Friday, March 5, 2010

Buying the latest idea

So, you were in the airport and picked up the newest popular business book. It breathlessly tells you how you can change X, Y and Z and your entire business will become successful.

But before you rush back from your trip and start making changes, you might just take a moment and reflect on whether the prescriptions are worse than the disease.

Pfeffer and Sutton give five questions to ask before trying a business idea or practice:
  1. what assumptions does the idea or practice make about people and organizations? What would have to be true about people and organizations for the idea or practice to be effective?
  2. which of these assumptions seem reasonable and correct to you and your colleagues? Which seem wrong or suspect?
  3. could this idea or practice still succeed if the assumptions turned out to be wrong?
  4. how might you and your colleagues quickly and inexpensively gather some data to test the reasonableness of the underlying assumptions?
  5. what other ideas or management practices can you think of that would address the same problem or issue and be more consistent with what you believe to be true about people and organizations?
Just because a book is written by a famous author or business executive does not make it true, correct or useful for your business. I would hazard most of the time your particular situation will not match whatever their study was covering. Instead, take a look around and test the assumptions against your organization. If the assumptions seem to hold, then try it in a sample or test environment.

Otherwise you may find your employees giving you books to read while on the plane!

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