If You Still Don’t Think We Need a Leonardo da Vinci …

… then take a look at this recent Harvard Business Review blog post on the decade in business ideas. I found it thoroughly depressing. Let’s take a close look at the most influential management ideas of the millennium (so far):

  • Shareholder Value
    Yes, businesses exist to generate a return for their shareholders and yes they should, but there’s more to value than profit and there’s more to business than just creating profit. As the article points out, the pursuit of shareholder value eclipsed all and pushed the consideration of stock price effects deep into operational decision making, which is precisely where it does not belong. As Jack Welch proclaimed, “Shareholder value is a result, not a strategy.”
  • IT as a Utility
    IT may be, and in many cases probably should be, a service, but it’s not a utility in the traditional sense by any means. You just can’t equate ERP and Data Analysis with electricity and water. One powers your equipment, one powers your decisions. One refreshes your employees, the other refreshes your business. Saying IT is a utility is buying into the BS that BI can be used to automate business decisions. It can’t. Period.
  • The Customer Chorus
    Just because new, social network, technology has made it easier for customers to provide feedback in droves, this doesn’t mean that you should listen to each and every one. Just because every customer and his dog can describe their problems doesn’t mean that they know what the right solution is. Fact of the matter is, they usually don’t. And if you try to make everyone happy, you’ll end up pleasing no one. You have to pick a market, which is likely becoming more niche by the day, and go after it.
  • The Creative Organization
    Creativity is good, to a point, but only to a point. It’s one thing to encourage creativity when trying to innovate a new product, but another to encourage creativity across the board in marketing, sales, operations, etc. You see, not every new idea will work. In fact, many will fail. And while failures are good (as long as you learn from them), too many at once will take down your business. You have to make changes one by one, keep the ones that work, and replace the ones that don’t.
  • Behavioural Economics
    Economics studies the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services and behavioural economics focusses on the selfishness of the economic agents that produce, distribute, and consume the goods. Now while it’s important to understand your audience, you can’t assume that your entire market is selfish … just like you can’t assume that your entire market is rational.
  • High Potentials
    Yes, high potential leaders are important, but so are leaders who have reached their potential and, more importantly so are good, talented employees. One man does not make a successful multinational.
  • Competing on Analytics
    What’s wrong with this? Especially since I proclaim the importance of good analytics on a daily basis? Well, the majority of firms are not competing on analytics. They’re competing on automatically generated reports from automatically “cleansed” and “enhanced” data from automatically generated “cubes” that are automatically generated from multiple “data feeds” that are never, ever, ever reviewed by a human. As a result, each stage introduces, propagates, and magnifies the error until a thoroughly inaccurate and useless report is produced. Firms should be competing on intelligence, backed up by analytics hand-driven by intelligent, educated, users.
  • Enterprise Risk Management
    Okay, this one isn’t too bad. Risks are multiplying, and you have to be prepared for them, but instead of trying to identify and manage risks after making a operational decision, wouldn’t it be a novel idea to identify the risks associated with each option before making the decision (and then choosing the one with the least, or most manageable, risk)? Or is that just too crazy?
  • Open Source
    Okay, this one isn’t bad either, but unless you’re planning to be a service company, you’re not going to even make enough profit to stay in business, yet alone achieve the “shareholder value” that everyone is so relentlessly pursuing.
  • Going Private
    This is one of the three, straight-up, good ones in the mix. It lets you get away from the relentless, and meaningless, Wall Street focus on quarterly earnings (which has killed long-term planning and the research labs that made North America great after WWII and made the US economy the most significant global economy by far for decades) and get back to business. However, it’s not really a “management idea” (as it’s a business structure).
  • Reverse Innovation
    This is the second of the three, straight-up, good ones in the mix. No reason innovation can’t come from foreign markets. However, this isn’t much of a “management idea” either (as it’s a form of innovation).
  • Sustainability
    This is the last of the three, straight-up, good ones in the mix. And while it’s not really a “management idea” either, it’s an important “management goal” because, let’s face it, you can’t make profits tomorrow if there is no tomorrow.

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