Forces of Nature

Understanding how ecosystems grow, thrive, and regenerate can help leaders steer their organization in the future.

David K. Hurst

To be effective, goals and metrics must be embedded either in a deep understanding of cause and effect or in a thoroughgoing learning process that leads to that understanding.

Why Business Books Still Speak Volumes

It’s easy to be critical of business books, which have become a big business. The motives and abilities of the writers who toil in these segments — self-help, how-to, CEO biographies, corporate narratives, big-picture panoramas, focused functional pieces, to name a few— are as widely varied as the categories themselves.

As is the case with every genre, a few of these books are fantastic, some … [ Read more ]

David K. Hurst

The “scientific model” of management, as Warren Bennis and Jim O’Toole called it, emphasized conceptual knowledge and tools and techniques – what Greek philosophers would have called episteme and techne. It was assumed that organizations could be studied by detached “objective” observers and that management science could be “values-free” – just like the natural sciences. More generally this scientific model has resulted in a misanthropic … [ Read more ]

The New Ecology of Leadership: Revisiting the Foundations of Management

This management thinker and author writes that “the central challenge in the Western World now is not to make existing organizations more efficient and to allocate resources. That struggle has moved to the East. The challenge here is to reinvent our economies, to innovate and create wealth.” Readers will learn which tactics and tools they can use to achieve these extremely important goals.

David K. Hurst

[What] Aristotle called phronesis […] is prudence, the context-dependent, practical common sense needed when we have to make judgments about what is right and wrong – “what is good or bad for man,” as Aristotle put it. From this perspective a “phronetic” discipline like management can never be “values-free”; all management decisions have ethical implications because they deal with people. And people can be passionate … [ Read more ]

Michael J. Mauboussin, David K. Hurst

Michael J. Mauboussin offers this rough-and-ready test for discerning the difference between skill and luck in any given event: Ask yourself if you can lose on purpose. If you can, skill is involved; if you can’t, it’s pure luck. For a more mathematical assessment, figure out the correlation between a supposed cause and its effect. If the correlation is high, the cause is likely related … [ Read more ]

Why Walmart Is Like a Forest

Thinking about your company as an ecosystem yields lessons for innovation, growth, and renewal.

David K. Hurst, Nassim Nicholas Taleb

In modern times we have become increasingly preoccupied with prediction, and blind to the value of antifragility. As a result, iatrogenic damage (harm caused by well-meaning interventions) has become ubiquitous. Antibiotics spawn superbugs; the propping up of dictators leads to violent revolution; and the construction of permanent structures on impermanent shorelines becomes a sure prescription for mass destruction.

David K. Hurst, Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Our knowledge of what does not work is often greater than our knowledge of what does work. In addition, as a forecast reaches farther into the future, it is easier to predict what won’t survive than to predict what will survive. And when it comes to perishable things (like people), the young can be expected to outlive the old. But with nonperishables (like ideas), the … [ Read more ]

David Hurst

We now know that the shareholders and the financial industry won that battle for corporate control. In the business schools, the finance function emerged as top dog and the economists began to apply the teachings of their discipline to the firm via organizational economics (agency theory and transaction cost economics). The resulting shareholder value model of the firm has dominated for the last thirty years … [ Read more ]

David K. Hurst, Roger L. Martin

Agency theory, derived from neoclassical economics, together with the gospel of shareholder value, has led to managers being compensated for doing the wrong things. Stock-based compensation, for example, focuses executives on expectations markets rather than real markets, where customer value is created. It is this focus on maximizing what should be an ancillary goal that has led to the marginalizing of customers as “marks” to … [ Read more ]

David K. Hurst

[Umair] Haque… makes a persuasive argument that industrial capitalism is fatally flawed because it shifts costs to — and borrows benefits from — societies, nature, and future generations.

David K. Hurst

Great empires are not built by people who see two sides to every question.

David K. Hurst

Reality is what we pay attention to, but measurement requires classification and classification requires abstraction. By paying attention to abstractions, we grasp the generic, but only at the expense of understanding the particular. This means that we lose the smell, feel, and touch of what’s going on right here, right now. And with that loss of the sensual, we lose our ability to respond quickly … [ Read more ]

David K. Hurst, Jerome Bruner

Psychologist Jerome Bruner contends that individual learning requires the construction of a mental model of reality to make meaning of our lives. In Actual Minds, PossibleWorlds (Harvard University Press, 1987), he suggested that there were two complementary ways of building such models. The first is the narrative method, or the telling of stories, and the second is the paradigmatic method, or the formation of logical … [ Read more ]