Organising Genius - Warren G. Bennis and Patricia Ward Biederman

Another part of the Oxfam management haul. It looks a rather fun book, as it's about management of truly innovative genius-level teams - Xerox Parc, Disney, the Skunk Works, the Manhattan Project, etc. The stories are interesting, but you'd be far better off reading the original books most of the research came from. The main problems with the books are that a) its contents are very obvious to anyone who's worked successfully with bright technical people (i.e. pretty much 'hire the best, shield them from politics and give them interesting problems') and b) it somehow still manages to reduce everything to meaningless platitudes about business in the twenty-first century.

The result is that the advice is a foregone conclusion, and in places you can even see the interpretation of data being pushed to support the assumptions. For example, when discussing Jobs at Apple, it notes his abrasive style, but suggests that, as good management is about respect and being nice to people, things would have gone better if he were a nicer person. Who knows if this is true? There's nothing really to support this, beyond wishful thinking that being nicer is more effective in all situations, even when you're studying outliers.

In summary, remarkably disappointing for a book that had so much potential.

Posted 2011-03-20.