Sunday, June 08, 2008

Modern management literature and the Hammer of Thor

I'm obliged to consume a regular diet of management books.

There are some good ones*, often outside the best seller lists, but a heck of a lot of them remind me of 18th century medicine. They're case studies, or stories, about complex and emergent behaviors we can't yet understand. The most successful ones, unsurprisingly, spend quite a bit of time bolstering the surprisingly frail egos of corporate leadership. Once a CEO decides a book is worth reading, their enthusiasm will sell tens of thousands of corporate copies - mostly unread.

That's the formula, by the way. If you have the stomach for it, and some writing skills and a lot of luck, you can be wealthy.

Emily pointed out this morning that the meme is older than 18th century medicine. It's as old as myth. Living without science in the natural world, you live with lightning and earthquakes, storms and drought, plague and locusts and the mixed miracle of life itself. Humans are compelled to create internally coherent stories, and so myth is born. Thunder is the Hammering of Thor.

That's what most best seller management books are. Stories of The Hammering of Jack Welch, God of Thunder.

At least they're quick reading.

* I'd forgotten about this old page of mine -- I last updated over eight years ago! There's some good stuff there ... I'll recycle bits of it for the internal corporate blogging I do.

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