of the few great business books out there. But for a preview: few of the great business thinkers would be considered ‘gurus.’