Best practices aren’t recipes for success, say information technology professionals Culmsee and Awati, and smart managers aren’t afraid to challenge the experts by asking rudimentary questions.
Culmsee and Awati devote nearly the first third of their book to the notion that most organizations have serious problems: troubled group dynamics, “catastrophic” overconfidence, cognitive bias, poor communication and/or several issues symptomatic of a lack of common sense. Identifying the problem is, of course, a necessary step in finding the solution, so the authors’ discussion is heavily peppered with real-world examples from business and government organizations. While the authors’ advice for the pursuit of common sense in the business world will appeal to experienced midlevel managers, the book might be of more value to new managers who could use some of these stories as lessons in how to avoid productivity pitfalls. Business school professors might also consider assigning the text to students to assist in the quest for effective organizations and innovative products. Fortunately, the writing is more engaging than a technical manual; nonengineers will appreciate humorous references to famous innovators like Willy Wonka, as well as silly yet practical examples, like applying Issue-Based Information System mapping to determine whether a 5-year-old should get a cat for Christmas. The guide is considerably longer and drier than the average consumer business book, however, and readers should not expect quick answers from these heretics. Nor should readers expect revolutionary, newfangled advice for typical organizational conundrums. In fact, the authors’ advice seems so commonsensical that it’s not nearly as unconventional as the authors suggest.
These heretics offer valuable insight but no extraordinary formulas for business-minded success.