Hermann Simon

In business management, it is easy to fall victim to the buzzwords or trends of the day when historical understanding and consciousness are lacking. When that happens, authors and thinkers purport to create something new, when they are really only serving old wine in new wineskins. This recalls the comments of the philosopher George Santayana that history will repeat itself for those who do not … [ Read more ]

Hermann Simon

History does not repeat itself, nor does it follow given laws, as Karl Marx or Oswald Spengler have suggested. Nevertheless, it can be said that the human being has changed very little during the known course of history. We gain, therefore, valuable insight when we interpret current developments and the future in light of historical analogies.

The Great Crash 1929

Rampant speculation. Record trading volumes. Assets bought not because of their value but because the buyer believes he can sell them for more in a day or two, or an hour or two. Welcome to the late 1920s. There are obvious and absolute parallels to the great bull market of the late 1990s, writes Galbraith in a new introduction dated 1997. Of course, Galbraith notes, … [ Read more ]

Strategy: A History

In Strategy: A History, Sir Lawrence Freedman, one of the world’s leading authorities on war and international politics, captures the vast history of strategic thinking, in a consistently engaging and insightful account of how strategy came to pervade every aspect of our lives.

The range of Freedman’s narrative is extraordinary, moving from the surprisingly advanced strategy practiced in primate groups, to the opposing strategies of Achilles … [ Read more ]

A Brief History of Finance and My Life at Chicago

An interesting essay by finance luminary Eugene F. Fama, which touches on some of the important events in the evolution of the finance field.

Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power

In this, the first hard-hitting examination of ExxonMobil—the largest and most powerful private corporation in the United States—Steve Coll reveals the true extent of its power. Private Empire pulls back the curtain, tracking the corporation’s recent history and its central role on the world stage, beginning with the Exxon Valdez accident in 1989 and leading to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of … [ Read more ]

How Simon Kuznets Codified Modern Economic Growth

Simon Kuznets, winner of the third Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1971, helped transform the field of economics into an empirically-based social science. An excerpt from Robert Fogel’s book on the great economist.

Henry Ford

Most great figures in American history reveal great contradictions, and Henry Ford is no exception. He championed his workers, offering unprecedented wages, yet crushed their attempts to organize. Virulently anti-Semitic, he never employed fewer than 3,000 Jews. An outspoken pacifist, he made millions producing war materials. He urbanized the modern world, and then tried to drag it back into a romanticized rural past he’d helped … [ Read more ]

Everybody Ought to Be Rich: The Life and Times of John J. Raskob

Today, consumer credit, employee stock options, and citizen investment in the stock market are taken for granted–fundamental facts of American economic life. But few people realize that they were first widely promoted by John Jakob Raskob (1879-1950), the innovative financier and self-made businessman who built the Empire State building, made millions for DuPont and General Motors, and helped shape the contours of modern capitalism.

David Farber’s … [ Read more ]

How Gary Becker Saw the Scourge of Discrimination

In the 1950s, few economists thought of phenomena such as racial discrimination as under their purview. That changed in 1957, when Gary S. Becker, Professor of Economics and of Sociology at the University of Chicago and at Chicago Booth before his death in 2014, published The Economics of Discrimination, a book based on his 1955 PhD thesis.

Becker’s analysis would extend the reach of economics, and … [ Read more ]

Management in the Second Machine Age

Future leaders will succeed by being entrepreneurial and by rethinking the balance between financial and social goals.

Management’s Three Eras: A Brief History

Even as old ideas remain in use (and are still taught), management as it is practiced by the most thoughtful executives evolves. Building on ideas from my colleague Ian MacMillan, I’d propose that we’ve seen three “ages” of management since the industrial revolution, with each putting the emphasis on a different theme: execution, expertise, and empathy.

Ahmet Aykac

If one looks at the Western experience, one can distinguish several clear epochs: Antiquity, the Feudal order, and the capitalist order in the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution. In Antiquity slave ownership was the source of power; those who owned the people had a right to the fruits of their efforts. In the Feudal period, the source of such power was the land; those who … [ Read more ]

Henry Mintzberg

If you want the imagination to see the future, then you better have the wisdom to appreciate the past. An obsession with the present—with what’s “hot”, and what’s “in”—may be dazzling, but all that does is blind everyone to the reality. Show me a chief executive who ignores yesterday, who favors the new outsider over the experienced insider, the quick fix over steady progress, and … [ Read more ]

Peter Senge

From both a practical and theoretical standpoint, senior executives are expected to provide insight and vision about how the world is evolving over the next 10 to 30 years. But Americans probably have less sense of history than almost any culture on the planet and we seem to be, if anything, hell-bent on having even less sense of history. Understanding the past is yet another … [ Read more ]

The Enduring Management Wisdom of Lincoln

Headlines espousing the relative decline of the U.S. industrial base, despite a recent upsurge, have left American managers focused on today’s news and this quarter’s results. As a result, few have heeded the invaluable lessons of the country’s longest-running manufacturing success story. For nearly a century, the Lincoln Electric Company has consistently ranked among the most productive manufacturing enterprises in the United States, all while … [ Read more ]

Douglas Rushkoff

The Industrial Age was based on a new relationship with time. Instead of paying people for the things they produced, we began to pay people for their time. The Industrial Age also brought a new kind of time-based money. In order to transact, merchants and companies needed to borrow coin, and then pay it back with interest. In a sense, it is money with a … [ Read more ]

Shedding New Light on Industry Shakeouts

Shakeouts are a common feature of nascent industries. IESE visiting professor Luís Cabral proposes a novel explanation for shakeouts based on sunk costs and technological uncertainty. Fearing they will back the wrong horse, firms initially invest conservatively, only expanding to their optimal capacity once the winning technology emerges, thereby triggering a shakeout.

The Messy Link Between Slave Owners and Modern Management

Harvard-Newcomen Fellow Caitlin C. Rosenthal studies the meticulous records kept by southern plantation owners for measuring the productivity of their slaves, some of which were forerunners of modern management techniques.

Otto Neugebauer

The common belief that we gain “historical perspective” with increasing distance seems to me to utterly misrepresent the actual situation. “What we gain is merely confidence in generalization that we would never dare to make if we had access to the real wealth of contemporary evidence.