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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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February 18, 2009

Business Books: The Enantiomers

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Posted by Derek

Since I wrote about business books the other day, and not in a complimentary fashion, reader David Shaywitz sent along a note about his piece in Forbes on reading for newly-humbled CEOs.

Included are intriguing titles like The Halo Effect: ... and the Eight Other Business Delusions That Deceive Managers, which is billed as "a tart takedown of fashionable management theories" and vigorously named Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense. Worth a look for people who need (or want) to read about management, but don't find themselves with much to work with from the big bestsellers.

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Book Recommendations | Business and Markets


1. RB Woodweird on February 19, 2009 7:34 AM writes...

Breaking management of their buzzword program addiction is like trying to get my mother in law to give up cigarettes. They will read the books and swear that they won't be fooled again, but they will light up sooner rather than later. They can't help it. If they were rational thinkers, they'd be scientists.

To carry the nicotine analogy along, there is a whole industry devoted to - and pretty effective at - keeping management brains craving that next big paradigm-shifting, productivity-enhancing, working-smarter-not-harder hit of sixsigma. These pushers get their whispers into the right ears: "Your competitors are doing this. Everyone will be doing this soon. You don't want to be behind the curve, do you? When the CEO calls you, you want to be able to say you already set up the trainings, don't you?" And if everyone is doing it or about to be doing it, then it is like going with IBM circa 1970. Nobody ever got fired for running up the 5S banner.

All you can do is sing the song, hang the posters, mouth the slogans - all while ignoring them. You have to pretend they are your wife and just yes dear to anything. Never contradict, and for God's sake never suggest they read books like are mentioned in the blog above.

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2. Alaster on February 19, 2009 9:43 AM writes...

If you liked The Halo Effect, then another you may like is Fooled by Randomness by Nicholas Taleb

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3. Tok on February 19, 2009 10:17 AM writes...

Humbled CEOs eh? I'll bet they're humbled all the way to the bank. What personal consequences are there for a CEO who drives a company into the ground? None.

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4. Hap on February 19, 2009 1:36 PM writes...

I don't want CEOs who fail to have to wear a scarlet A or anything, but not profiting extravagantly from their failures would be an improvement. If you profit significantly from the success of your company, than you should suffer consequences when the company doesn't succeed - otherwise the "risk argument" for why CEOs (and other executives) make so much more money than other employees holds no water. I don't know if it's fair to expect of anyone at their job level, but it would be nice if CEOs actually had to suffer similar consequences to those of the people who were laid off for the CEO's failures. They have to take risks, and sometimes risks don't pan out, but maybe hanging out at the unemployment office for a few weeks would make them somewhat less willing to take stupid risks (or, on the other hand, maybe they would take larger risks, to cash out as much as is possible when they get the chance).

The only solution is substantial investor oversight - if stockholders have little or no say in the decisions of the company, then the board and the executives can act for their own benefits rather than those of their employers (and you get what you have now).

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5. SRC on February 21, 2009 3:37 PM writes...

Excellent post, RB Woodweird. The problem is that to resist running blindly with the herd, one has to be pretty strong-minded and confident in one's own intellect and judgment.

Management types generally seem not to be overly endowed with any of those qualities. Thus the suggestion that there are people smarter than they (God knows that's a big club) who know something they don't (again, a very low bar) and are stealing a march on them strikes them with mortal terror that they'll be exposed at imposters or at least not up to speed with the current thinking. (Think teenagers who haven't yet adopted the latest fashion.)

Result: they plunge into yet another management fad, trying to make up in fervor what they lacked in timing, wasting lots of time and money. Then the next fad comes along...

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6. CMC Guy on February 22, 2009 4:10 PM writes...

SRC although I deplore and criticize what MBA mentality has done to business, and Pharma in particular, I disagree that the qualities mentioned are generally lacking in most of Management. If fact I would argue many of those characteristics are currently over valued in most cases and has been responsible for "success", it is just not focused on doing things differently and leads to arrogance.

IMO this is just aspects of Human Nature and I think Scientists can also suffer from the same type attitudes (to greater degree in some instances) with similar resulting advantages/disadvantages. How many times have this blog discussed various "drug discovery fads" that have occurred over past 20 years so we here are not immune.

We can be frustrated by (and laugh at) all the management "buzz-words" and contradictions but does not it comes down to attempts to make complex things simple and if there was a single working formula why has it not been found and implemented. It is another Human tendency to stick with the herd and even though as Scientists part of our training is to explore new areas it is rare when someone can break away from existing norms or paths. In the end in Pharma we need input from many disciplines, including business types, and we all need to work and build together to truly be successful.

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