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When Best-Selling Authors run your Life

December 12, 2008

Know anyone who live their lives out of a book?

I do. A couple of them actually, managers who devour just about every book ever published by reknowned management gurus. When we meet, they pepper me with high-falutin’ jargon. Long tail, crowdsourcing, microtargeting, ba bla. Really impressive to listen to.

No, they’ve not pole-vaulted themselves over their Ah Beng and Ah Lian colleagues yet but they’re trying.

If you’re a book store regular, you’ll notice how quickly opinions change on a topic. One day, you might spot a new book: “General Motors: The Management Style that Kicks Ass.” A month later, you spot another one that says Motorola style kicks ass. Another month later, you see yet another one that says Toyota style now kicks ass. Will it be Intel or BMW next month? Who knows.

(By the way, the stocks of GM, Motorola and Toyota are all taking a beating on Wall Street. Even Donald Trump of the famed TV series The Apprenctice and the feature of books like, “No such Thing As Overexposure, Inside the Life And Celebrtiy of Donald Trump” apparently missed a $53.1 million payment last week. Dude you’re so fired. Its just… sad when celebrity gurus get their asses kicked.)

As we gush over these towering icons, its easy to forget the reality that many of them can’t live up to their own hype. And its making the job of selling books a lot like selling vegetables. Better sell ’em quickly before they go bad.

But how can a million-copy NY Times bestseller be wrong, you ask? Well, think about it. With all the contradictory titles on the shelf, do we ever stop to ask, “Wait a minute. How can all of these be right?”

The truth is, there are a hundred perspectives to everything. If you ask me, I think some of your own perspectives can be as valid as the ones these gurus preach. Perspectives are highly situational and quite frankly, I’ve not found a guru that could offer a single formula that works in every situation. What I do know is if you live in a little village in Fuzhou province, your business strategy will probably outrun anything Peter Drucker can ever dream up – for that village that you live in.

So IMO, go ahead and live out the guru’s words if it produces results. Just be careful you don’t look silly holding their ideas high when times change and they’ve long left the building.

Often without telling you.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 12, 2008 9:07 am

    Some people just like to boast. They read a lot of management-related books and can come out with tonnes of theories, but when you throw them some questions, they cannot answer. Well, this type of people is better than those who think books are nonsense stuff and they themselves are greater than the authors —- yea, we have tonnes of such leaders too.

    Face the fact. These books are just another way for these people to earn more. That’s why I’m not interested in how Toyota does it, or how BMW does it, or how DELL does it (esp since all of them are in deep trouble).

    On the other hand, book such as “good to great”, IMO, is good because it is based on actual statistics. Warren Buffett’s books are quite useful too. But in the end, it is all nothing but knowledge. I can say I’ve read a lot of such books before, but I must admit I’m not good enough to manage a team of people. Because all theories and no REAL STUFF.

    Show me proof that you’ve saved your company from closing down. The proof is worth the money I’m going to pay you, not the tonnes of jargon you’re throwing at me.

    Books can liberate the mind and it can also imprison it. Some read books with a critical mind. Others read it as a “how-to” manual. They prefer to be spoonfed than do any thinking themselves (because you should not think too much). We are either thought leaders or thought followers. This part of the world, I find there are many, many thought followers.

  2. LC Teh permalink
    December 12, 2008 12:05 pm

    I’ve read about a handfull of self-help books in my time. They’re good for ‘bench-marking’ (for those who love that word) certain ideas, applications or getting over certain situations in life, business, work or relationships. But they’re certainly not the Bible. If they are, there are thousands of them to confuse you with some of their contrasting ideologies. I have them around just to stay on even keel when there’s a lack of peer discussion or more mature advice to help me get through some tough corners. In fact some of the best advice about the facts of life come out of the pages of fiction.

    Then there are those who preach a whole ideology out of a single book on a single system and expect it to work. For example, the Toyota Way. The Japs are not worried about you copying their system. The fact is; you can apply their system but you can’t make it work because you can’t copy their culture. So, even if you have the management style that kicks ass, you don’t try that in a lumberjack camp. The sorriest ass would be yours.

    Yup, absolutely right. Like I mentioned, books can either liberate your mind or imprison it. I see books as an opinion on paper, like any other opinion I hear in a coffee shop. Its just one opinion among a hundred others. The thing is many people take printed material as authoritative. Maybe that’s how they were educated. Its easy to forget that all opinons have a shelf life, even if they’re bounded by a nice hardback cover.

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