Little book blues

July 3, 2007

Lucy Kellaway writing in yesterday’s Financial Times makes a comparison between Mao’s Little Red Book and The Little Blue Book of Strategy recently issued to Deloitte’s US employees. Now I have always thought that, despite their nickname (Dolittle, Hassle and Sell), Deloitte’s are among the more human of the large firms, such observation being based on those I know which is not a representative sample. However this book sounds dire beyond belief, especially the bit about pledging allegiance.

To give you a sense of the article (you have to subscribe to the FT to get the full thing) she says in respect of the two books: Apart from the difference in colour, the two books have much in common. Both came with the instruction that they should be carried around and referred to often. The red book was a tool for brainwashing and torture. The blue book is also a tool for brainwashing and torture, though the brainwashing is not terribly likely to succeed and the torture is suffered by business logic, taste and style

Why is it that Executives want to mould their employees thoughts, restricting diversity, and therefore inhibiting learning and innovation? Maybe they need to realise they are not running a religion/cult although some of the more extreme mission and values people exhibit cult like behaviour. Above all why can’t they allow values to emerge from practice? Good leadership does not attempt to control values, it lives them.

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The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

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