The Human Brain: Obstacle to Success?

THE HUMAN BRAIN: OBSTACLE TO SUCCESS?….I was browsing through this week’s issue of the Economist over lunch and read a long essay about the current state-of-the-art thinking on what makes great companies great. This has been a recurring and favorite topic among business management gurus for at least the past two decades.

(The essay is here, but don’t bother clicking on it unless you’re a subscriber. Yes, that means you, you slack jawed yokel, you.)

Ahem. Anyway, it turns out that while trendy management technologies are all very well, which trendy management technology you adopt doesn’t really matter. However:

….it matters very much, though, that whatever technology you choose to implement you execute it flawlessly.

Aha! So that’s what I’ve been missing. Gotta get me some of the flawless execution. Unfortunately, in the next paragraph my betters at McKinsey explain what my problem is:

One thing standing in the way of the flawless execution of clear strategies, writes Charles Roxburgh in the latest issue of McKinsey Quarterly, is the human brain.

Yep, the human brain. That’s the kind I have, all right. (Unless Brad DeLong decides to upload my consciousness into a canary someday, of course.)

Once again, this essay confirms my belief that there is actually not one single thing that great companies have in common. In fact, this essay could almost be a Harvard Case Study in the use of the phrase “on the other hand.” There is practically nothing in it that isn’t either contradicted or hedged within a couple of paragraphs.

So save your money on all those business books out there and just follow Kevin’s ever-so-simple rules of good business: manage for profitability, treat your employees as if someone were filming a documentary of you, don’t let your hopes and desires color your view of distasteful reality, and never ever put off difficult decisons just because they are going to be personally painful.

Now go out and make some money.