There has always been an insatiable craving for advice on quick fixes to situations which we encounter in our daily lives. There is no other explanation for the ever-accelerating sales of “How to…” books. The very first in the field was Dale Carnegie’s “How to win friends and influence people”. The demand for Benjamin Spock’s tome on baby care – a sort of baby Haynes Manual – sold millions. There was even a book called “How to succeed in business without really trying”! This genre is the pulp non-fiction of real life.
Nowhere is the nuisance more rampant than in the domain of management. Those strutting and recording in the collonaded corridors of academia or in the money-scented troughs of corporo-land are in a particularly desperate situation. Once they start, they cannot finish. The new Messiahs need disciples and the disciples crave more honeyed management words.
The `Publish or Perish’ syndrome leaves them with no other choice than to be seen to be churning out something or other merely to justify their upkeep and maintain their reputation. Regrettably, because every possible concept has been worked to the death, they have to constantly pour old wine into new bottles. The original recyclers – constantly re-bottling pretentious piffle and insipid inanities.
Darwin would have been proud. For instance – many moons ago we had to provide Customer Care, then we had Customer Satisfaction, then we had Service Excellence which was quickly followed by the creation of Customer Delight. I suppose that next, we will have to screw them and induce Customer Orgasm.
An article in the Wall Street Journal called `Don’t get hammered by management fads’, says that an estimated 10,000 business books have been published worldwide in the last three years. Most of the books trumpeted management ”tools” guaranteed to make the user mega-successful in whatever he or she attempted. There is no statistic which would show that many of these management books are bought but never read. Managers and aspiring managers buy these books as Executive Teddy Bears and file them in the hope that the alchemy within will be absorbed by the mystical process of management osmosis. Management by Ownership.
Recently, for instance, a monstrosity entitled “How to think like a CEO”, has sought to lure those fantasising about conquering the cliff face of Middle Management. They have fuzzy dreams of one day perching on some high corporate peak .
This book, in common with 90% of the entire market is strictly “Aphorism City”. These are some of the trite homilies that it contains: Be gutsy, even a little wild, modest and in control. Be competitive and tenacious, flexible and generous. Admit mistakes. Be self-secure, self-reliant, resilient and constantly self-improving. Be original, straightforward, and think before you speak or act.
Does that not take your breath away! Straight from the Ministry of the Bleedin’ Obvious.
Some authors try another approach. They repackage the same stale ideas in the name of some ancient unheard-of bearded sage, thereby reaping a double dividend: Giving a new glitter to well-worn clichés by putting them in the mouth of some venerable ancient whose authenticity is often unverifiable and simultaneously exhibiting their own erudition and diligence by exploring the past.
About 3,000 years ago, in the ancient settlement of Harbin, there lived the Daoist sage called Szech-Taibong. He was not-only a great thinker but also a benefactor, and the ancient equivalent of our modern entrepreneur. This man had it all! He said something all those years ago which still holds good to this day and should be taught in all management schools. His little-studied philosophy would make all currently written management books obsolete Here’s what he said: Know people. Handle them kindly. Deploy them properly but within their knowledge. Be far-sighted. Anticipate and overcome threats because in anticipating they will be overcome before they happen. Exploit opportunities. Communicate effectively but always try to be result-oriented and generous to your opponents.
Nothing particularly exciting but easily on a par with everything else written in the last 50 years.
You haven’t heard of Szech-Taibong from Harbin?
That’s because I made it all up. Beware of false prophets!