Hamel don't hurt 'em

From The Wall Street Journal: management book faves of CEOs like Novartis's Daniel Vasella and Snap-On's Nicholas Pinchuk. Thankfully, none of them lists Who Moved My Cheese? Perhaps the most astute observation comes from Progress Energy CEO Bill Johnson, who writes: ". . . most mass market business books are of little practical value." Johnson, like other CEOs surveyed, is old-school, a Drucker fan.


What's hilarious is that the author responsible for some of the most egregious business schlock on the book market, Gary Hamel, blogs for the WSJ. In conjunction with the aforementioned piece he's offering his own recommendations for "Management Revolutionaries." This is an allusion to Hamel's dreadful Leading the Revolution, which in addition to praising the strategic mind of convicted WorldCom felon Bernie Ebbers, spends dozens of pages extolling the "pro-entrepreneurship culture" of Enron.


Hamel specializes in identifying a handful of currently sexy companies, drawing hasty conclusions about the reasons for their success, and then writing books with advice like "go non-linear," "listen to the periphery," and make your company "an opportunity-seeking missile." Later, when some of those companies fail, see their executives carted off to jail, or both, it's no skin off Hamel's back, because he's already penning his next breathless tome.

It's good work if you can get it, I suppose, though not perhaps if you care about where your soul goes after you die. (And if Dante was right about hell holding particular punishments for particular fiends, then there's a whole mess of Harvard Business Press authors who are likely to find themselves sitting on uncomfortable metal chairs for an eternity-long PowerPoint presentation on The New Economy 2.0.)

All this makes me think that alongside these lists of important business books, we ought to compile a list of the worst business books. I'll start the nominations with Spencer Johnson's Who Moved My Cheese? and Ken Blanchard's Whale Done (From Amazon, ironically offered as a selling point: "What do your people at work and your spouse and kids at home have in common with a five-ton killer whale? Probably a whole lot more than you think. . ."). Add to these anything Gary Hamel has written without the guidance of C.K. Prahalad. Other suggestions?

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