A tragic thing happens in the corporate world as executives move up the ladder: they learn more and gain experience. It happens to people at the C-level, the chief executive officers, chief operating officers, and other chief whatevers.
Now, you might say, why in the world is this a tragedy? Isn’t that exactly what you want: experienced knowledgeable executives at the top levels?
Of course it is.
The tragedy arises when chief executives and other top executives learn so much, that they stop being able to identify with others still coming up the ranks, who have lesser experience and are still learning. They get arrogant and disdainful toward those who are still learning. It’s tragic because they have a tragic flaw like the heroes in Greek plays.
These flawed executives weren’t pushed out of the womb knowing EBITDA or lean manufacturing or sales forecasting. They too were once clueless about such concepts and had to learn. Somehow, though, they forget what it was like not to have business knowledge they now take for granted.
So what does all this have to do with small business?
When I see articles like this one, it makes me realize that some people just don’t understand what it is like to be in the shoes of an entrepreneur trying to get ahead, or a small business owner who does not have 30 years of corporate experience and has not attended expensive seminars and conferences.
The article makes fun of some of the business books on the market, calling them the worst 6 business books.
What I found most objectionable about the article is the way it implies that basic introductory concepts are something to be made fun of.
It would be one thing if the article complained about pseudo-science or faddish management concepts, and the writer had put worthy effort into actually reading a book cover-to-cover, done some independent research, and debunked it because it was flat out wrong. It’s another to glance at a chapter heading and take pot shots simply because the book is presenting basic concepts the writer already knows, but millions of others may not. We’re not all 55-year old CEOs who’ve “been there, done that.”
What’s more, even if we have decades of experience, we always can find something new to learn. That’s especially true for small business owners and managers. We have to wear multiple hats, meaning that we have to do hands-on work in areas like sales, marketing, finance, information technology and accounting. Unlike C-level executives, we don’t always have the luxury of staff who are functional experts. We have to learn this stuff — and learn it on our own. Where do we turn to learn? Often it is to books.
For anyone in these shoes — and I have been there — you need broad basic lessons, not advanced ones, to start out. Then as you master the basic concepts, you move on to books that are more advanced. That’s how people learn — it’s certainly how I learn.
The other thing to remember is that from an author’s standpoint it’s a true skill to be able to convey business concepts simply and understandably. The brainier you are, the harder it is to communicate so that people actually know what you are talking about. To understand how true this is, just think back to an indecipherable CEO letter or corporate report or technology product brochure you may have read. Hoo-rah for authors who can distill business concepts down into simple messages.
By the way, I have not authored any books myself. Nor do I have a personal stake in any of the books mentioned in the article. And like everyone else, I’ve read my share of crappy business books. But — I’ve also read excellent, although basic, books. Some of the most basic books have taught me what I needed to know to get to the next level of knowledge and the next level in my career.
Some of those books I read years ago seem simplistic when I review them today. I am far beyond the point where they have new lessons to offer me personally. But thank goodness for those books getting me to the level of knowledge I have today. They were worth the price.