Covering the environment, engineering, technology, and economics
Friday, October 3, 2014
Inward-Bound Engineering Management
From the Schumpeter column in the current issue of the Economist:
"Inward-bound courses would do wonders for “thought leadership”. There are good reasons why the business world is so preoccupied by that notion at the moment: the only way to prevent your products from being commoditised or your markets from being disrupted is to think further ahead than your competitors. But companies that pose as thought leaders are often “thought laggards”: risk analysts who recycle yesterday’s newspapers, and management consultants who champion yesterday’s successes just as they are about to go out of business.
The only way to become a real thought leader is to ignore all this noise and listen to a few great thinkers. You will learn far more about leadership from reading Thucydides’s hymn to Pericles than you will from a thousand leadership experts. You will learn far more about doing business in China from reading Confucius than by listening to “culture consultants”. Peter Drucker remained top dog among management gurus for 50 years not because he attended more conferences but because he marinated his mind in great books: for example, he wrote about business alliances with reference to marriage alliances in Jane Austen.
Inward-bound courses would do something even more important than this: they would provide high-flyers with both an anchor and a refuge. High-flyers risk becoming so obsessed with material success that they ignore their families or break the law. Philosophy-based courses would help executives overcome their obsession with status symbols. It is difficult to measure your worth in terms of how many toys you accumulate when you have immersed yourself in Plato. Distracted bosses would also benefit from leaving aside all those e-mails, tweets and LinkedIn updates to focus on a few things that truly matter."