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May 16, 2008

News & Opinion: What is Wrong With Business Books?! - Part II

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 8:05 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture


On the heals of my Fast Company news, I found a wonderful essay that berates business books. Yes, I said wonderful.

An anonymous writer under the byline "Uncle Saul" wrote The Author's Dilemma - Why Most Business Books Suck for socialtech.com. The piece is clearly written by a book reader as it points the vast number of ways business books fail the entrepreneurs. Among the reasons:

Entrepreneurs Need Tactical Guidance -- Obsessing about strategy is a luxury that only Big Dumb Companies ("BDCs") can afford. Entrepreneurs must define a series of skirmishes, they do not need to devise elaborate battle plans. Entrepreneurs need only develop a basic strategy and craft an evolving and iterative tactical plan which guides them in the general direction dictated by their overall strategy. Although a few books attempt to act as entrepreneurial field guides that offer tactics in specific areas (e.g., selling, marketing, PR, etc.), their usefulness is often limited. Books that highlight tactics are valuable for entrepreneurs whose specific circumstances match those outlined in the text. However, specific tactics are often difficult to translate into markets outside of those described in such books.

Entrepreneurs Have Corporate ADD -- A pithy format, offering bite-sized data, serves entrepreneurs well. If you prefer to pour through 400-page academic tomes, you may be a nice person, but you are probably not an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs "Get It" -- Consistent with their Corporate ADD, entrepreneurs tend to excel at digesting numerous disparate facts and making quick, gestalt decisions. This inherent impatience causes entrepreneurs to quickly become frustrated with books that repeatedly reinforce their central point through multiple examples, analogies and anecdotes.

Entrepreneurs Are Contrarians -- In general, the use of multiple examples is an appropriate means of convincing someone to change their behavior. However, since most entrepreneurs have no allegiance to the status quo, they find books which rely on numerous examples as a means of changing the reader's behavior to be frustrating and largely irrelevant.

Uncle Saul does like one book: Guy Kawasaki's The Art of the Start, saying, "Guy succinctly addresses a number of relevant startup issues in pithy chapters and offers concrete, tactical suggestions for addressing a number of typical challenges faced by most startups."


About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.