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Guy KawasakiCenturies ago, I used to teach business management at university. I recall all the excitement of keeping up with each New Big Idea or Latest Big Thing in the management scene to deliver to my students. Management fads fade in and fade out on a daily basis; what is in today is likely to be out in a month or so. So the plan to swim with the gurus is a permanent preoccupation. I recall the excitement of Chandler’s ‘Visible Hand’, of Porter’s Competitive Advantage and Strategy, of Horizontal, Vertical and Sideways Organisations, of Learning and Restless Organisations, of Chaos, Complexity and Fifth Disciplines. You name it, the management fads maintain the corporate speaking circuits as a lucrative and well oiled machine. We learnt about mission statements, visions, and throwing yourself off platforms into the hands of your colleagues to build trust-based teams. Fads defined schools; and schools compete against each other like zealous missionaries after heathen souls.

I always recall the amazing seriousness that some managers placed in things like vision statements; and of just how important the distinction between a mission and a vision statement is to a fundamentalist visioneering type. And how frustrated they get when the rest of us fail most un-text book like to be impressed and inspired by their visionary gargle.

I also always remember a sign a colleague of mine once had over his desk: ‘it is hard to soar with the eagles when you are surrounded by turkeys’.

I think I liked that as my own vision statement…Or is that my mission statement??

On my ride in to work today I heard a talk by Guy Kawasaki on, of all things, an IT Conversations podcast (a presentation to the 2007 MySQL conference to be more precise). I’ve been a fan of Guy’s writing for years. He was the original Macintosh evangelist way back when the Mac Plus was new and we were all Apple fundamentalists (I still am). Since then he has morphed into the venture capital business and is a sharp judge of what it takes for an innovation to sink or swim and of what separates reality from spin.

bozoGuy’s basic argument is that there is a wall to be climbed or a moat to be swum when imagineering an innovation into place. That wall is the bozo barrier. There are two types of bozos: the nurdish kind who think in funnel vision (aka reductionist scientist types) and the once successful innovator now fortressed by his or her own ego into a permanent condition of intellectual stagnation (or as Guy Kawasaki puts it, is locked forever on that same curve that took him to the innovation that made him famous, once upon a time in the past). The once-were-innovator types are the most dangerous; mainly because they are generally more empowered. These are the CEO’s, President’s or Vice Chancellors who tend these days only to inspire their own reflections. They are usually advocates of strict organisational heirarchies, with them firmly on top. Even if they do tend to sprout sentiments about horizontal organisations and distributed leadership. And urgently seek to be ‘one of the boys’. The bozos will always try to grind the genuine innovator down. They are very good at telling us why we can’t do this or do that. What, they ask, is the ‘value proposition’ for what you propose? Tick the boxes: can it be done? Should it be done? Why will this add to the glory of this organisation? Give me the finely detailed, 20 year cash flow projected business plan! These bozos live in the negative. They are advocates of all the latest in managerialist fads. They read about such things in the executive summary versions of their designer, inner sanctum, subscriber only ‘secrets of the successful manager’ newsletters. They are finely dressed in their own hubris. Armani hubris, powered by Porsche…They love the sweet sound of those vision and mission statements that they themselves compose by candlelight in remote imagined cabins on the banks of inspirational lakes.

So, dear fellow bozo afflicted victims, listen to what Guy has to say and cycle right over the bozos in your way. The ascent is hard work, but then the decent is sweet!

Listen to his complete 40 minute talk by following this link

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