Life’s just a deal for the new gurus

Last week, in a dash to get to a television studio, I lost a valuable ring. Devastated, I later narrated the story to a friend who works in finance. “The ring was worth X. How much was TV paying you? You clearly didn’t rationalise the situation,” he said. I was speechless at his words, but he’s not the only one around me who talks like this.

The reason perhaps lies in an article that appeared last week discussing America’s “new business gurus”. They write best-selling books and give motivational talks at jaw-dropping prices – $75,000 a pop, apparently. Even more remarkably, some of these men – of course they are men – have never worked in business.

In the wake of my personal disaster, I emailed three CEOs of major financial services firms and asked if they had read any of the five books mentioned in the article, if they believed in “business gurus”, and whether they offered employees “motivational seminars”. I am delighted to report that all three had not read the books, did not believe in “business gurus” and agreed with me: the fundamentals of business are simple – either you can do your job or you can’t.

However, the article made one interesting point: two of the new five “must-reads” are not written by academics or businessmen, but by journalists. One of the new bibles, Blink, is by fuzzy-haired New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell, who I see most days in the gym, looking so pale and thin I worry he might faint on the treadmill.

Gladwell has established a reputation for capturing the psychology of the zeitgeist in a funny and clever way. In fact, Blink has become such an integral part of a New Yorker’s reading list that, frankly, it’s a bit uncool for anyone, in business or otherwise, not to have read it.

Nonetheless, its premise – that our split-second intuitive responses often trump the well-researched decisions of experts – is not exactly earth-shattering. One could also argue that our current president has followed the guidelines explicitly. After all, G W Bush christened himself “The Decider”, and expounded upon his ability to make swift decisions that come not from his brain but his gut. And look where that has got us.

Look also where following Gladwell’s theories got me: one five-minute TV appearance – and a missing, uninsured ring. V

Digg StumbleUpon Facebook