Freek Vermeulen, an associate professor of Strategic & International Management at the London Business School, started to blog about his view on modern business at Business Exposed. His atypical way to look at management/business issues led to thoughts of the child screaming “There’s naked man in the street, wearing nothing but a crown!” from Hans Christian Andersen‘s famous fairy tale The Emperor’s New Clothes. In our society we organize basically on two sources: the Roman army (i.e. a hierarchy with unity of command), and economics. Vermeulen examines the mechanisms behind popular management theories, economists’ research, good and bad practices, consultancy, and decision-making in organizations. Short-term initiatives to please shareholders (or even put them before your own workforce), greed (the third Biblical sin), swarming or sheer imitation of others without knowing why, all are peeled off as just useless in the long term. As a talented storyteller, Vermeulen integrates scientific research without the tables, boring details and the inevitable volumes of chapters to go through. Fans of popular business book authors will (hopefully) feel ashamed that clear evidence often lacks. And so, agency theory, ISO9000 certification, Total Quality Management, Knowledge Management, Bigger is better (mergers & acquisitions), maximizing shareholder value, R&D as one and only way to innovate, stand naked too. Quite often only attention is given to the successes (and then claimed to be proof of intentional behaviour), not failures. I found clear insights in the field of necessary constant changes in organizations, recognized a lot (self-fulfilling prophecies, removing differentiators in a post-merger organization, poor performing knowledge management, motivation versus renumeration and their effect on performance, the consequences of greed). While some of the “how to” books are nice, interesting and touching hidden truths as well, I’d like to read different points of view too.
Let’s honor the little child, honestly saying what he sees: the naked truth. Freek Vermeulen has a lot of topics covered: from women on top, management incompetency, time compression diseconomies, tunnel vision, innovation management versus serendipity, patent sharks and human nature. Business Exposed is well-crafted, a joy to read with a stunning, but clear message.