Get Out of Your Echo Chamber

I came across this video Innovation Forum 2013: Where do good ideas come from? in The Economist.

A few of the more interesting idea presented include:

  • Exadaptation. This is from biology and means the taking of one evolutionary change that was made for one purpose and utilizing it in another. The example they use is feathers which were originally developed for warmth, but were then adapted to flying. In more recent times we have seen this with Twitter and the idea of hashtags.
  • Serendipitous errors. Many discoveries are at first believed to be mistakes in the data and are often dismissed as such. It is not until someone (usually an outsider) reinterprets the results that the mistake is actually found to be a discovery.
  • Coffeehouse innovation. More innovation takes place in the coffeehouse than in the research lab or boardroom. Specifically because it is not a specialized space and outsiders are available to overhear the conversation. Great quote: “Conference rooms are where ideas go to die.”

What does all this mean?

It is time to get out of the echo chamber of our own companies and industries. We need to look out side these walls rather than reinforce the same, oftentimes dismal, stories.

What do you do to get out of your own echo chamber?

Below is the except about Twitter Hashtags.

Ego is a Dirty Word

Do you treat your people like mushrooms?

I was speaking to a firm recently where the Partners would not let their staff meet with customers. They would not let anything go out of their office without the Partners reviewing it and signing off on it. In short, they were putting a lid on their people and effectively “bonsai-ing” their growth. Unsurprisingly, they were having trouble identifying people who could develop and create a succession plan for them and their firm. There was also an issue with staff turnover.

We have just been going through the Growth Curve X-ray process in our business and one of the aspects that we have identified is a deliberate “personal brand” development strategy for everyone in our business. This will see us work with each person individually and collectively to build their personal brand internally and externally. We are doing this because we have a fantastic group of people working with us and by investing in their development they and we will reap far greater satisfaction and engagement.

Many Partners and managers in firms seem to be afraid of developing the people they work with from a fear that these people might actually be better or more capable than the Partner/manager. Their ego is controlling the business and stultifying the firm as a whole. Effectively, the personal “issues” of the leaders of these firms will restrict the opportunity for the firm to flourish. I view this as akin to abuse.

How do you treat your people? Are you working with them to develop their “brand” under your brand and reputation? Or are you sitting on them and restricting their development?

I know which approach will create a happier, healthier and more successful workplace. And it will then mean that the only mushrooms you have are in your salad or the sauce on your steak.

Slow Down!

How quickly do you feel you have to reply/respond/react to an email? How quickly do you expect your people to reply/respond to emails?

I have been thinking of late about how we are working. The constant pressures of email, social media, texts, phone calls and the like mean that we are “always on”.

This has a number of side effects which I believe are unhealthy and lead to a a range of issues for firms and the people in them. Recent posts by my fellow Fellows of Verasage point to increased incidence of depression amongst lawyers. To be honest, I am seeing a lot of this in other professions as well.

Due to the constant pressures we have now to be available 24/7 and respond almost immediately to customer/staff queries, we have lost access to one of our most powerful offerings – considered and developed advice based on wisdom and experience. By not having the time to fully think about the issues at hand, we aren’t allowing ourselves the best opportunity to create and offer value.

Think about many of the requests you get – most of them aren’t really time critical but we have developed a self-imposed obligation to respond asap. This is dangerous and unhealthy.

The other issue that comes from this is that we no longer have the “peace and quiet” available to think freely and create innovative stuff. Consider the success of “Google Time” and other approaches taken by businesses that are renowned as great places to work (eg: Atlassian) – much of their success is directly attributable to the time they allow their people to create and innovate. Imagine what would happen if they changed their approach and required their people to report their efforts based on time spent?

With all of the above in mind, I was heartened to read a recent post by Richard Watson. He argues that the 24/7 lifestyle we are currently living is unhealthy and does not lead to what can be great, human outcomes.

It is incumbent on all of us as business owners, leaders, managers and team members to encourage ourselves and the people with whom we work to slow down. Quicker is not always better. Considered is better. Reply properly, do not react.

Next time you get an email, think about when you will respond and what you really need to think about before you respond. Otherwise it will just be a reaction.

Creativity and Innovation; Killed Long Before We Enter the Professions? And Often Thereafter

Have you seen the most-watched TED talk? It’s by Sir Ken Robinson and it’s called “Do schools kill creativity”?”

If you haven’t viewed it, or even if you have, watch it again and think about what he says in the context of your profession. Very, very applicable.

If you’d like to see and hear Sir Ken talk to CPAs about these essential concepts and what they mean for CPAs (and other professionals) then you might want to register for this January’s Winning is Everything conference where he is going to keynote on Fri, Jan 18.

As a special gift (Merry Christmas! And Happy Hanukkah!) we’ve worked with the conference organizers to be able to bring you special Friends-of-VeraSage pricing for the event. Early registration ends Dec 24 so act fast to receive the best pricing!

Details:

Go to http://winning-is-everything.com/

Use the group code “VeraSage” to get $200 off the first person from your company and $400 off every attendee after that.

If you’re outside of the U.S. and cannot attend in person, they have an international-only simulcast option (we LOVE options!) available that provides unlimited access to 9 sessions for any number of people you wish. The link for this is: http://winning-is-everything.com/Frontpage/global-simulcast and the “VeraSage” code provides a $100 off of that…

See you there!

George Gilder on Efficiency vs. Effectiveness

In his latest book, Wealth and Poverty: A New Edition for the Twenty-First Century, George Gilder weighs in on the efficiency vs. effectiveness debate, validating my matrix on the difference:

Firms at the top of their S-curves of growth: the time when innovation dwindles and heavily bureaucratized companies seek minor new adaptations, packaging changes, and manufacturing efficiencies in order to wring the last gains of productivity from an essentially static industry that has already long passed its phase of “fast history.”

Auto companies at the very pinnacle of productivity had lost all room to maneuver. New developments almost never emerge from the leading companies in an industry. None of the carriage makers and buggy whip producers could create a salable automobile, and the gaslight and candle businesses neglected the promise of electricity; slide rule people at Keuffel and Esser succumbed without response to the handheld calculator; just as IBM lagged behind other companies in adopting most major innovations in business machines, from copiers to word processors; and as even Texas Instruments finally became relatively rigid and uncreative in the microprocessor field.

The very process of rationalization and bureaucracy by which a company becomes the most productive in an industry tends to render it less flexible and inventive. An exclusive preoccupation with statistical productivity—simple coefficients between inputs and outputs—can lead to a rigid, and in the long run, unproductive economy.

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This is precisely why we warn firms to avoid putting efficiency ahead of effectiveness.

Any industry at the apogee of efficiency is an industry in decline.

Book Review: Bourgeois Dignity

Warning: Similar to her first book in this series, The Bourgeois Virtues, Bourgeois Dignity is an extremely difficult—even painful at times—read. It’s dense; long (450 pages); packed with scholarly citations; it rambles, and wanders, sometimes aimlessly, with 41 pages of footnotes that take you even farther afield; it probably should have been cut in half by the editor; not to mention in places it will give you an incredible migraine.

It’s also brilliant. I loved it.

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But I dread trying to summarize the argument because it’s so complex and expansive in scope. For, as usual, McCloskey has looked at the hypothesis from every possible angle. This is the second book in a planned six-book series, which sets out to answer this question:

What caused the spectacular growth in the economy from the late 18th century to the present day, going from an income of approximately $1 to $3 per day to $137 today?

It’s even larger than that if you take into account the quality of goods and services available today versus then. One simple example is antibiotics. Simple infections that once killed incredibly wealthy people can now be cured with $5 and a trip to the drugstore.

Estimates put the growth in the quality of goods and services at a factor of 40 to 190—I believe even that is an understatement.

In 1875, the average family spent 74% of its income on food, clothing and shelter. In 1995 they spent 13%. This is one reason why my colleague Ed Kless says he’d rather be poor anywhere in the world today than in 1800.

This is an incredible accomplishment, and historians, economists, sociologists, poets, along with many others, have offered a plethora of explanations to explain it. McCloskey explores them all, but she reaches a totally different conclusion than most economists. In fact, the subtitle of the book is “Why economics can’t explain the modern world.”

McCloskey believes that economic change depends on what people believe—their talk, their ethics, and their ideas, especially as related to dignity and innovation. It’s what Alexis de Tocqueville called “habits of the mind.”

Yet “ideas about ideas are unscientific” and largely ignored by economists who naturally gravitate towards materialist explanations for growth and dynamism. McCloskey writes:

To be able to detect the dark matter we will need a new, more idea-oriented economics, which would admit for example that language shapes an economy.

Words Matter

One of our favorite lines discovered recently is Werner Erhard’s “All transformation is linguistic. If we want to change our culture, we need to change our conversation.”

McCloskey’s argument is this on steroids. In other words, our conversations about dignity and liberty changed, launching the Industrial Revolution. Here’s how McCloskey expresses this phenomena:

A big change in the common opinion about markets and innovation, I claim, caused the Industrial Revolution, and then the modern world. The change occurred during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in north-western Europe. More or less suddenly the Dutch and British and then the Americans and the French began talking about the middle class, high or low—the “bourgeoisie”—as though it were dignified and free. The result was modern economic growth.

That is, ideas, or “rhetoric,” enriched us. The cause, in other words, was language, that most human of our accomplishments.

McCloskey here is using the word rhetoric in its ancient sense, “the means of [unforced] persuasion,” which includes logic and metaphor, fact and story. She’s written many books on this topic, criticizing economists for not telling better stories, two of which I thoroughly enjoyed: The Rhetoric of Economics, and If You’re So Smart: The Narrative of Economic Expertise.

In the spirit of words being crucial, she’s attempting to rid the world of the dreaded “Capitalism,” preferring “Innovation” instead to explain the wonders of a free market.

Not the Cause

The heart of the book is a deep analysis of why all the traditional explanations of the Industrial Revolution fail to explain the caus. To contrast these viewpoints, consider the book by William J. Bernstein, The Birth of Plenty. This is a fairly representative example of how most commentators explain the origins of the Industrial Revolution, though McCloskey doesn’t cite this work.

Bernstein, like McCloskey, concludes it’s not geography, climate, exposure to microbiological agents (as Jared Diamond has argued in his books), but rather four factors:

  1. Property rights
  2. Scientific rationalism (positing and falsifying theories)
  3. Capital markets
  4. Improvements in transportation and communication

Which of the four was most important? All of them are like ingredients to a cake, all are equally important to produce a just dessert. It’s not physical objects (materialism) that matters, but rather institutions, according to Bernstein.

This sounds very plausible, but not to McCloskey, and she debunks every one of these factors. In chapter after chapter, she definitively falsifies the following list of reasons often cited as the cause of the Industrial Revolution:

  • The Weber Thesis—The Protestant (particularly Calvinism) ethic
  • Michael Porter’s thesis of competitive strategy of nations (this is deftly ripped apart by McCloskey, and R.I.P. as far as I’m concerned)
  • Rise of rationality
  • The exchange of ideas. Ideas having sex, in Matt Ridley’s apt phrase from The Rational Optimist. It helps, but it’s simply not large enough to have caused the Industrial Revolution
  • Education. In fact, too much education can impair growth. An interesting discussion is provided by McCloskey, and Thomas Sowell’s work as well
  • Thrift (savings accumulation)
  • Investment (capital accumulation)
  • Economies of scale
  • Division of labor
  • Greed
  • Expropriation or imperialism
  • Human capital. Not that this is unimportant, but McCloskey would argue (using our lingo) that social capital—specifically, our conversations and beliefs—are more important. I think Rabbi Lapin would call this “spiritual capital”
  • Transportation
  • Foreign trade. This simply reshuffles goods and services, it doesn’t discover or lead to innovation
  • Geography. Jared Diamond’s thesis is thoroughly shot down
  • Natural resources. McCloskey believes there’s no such thing as a natural resource, except the imagination of man
  • Unions
  • Eugenics
  • Institutions. No doubt important, but no way did they cause the spectacular growth, and mostly were formed afterwards
  • Property rights. Again, they are important, but they existed in all sorts of places prior to Great Britain (China, e.g.)
  • Science. This is more a result, not a cause

Thankfully, she also takes down the happiness literature that’s beginning to sprout up in economics, which is just so much hokum.

One discussion that runs through the narrative is the “California School”—why so many scholars (who tend to be disproportionately located in California universities) believe that numerous discoveries were originally from China, giving error to the idea of European exceptionalism.

McCloskey is more and more convinced of the findings of this school of thought, and so will you after reading about it.

Bowing to her colleagues, who love to express economics in mathematics, McCloskey offers this rather innovative “model” (not a theory) to explain the function for national product:

Q = I (D, B, R) • F (K, sL)

In which I is the Innovation function, depending on D, the dignity accorded innovators, and on B, the liBerty of innovators (the letter L is need for labor), and on R, the rent or profit to innovation.

The innovation function multiplies a conventional neoclassical production function, F, depending on ordinary physical capital and land, K, and on raw labor, L, multiplied by an education-and-skill coefficient, s.

It was anticipated by [Adam] Smith, whose Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) treats the D variable of dignity, and whose Wealth of Nations (1776) treats the B variable of liberty (amongst a great deal also about F(.)).

And as example of how erudite this book is, where else could you read about Frédéric Bastiat’s idea of a “negative railroad.” Bastiat is on of my favorite economic thinkers because he takes arguments, especially those advocating protectionism, to their logical and absurd extreme.

In 1845 he wrote a petition of the candle makers against the unfair competition (think “dumping”) of the light of the sun, arguing that the law should require curtains to be drawn during the day.

He also argued that if exports would good and imports bad (think our completely meaningless “balance of trade” deficit, which describes accounting, not economics), then countries should sink their ships at sea, creating exports with no imports. Brilliant!

He was probably among the best thinkers to explain that job creation is not the purpose of an economy. In another spoof, he argued that the King should cut off everyone’s right arm, since then it would take twice as long to accomplish any task, create all sorts of jobs, and wealth.

Well, the “negative railroad” is just as funny, and only politicians would be dumb enough to fall for it (think “Wright Amendments” for flying out of Texas). Here’s how McCloskey explains it:

A railroad was proposed in the early 1840s from Paris to Madrid. The city of Bordeaux, at a third of the distance, demanded that the railroad break there, on the argument that the break would “create jobs” for porters and hotels and cabs [big cities like Paris, London and Chicago have always had the trains go into them and end].

Bastiat noted that according to such “job-creating” logic every town along the route should see its opportunity and take it. Every few kilometers, at every country village, the railroad on the way to Madrid would end at a Gare du Nord to be resumed as a Gare du Sud, after job-creating expenditure for freight and travelers en route.

All the national income of France and Spain would come to be “generated” by the Paris-to Madrid railroad, at the cost of all other forms of production and consumption. Jobs would be “created.” It would be a negative railroad, a triumph of protectionism and industrial planning achieved through what economists would later call “rent seeking” by the politicians of Bordeaux or Ablon-sur-Seine.

Think Obama’s “investment” in Solyndra to “create” green jobs.

In the final chapter, she summarizes the “Bourgeois Deal”:

Give a woman some rice, and you save her for a day. Give a man some seed and you save him for a year. That’s the plan of investment in capital, tried for decades in foreign aid, without much success.

But give a man and a woman the liberty to innovate, and persuade them to admire enterprise and to cultivate the bourgeois virtues, and you save them both for a long life of wide scope, and for successively wider lives for their children and their grandchildren, too. That’s the Bourgeois Deal, which paid off in the Age of Innovation.

Does the idea of conversation, words, and talk, changing the course of civilization sound too simplistic? Think about this: Why have out-of-wedlock births skyrocketed in the past 50 years?

Even during the worst years of slavery, the black family was largely intact. And, as Charles Murray documents in Coming Apart, out-of-wedlock births are increasing dramatically among the white population.

Why? What changed? Was it our conversation about this issue? Removing the stigma and shame associated with “bastard” children?

If not, what? Even Murray doesn’t completely blame the welfare state, concluding it exacerbated and enabled, not caused.

I find McCloskey’s work compelling, and it certainly has changed my worldview on the causes of the Industrial Revolution. It truly gives weight to the saying “all transformation is linguistic.”

If you’d like to follow this line of thought, you can visit her site here.

The planned six-book series is as follows:

  1. The Bourgeois Virtues
  2. Bourgeois Dignity
  3. Bourgeois Revaluation, how innovation became virtuous 1600-1845, where she will attempt to measure dignity, and even liberty
  4. Bourgeois Rhetoric
  5. Bourgeois Enemies, mostly intellectuals (no surprise there, see Thomas Sowell’s Intellectuals and Society)
  6. Bourgeois Times, present day views on topics such as globalization, environmentalism, etc.

I look forward to each of these works, even though I know I will be in for a McCloskey headache.

Innovation is the antithesis of efficiency

“Creativity is the residue of time wasted.” —Albert Einstein

3M is the third most innovative company in the world, behind Apple and Google. It sells fifty-five thousand different products—giving it a nearly 1:1 product-to-employee ratio—and generates 30 percent of its annual revenue from products that didn’t exist 5 years ago.

The essential feature of 3M’s innovation is its “flexible attention policy.” Instead of requiring constant concentration, and working to improve efficiency ratios, it encourages people to make time for activities that are unproductive—going for a walk, reading, etc.

Have you ever seen Lean Six-Sigma promote such a concept? I haven’t.

Innovation is the antithesis of efficiency.

Book Review: The King of Madison Avenue

Kenneth Roman joined Ogilvy & Mather in 1963, stayed for 26 years, and was the third successor to David Ogilvy. He wrote this book to assess David Ogilvy’s legacy. It’s a very balanced look at Ogilvy’s entire life, and his major contributions.

David Ogilvy was born June 23, 1911 (same year as Ronald Reagan), the fourth of five children, in Surrey, southwest of London. He described himself as a Scot. He dropped out of Oxford, spent 1.5 years as a chef in Paris, sold expensive stoves in Scotland, and in 1935 started at Mather & Crowther, the agency run by his brother in London.

He arrived in the USA in 1938, where he went to work for Gallup, and in 1942 he worked for British Intelligence as part of the War effort. In 1946, inspired by the lifestyle of the Amish, he bought a farm in Lancaster, PA, which he sold two years later as farming was “tedious.” He opened Ogilvy & Mather in 1948.

He didn’t believe in growth for the sake of growth; he turned down 20 accounts in 1955 alone, including the Edsel, and Charles Revlon (whom he believed to be a real SOB). He decided he had to like the customer personally before accepting them. Although he was a lifelong smoker, he refused to work on cigarette accounts once the health issues became known. He turned down Xerox, which he regretted deeply, since a competitor got rich off the stock.

He didn’t like speculative work, saying, “We don’t make love until we’re married.” Warren Buffet was an early investor, and Ogilvy used to introduce him as the man who made more money from O&M then he did.

He was mentored by three friends that were also building professional service firms: Marvin Bower of McKinsey; Leonard Spacek, Arthur Anderson; and Gus Levy of Goldman Sachs. These friendships inspired Ogilvy to create a strong culture based on beliefs and principles, which he wrote extensively about, some of which is quoted in this book. It’s as relevant today as when he wrote it. Three that I particularly liked were:

He placed Russian matryoshka dolls at the board of director meetings, with a piece of paper in the tiniest doll: “If you hire people who are smaller than you are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. If you hire people who are bigger than you are, we shall become a company of giants.”

“You cannot bore people into buying.”

“The consumer is not a moron. She if your wife. Don’t insult her intelligence.”

He took on the Shell account on a fee basis, rather than commission. JWT begged him not to do it, as it would ruin the industry. By 1970 Ogilvy claimed that one-half of customers were charged fees, not commissions. In his book, Ogilvy on Advertising, he claims credit for bringing the billable hour to agencies. A huge mistake!

He purchased a chateau in France, and retired there in 1973. He died in 1999, age 88.

So what’s Ogilvy’s legacy? The French magazine Expression named 30 men who contributed most to the Industrial Revolution (Edison, Einstein, Keynes, Lenin, Marx): Ogilvy was number seven. He was labeled “the Pope of modern advertising,” which he loved, even though he was a fervent atheist who had a fascination for the Catholic church. He was never knighted (like Martin Sorrell), but was named Commander of the British Empire.

He ranks #4, behind Bill Bernbach, who Roman says had a greater influence on modern advertising, along with more disciples; then Marion Harper and Leo Burnett. Ogilvy’s greatest contributions:

  • Big Ideas
  • The concept of brands and brand image
  • Direct marketing
  • Intelligence of the consumer
  • Payment by fees
  • He detested billboards

All told, this is very well-written book about a fascinating life. Worthwhile read.
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Book Review: Masters of Management

Masters of Management is the update to one of my favorite business books of all time, The Witch Doctors (TWD), first published in 1996, by Adrian Wooldridge and John Micklethwait, two editors from The Economist. If you’re a regular reader of The Economist, Wooldridge is the Schumpeter columnist. Though only Wooldrdige wrote this one, the Foreword is written by Micklethwait.

What has happened between TWD and this work? Enron and the 2008-09 financial crisis, which was partly fueled by MBA’s risk models, and financial innovations in packaging up faulty mortgages.

The industry has essentially stayed the same, though the ideas have changed. The authors wrote in TWD that the management gurus are “the unacknowledged legislators of mankind.” I’ve always thought this overblown, but no doubt the gurus do have an impact on organizational thinking. They do get to test their theories immediately, being a “live” science, unlike, say, economics.

While TWD looked at the dark side of the management consultancy industry, this work looks more at the uplifting side. The consulting industry is $300 billion a year (as of 2007), while business books alone account for $750 million in sales, and the schools of business turn out 150,000 graduate degrees every year.

In TWD, the authors laid out four charges against the industry, which I believe are as true today as they were then:

  1. The discipline is constitutionally incapable of self-criticism;
  2. It favors terminology that confuses rather than educates;
  3. It rarely rises above the level of basic common sense;
  4. It is faddish, fickle, and bedeviled by contradictions that would not be allowed in more rigorous disciplines.

Number one is the biggest change the author has noticed between TWD and this book. No doubt there have been many published books that take a harsh look at the management consulting industry, one of the best being The Management Myth, by Matthew Stewart, reviewed here.

With respect to number two, the author quotes George Orwell:

[Language] becomes ugly and inaccurate not because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.

Wooldridge writes, “Management scientists have arguably done more damage to the English language than any other group of people.” Amen. Pick up a random business book and you’ll read why.

Since the ideas have changed, there are some new fads that come in for a skewering. One is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which is “the tribute that capitalism everywhere pays to virtue.”

Approximately 2% of all investment in the USA are in CSR funds, and less than 1% in Europe. So much for putting your money where your mouth is.

There is chapter devoted to Peter Drucker and Tom Peters, and other prominent gurus get their mention: Michael Porter, Clayton Christensen, Henry Mintzberg, among others.

The new wave of academic and journalist gurus come in for some criticism (and praise) as well: Howard Gardner, Robert Reich, Richard Florida, Thomas Friedman, and Malcolm Gladwell.

Thomas Friedman’s (and Ted Levitt had the same theory) Flat Earth idea come in for a skewering, which is spot on. Read Milton Friedman instead.

There’s also a chapter on “frugal innovation,” which is definitely changing the pricing, supply chain dynamics, and value proposition in developing countries.

Some interesting facts are noted:

  • Only 25% of India’s engineering, and 15% of its finance and accounting, graduates are qualified to work at a multinational firm.
  • In 2010, 47% of world’s wealthy are entrepreneurs.
  • 52% of Silicon Valley startups are founded by immigrants, and 26% of those are Indians.
  • New Zealand has the highest rate of startups in the world.

The author doesn’t like 360-degree feedback, labeling it a “quasi-Leninist” policy whereby you have to listen to other people’s opinions and criticisms of you. Amen. This policy if followed today in North Korea.

An excellent example is provide of the stupidity, and perversion, of measurements:

In Stafford Hospital, between 400 and 1,200 more people died in 2005-08, more than actuarial science would have predicted because the managers were so obsessed with hitting predefined targets that they routinely neglected patients.

I have some quibbles with the book. The author says that National Review is the ultimate journalistic dead end. Really?

The government did not save the financial system from collapse—it caused the collapse.

The idea that Sarbanes-Oxley protects shareholders from malign managers is highly debatable. But even if it was true, at what cost? Diversification is a much more effective protector of shareholder interest, and it doesn’t require a top-down regulatory regime that imposes enormous and unnecessary burdens on companies.

He claims the USA underinvests in childcare, but it’s precisely because the USA doesn’t dole out as many mandated employee benefits that we have a much more dynamic and mobile labor market, more job creation, and less chronic unemployment.

He believes the USA needs more progressive taxation. This is one of the most frustrating things about reading The Economist: they’ve never met a tax that wasn’t high enough.

These quibbles aside, this is an incredibly worthwhile book. While the management consultancy industry is still immature, and allows in all sorts of self-proclaimed gurus and thought leaders, it could be argued that this is a sign of its vitality and openness to new ideas. After all, professions and academic disciplines can calcify, and reject new theories for a long time.

But this low barrier to entry also means there are an enormous amount of crackpots. Masters of Management is a useful guide in separating the wheat from the chaff. Bravo, Mr. Wooldridge!

Profit Is NOT the Problem

I had an interesting exchange this morning with Bill Kizer, founder of the Sage Partners, Employees and Alumni Networking LinkedIn Group.

He posted, “Want to know what’s wrong with business today? The prioritization of profit over principle is built into American corporate culture.”

I disagree, at least partially.

Pursuit and prioritization of profit is not a bad thing per se. The problem occurs when the pursuit of profit is driven by an over focus on efficiency and cost reduction rather than innovation and satisfaction of customer needs and wants.

The problem comes when the question, “How are we to be profitable?” is answered primarily by saying, “We will need to cut and recover costs.” Yes, short term thinking as Bill points out is part of it, but it is the loss of the entrepreneurial spirit (or as some would say – purpose) that is the real problem.

I believe all companies begin to die when more energy is spent on creation of profit through cost reduction (efficiency) than on the creation of profit through innovation for customers (effectiveness).

Yes, this is a derivative of the Eff’ing debate.

ET HORA LIBELLUM DELENDA EST