Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wisdom on wisdom peddled by management wisdom books

Drake Bennett's Luck, Inc. : The 7 secrets of really, really lucky companies":

... [A] few consultants and business school professors have begun to argue that much of this [business-success] literature is, in fact, useless. Far from a science, they argue, the success literature is made up of little more than just-so stories in which authors use dramatic anecdotes - often drawn from previously published magazine profiles or interviews with the very executives whose performance is being examined - as evidence for "secrets" that amount to little more than warmed-over homilies. The critics accuse the success gurus of cherry-picking their evidence, of doing little to double-check their results, of circular reasoning, and of making elementary statistical errors.

"These books try to impress you with the massive amounts of data that they gather, but much of the data are not valid," says Phil Rosenzweig, a professor at Switzerland's International Institute for Management Development and author of "The Halo Effect," a 2007 book that set out to debunk much of the business-success literature. "These sorts of data are seen through the lens of the company's success. They don't explain the company's success, they are explained by it." Along with Rosenzweig's, the past few years have seen books by Robert Sutton and Jeffrey Pfeffer of Stanford arguing for a more truly evidence-based business-success literature.