Years ago, I worked in a very small office for a man running his own company. The great thing about a small company is that you learn a lot. You learn a lot because you do a lot, but also because there aren’t layers and layers of management. One of the first things I noticed about this boss is that he loved self-help books and biographies. Every week he bought new titles. I asked him about his fascination with these books and he gave me an answer I haven’t forgotten. His theory was that these books contain the entire life experiences of the authors (or their subjects) that anyone could buy for a few dollars and learn from in a few hours.
In subsequent years, I would occasionally pick up a business book with that theory in mind. I enjoyed the anecdotes quite a bit. Who wouldn’t? They often read like novels, with heroes, villains and all the props to make a spell-binding story. But, something always troubled me about the case studies presented. As I gained more and more work experience, I noticed how glib many of them were. And, while the books may have been easy to read, I could see that their research methodologies were not scientific. So, I stopped reading them.
Of course, in any corporate setting, both managers and non-managers are trying to improve the company using the best methods available. So, people started recommending books to me. And, even when they didn’t, when I found out a certain manager was reading a particular book, I would read it… reluctantly. Not much had changed. Then, I came across Phil Rosenzweig’s book, “The Halo Effect …and the Eight Other Business Delusions That Deceive Managers”.
Phil Rosenzweig is not a management guru, at least not a traditional one. He is a professor at the International Institute for Management in Lausanne, Switzerland. The advantage of being a professor, and not a celebrity, is that he can write a book that properly criticizes all the myths and misinformation.
Consider how business magazines heap praise on a CEO when his or her company is doing well. The CEOs methods, strategies and personal manner are all given credit for the company’s success. Fast forward a few years, and the company is not doing so well. Now, the same CEO is made out as the villain. A few years earlier, every manager was being told to emulate that “brilliant” CEO, now they are warned not to copy the “idiotic” CEO. If it was just a game, it wouldn’t matter much. Unfortunately, company fortunes and careers are affected when a manager decides to follow the “flavour of the month” theory, believing that it represents the latest in business thinking.
The most direct thing I can say about “The Halo Effect” is read it. You will never read another business book in the same way again. In fact, you may not want to read another business book again.
Title: The Halo Effect …and the Eight Other Business Delusions That Deceive Managers
Author: Phil Rosenzweig
Publisher: Free Press (Simon and Schuster)