The Economist on “Management Gurus”

One of the reasons why I created Squeezed Books was to “deflate” some of the hot air present in many business books, so I particularly enjoyed The Economist’s cynical take on “management gurus”:

The three habits of highly irritating management gurus

The first is presenting stale ideas as breathtaking breakthroughs

The second irritating habit is that of naming model firms. Mr Covey littered his speech in London with references to companies he thinks are outstandingly well managed, including, bizarrely, General Motors’ Saturn division, which is going out of business.

The gurus routinely ignore such basic precautions as providing a control group.

The third irritating habit is the flogging of management tools off the back of numbered lists or facile principles.

And their conclusion is spot on:

Which points to the most irritating thing of all about management gurus: that their failures only serve to stoke demand for their services. If management could indeed be reduced to a few simple principles, then we would have no need for management thinkers. But the very fact that it defies easy solutions, leaving managers in a perpetual state of angst, means that there will always be demand for books like Mr Covey’s.

Well, that didn’t work

Ouch. Absolutely no takers on the Squeezed Books contest:

I wonder what didn’t work out? I mean, a book isn’t a huge prize, exactly, but I know I’ve participated in mini-contests such as “leave a comment on my blog saying why you should win this book”. I actually got a copy of Nick Carr’s “The Big Switch” that way. And as it turns out, all it would have taken to win a free book in the Squeezed Books contest is an edit of a few words (as long as it wasn’t random gibberish), so the ‘barrier to entry’ was pretty low. Perhaps I wasn’t able to publicize it enough? Maybe the ‘right’ people didn’t find it? Maybe people didn’t find it credible? Too much of a pain to log in? The instructions aren’t clear?

It’s tough – I am and always will be a programmer at heart, and this marketing stuff is harder than it seems! However, barring any sudden blinding insights, I’m going to try again. This time, whoever contributes the most to new or existing business book summaries by September 30th gets two business books of their choice, since we didn’t give one away last time.

Squeezed Books Contest

I’d like to announce a modest contest on the Squeezed Books web site: the person who contributes the most to existing or new summaries wins a free business book + shipping, from Amazon, courtesy of Squeezed Books.

Yeah, I know that it doesn’t really compare with the millions that big companies can give away, but I thought it would be a nice way to reward people who work on the site. If it works out well, we’ll repeat it every month.

So, if you’re the kind of person who already takes notes when you read a book, or you’ve read a lot of business books and can distill their key points, this might be a good opportunity to take a chance at a free book, and share your knowledge with others (summaries, unless otherwise noted, are under a Creative Commons license).

Questions and comments welcome: it’s an experiment, so ideas on how to improve it are welcome too.