Consoled only by having bought the book for £ 0.09 ( and £2.80 postage) in Amazon marketplace, the reality is that it ruined my evening in a otherwise predictable and safe hotel room abroad. Fooled by an attractive title and the suggestion that it had to do with corporate anthropology, I’ve been looking for the promised gems page after page but found myself making margin notes ( as I always do) of the type, Really?, Seriously? and OMG! Although I did finish it with progressive reading speed, my last note in page 200 read ‘I give up!’
The well intentioned consultant, author and self-proclaimed corporate anthropologist, insisted in explained to me what Amazon did, and then Facebook, and then, well, all the usual suspects from Jet Blue to Southwest Airlines and Zappos. Leaving aside the fact that, as far as so many American business books go, the entire world has the Statue of Liberty at one end and Cupertino or Silicon Valley at the other, and anything outside these borders is called Mars, the book followed the same thinking trap that sits underneath ‘management thinking’: tell me what you want to prove and I’ll give you the name of a company.
For design as the super focus of life, dial Apple. For customer services, dial Southwest Airlines. For disruptive business models, dial Amazon. For self-management and no hierarchy dial Zappos. And in case you have been in a long Sabbatical (as that author either assumes I have, or perhaps she has) for technology platforms and innovation, dial Facebook.
And the point is?
Well, that’s a very good question, actually, since you ask.
Also, most management thinking ‘best practices’ ( is anybody still using the concept) are post-hoc compilations following the strict, otherwise hidden rules of the so called Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy. The Wikipedia entry explains: The name comes from a joke about a Texan who fires some gunshots at the side of a barn, then paints a target cantered on the biggest cluster of hits and claims to be a sharpshooter. ‘Such and such and such have X in common and are perfect examples of, say, leadership’. But there is nothing in common. You just have created a Perfect Business Case Study by putting together apples, pears and bananas and giving your PhD the title of ‘Fruits’.
Back to my book, it also showed me again how we pick the angles we want and ignore the rest that does not suit the argument (ignoring the holes in the shooting that did not hit the target). Nobody says, for example, for disruptive business models, and no profits, dial Amazon. For self-management and no hierarchy, and a bit chaotic environment, and second thoughts on Holacracy, dial Zappos. And for design, by all means, dial Apple. Also dial Apple for an old culture of secrecy and opaque management practices. Which, I would be tempted to say (hey, this may be a new book), for exquisite design don’t forget to have a culture of secrecy.
It was a very bad book, anyway, let’s leave it like this. But not the exception in management books.
For those who really want to deep into management practices, case studies and profound understanding of the enterprise, I would strongly recommend to read the newspapers.