Today’s 6 Worst Business Books

To shame the publishers of these books into improving, I hereby announce my choice of Today’s Six Worst Business Books.

March 14 2006 by William J. Holstein


The business world is crying out for answers to many burning issues, ranging from technological disruption to globalization and from the U.S. educational system to health care. Yet the American business book publishing industry, which should be leading the intellectual charge toward solutions, is out to lunch. As a business journalist, I get blitzed with business books. Most of them are awful. To shame the publishers of these books into improving, I hereby announce my choice of Today’s Six Worst Business Books.

1. “Working with You is Killing Me: Freeing Yourself from Emotional Traps at Work” by Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster (Warner Business Books) contains some of the dumbest psychobabble to come along in a while. “Take charge of your own response” is the mantra. Detach, depersonalize and deal. Yeah, like this is really going to help.

 

 2. Then there are all the books by consultants, essentially advertising their wares. Take the updated, revised version of “The Six Fundamentals of Success: The Rules for Getting it Right for Yourself and Your Organization.” (Currency/Doubleday). It’s by Stuart R. Levine, who just happens to be CEO of Stuart Levine & Associates, an international consulting and leadership company. Here are some of the stunning insights, reflected in chapter titles: “Know your industry,” “Work with a sense of urgency” and “Create a plan.” You’d have to be brain dead to need this book. Guess I won’t be needing his consulting services.

 

3. Similarly, the folks at the O.C. Tanner Company, a “performance recognition” company have a book out called “The Invisible Employee: Realizing the Hidden Potential in Everyone.” (Wiley). The authors are Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton. Gostick is director of something called The Carrot Culture division. I kid you not. Two of the more scintillating chapter titles are “Blink Outs” and “Blink Backs.” To these authors, I say, “Go blink yourselves.”

 

4. Oh, then there is “The Best Damn Sales Book Ever: 16 Rock-Solid Rules for Achieving Sales Success!” Yes, with an exclamation mark! Another Wiley book. This one is by Warren Greshes, a motivational speaker. Stunning insight No. 1: “Successful Salespeople See Themselves Successful.” Why are they killing trees for this stuff?

 

5. “The Laws of Lifetime Growth: Always Make Your future Bigger Than Your Past.” (By Dan Sullivan and Catherine Nomura, Berrett-Koehler.) Get a load of these chapter titles: “Always Make Your Gratitude Greater than Your Success” and “Always Make Your Confidence Greater Than Your Comfort.” This just makes me want to throw up.

 

6. Lastly, we have a CEO turned professor, William J. White, who has authored “From Day One: CEO Advice to Launch an Extraordinary Career.” (Pearson/Prentice Hall.) What stops the eye is amazing insights like this: “Your long-term success in your career will be rooted in the contribution you make.” Really?

 

The message to the publishers of business books is that you are pushing out some truly awful products. Your editors obviously don’t understand real business issues. So how can you be producing books for business people? Until you solve that fundamental problem, your books are going to keep hitting the garbage can. I don’t even want to give them away.

 

What are your thoughts?  Email me at bholstein@chiefexecutive.net


Response To: Today’s 6 Worst Business Books

You want my thoughts? I am relieved that my book is NOT on your list!

Have a great day,

Jill Konrath, Chief Sales Officer, Author of “Selling to Big Companies”


Response To: Today’s 6 Worst Business Books

Interesting list!  Relieved we have no titles on it!

In fact we were asked to work on one of those titles and thank God we declined.  What is even more fascinating is that sometimes the worst books sell best!  And what sells seems to be what influences publishing decisions more than anything else.

I share your hope for improvement.

Mark, Goldberg McDuffie Communications, Inc.


Response To: Today’s 6 Worst Business Books

I hope this will be an annual selection. But you should make it an awards event��

Joseph Schmoke, Bell South, Boca Raton, Florida


Response To: Today’s 6 Worst Business Books

Thanks for the article. It was refreshing. You make a great case that these six books are terrible but the real tragedy is that 90% of the rest of bunch, while not making your list, still offer no insight or innovative thinking. I think that the authors spend as much time thinking about catchy titles as they do content…..but if the damn things sell, maybe they are not so dumb after all.

Kenneth Alvares, The Apex Group, California


Response To: Today’s 6 Worst Business Books

After a challenging day your piece was just what I needed to be a nice person for the balance of the day! I leave the office laughing!

Thanks,

Dan Bozard, Dillon Provision Co., Inc., South Carolina


Response To: Today’s 6 Worst Business Books

Thanks for the comic relief. One of my favorites a few years back was titled The Discipline of Market Leaders: Choose your customers. Narrow your focus. Dominate your market. I opened a national sales meeting by taking the book out of its cover and tossing the book over my shoulder. I told them I’d just read the book but all they needed was the cover.

Thanks for sharing your list.

David Worth, Shamrock Corporation


Response To: Today’s 6 Worst Business Books

Ah,…but there will be 6 more tomorrow!!

How about the 6 best business books?

  • “The Abilene Paradox”
  • “Inevitable Surprises”
  • “The living Company”
  • “The World is Flat”
  • “The Oz Principle”
  • “Good to Great”

Your opinion?

Dave Evans, David Evans & Associats, Inc.


Response To: Today’s 6 Worst Business Book

I’ve had a long day, and despite the fact that I was sorely tempted to just leave e-mail hell for another day (call me Scarlett O’Hara), I opened your message.

I’m glad no one else is around because I laughed like an idiot at your commentary on the Six Worst Business Books. Please keep them coming, and perhaps my regular mail won’t be so clogged with gifts from gurus who wouldn’t understand a real business problem, much less the solution, if it hit them in the face.

I had to stop what I was doing to tell you “thanks.”

Meantime, I’m thinking about on my own business book. First chapter is titled: “How to find your way out of a paper bag without help and directions.” Whaddyathink��A recipe for success?

Seriously, I’m grateful for the biggest laugh I’ve had all day. You comments were spot on, but so very funny.

Many thanks and kindest regards,

Karen L. Healy, Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Marketing Communications & Facilities, Delphi Corporation


Response To: Today’s 6 Worst Business Book

Yes, they are truly terrible and egregious, but guess what: somebody’s buying them. Probably those CEOs who I describe as running things by MBMA – Management By Magazine Article.

They finish a puff piece in an in-flight magazine and decide that is the silver bullet that their company needs. How else do you explain the madness of non-directed BPR, or tactical (Versus strategic) outsourcing?

Hey, how about starting an “All Time Worst” business book collection? I’ll submit FISH and Who Moved My Cheese? Right behind them, I guess, should come The One Minute Manager Gets Fit, and just about anything by Harvey Mackey.

Ah, thanks for that. A very pleasant little rant!

Gene Drumm, Senior Partner, Vector Group, Inc.


Response To: Today’s 6 Worst Business Book

I read a lot of books. I am glad you pointed out 6 I should avoid.  A couple that I have read in the past few years that I thought were very helpful were Good to Great, Built to Last by Collins/Porras, et al and Patrick Lencioni’s series of parables.

Ed Maier, The Maier Consulting Group LLC


Response To: Today’s 6 Worst Business Book

Your article citing some of the incredibly obvious advice given by fast-buck business “experts” reminds me of the shrewd pre-game observations tossed around by coaches and players asked to comment by TV sportscasters.

Some for-real examples: “We have to move the ball down the field.” “We need to make the big plays.” “We have to get the scores on the board.”

All of this while the TV guy nods his head as if each word reflected deep, deep thinking.

Wes Pedersen, Public Affairs Council


Response To: Today’s 6 Worst Business Book

I truly appreciate your logical, moderate approach to the crap spewed out by these business book authors and publishers. In my industry (executive recruiting) almost every book published is written by a recruiter or recruiting firm looking for new business. It just cracks me up.

Thanks again,

Sincerely,

Bob Stein, President, Prospect City


Response To: Today’s 6 Worst Business Book

Mr. Cowell…uh, I mean…Mr. Holstein,

Finally, another “judge” who refuses to be persuaded by the bandwagon! Thanks for being honest! Too many leaders are so concerned with being politically correct and not hurting anyone’s feelings that mediocrity has become the norm.

Terry Wilmoth


Response To: Today’s 6 Worst Business Book

Excellent idea! I hope Bill O’Reilly and Joe Scarborough are on your email list.

Rob Urish, CAO, Publishers Data Management Group


Response To: Today’s 6 Worst Business Book

I am grateful based on your comments I have not made the poor investment decisions of my time to read these.

More than the list, I enjoyed your short concise comments, all of them. I needed a chuckle.

Lou Pascarella, PI, Inc.


Response To: Today’s 6 Worst Business Book

Great comments on terrible business books that are being published. I gave up reading most of them some time ago. The publishing industry has a problem, some of it probably self-inflicted.

What are your thoughts on suitable topics for a worthy and timely business book?

Just curious. Thanks.

Dan Hanlon, Union Hill Ventures


Response To: Today’s 6 Worst Business Book

Right On! Many of the new books could be collected and encased in that ubiquitous black and yellow cover and entitled, “Business for Dummies.”

Mark L. Fagerlin, President, Satellite Services, Inc.


Response To: Today’s 6 Worst Business Book

Excellent analysis. I am Chairman and CEO of The ASCII Group, Inc. (ascii.com), the world’s largest group of computer solution providers, doing approximately $8 Billion (US). I have been running my company for 21 years and William, you are correct in your observations. All of these platitudes are what one should know in 6th grade and one must go from there. Thus, a 6th grader will not succeed in business staying in 6th grade. I have attended may CEO Magazine events in the past.

Regards,

Alan Weinberger. ASCII Group, Inc.


Response To: Today’s 6 Worst Business Book

Listen… you are doing a good job with this column ….. it is time we get back to real business in this country ….. and you have got a good start…. keep it up.

Really enjoy and I always read…

John Gilbertson, SCcoast.net


Response To: Today’s 6 Worst Business Book

Thanks for the insight on what to avoid. Speaking of insight, perhaps you could provide some insight to those publishers as to what topics are of key interest and value to CEO’s today.

William G. Bliss, President, Bliss & Associates Inc.


Response To: Today’s 6 Worst Business Book

I read your “Six Worst Books” column �� long overdue! (Sorry about the exclamation mark.)

Thomas C. Leppert, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Turner Corporation


Response To: Today’s 6 Worst Business Book

You sound like someone over 50 who has been there and done that and might not appreciate how much you know!

I am 60 and always amazed that the younger would be entrepreneurs are searching out short answers that only experience can give them.

They lap up expressions and old sayings like candy and read business books like some Oprah book of the month club. In today’s instant gratification/expert mode they look for shortcuts.

Book and magazine publishers are responding to a market and should not be judged as long as these books and articles like them are being purchased.

I did like the honest assessment of trash being produced.

Vaughn F McIntyre, President and CEO, Lotus Media


Response To: Today’s 6 Worst Business Book

Excellent! 98+% of all business books are the same. I can’t stop laughing over the CEO quote on the relationship between long-term success and contribution. “If they print it, a few might read.”

Regards,

Bob LeBlanc


 

Response To: Today’s 6 Worst Business Book

 

I believe you have performed a valuable service for the (business) public at large with this.  The writer’s effort too often appears to be invested in the catchy title to put on the cover of the book and not on the content itself.

 

Good observation on your part.

 

Regards,

Art Heggen


Response To: Today’s 6 Worst Business Book

You did a great job of harpooning the psychobabble end of the business book spectrum. What drives me nuts are the books that say, “You’ve tried management by objectives. You’ve tried total quality management. You’ve tried Deming Juran Toyota lean six sigma kaizen blitz. But you still aren’t getting the results you want. Well, bunky, I’ve got your solution! My Whoodewhoo Umdefratz System® is the one. If you commit fully to the Whoodewhoo Umdefratz System® , you will get the results you’ve always looked for! Of course, if you don’t commit fully, you won’t get the results. And if you don’t get the results, it’s because you didn’t commit fully.”

Bah.

Jeff Wick, CEO, Wick Building Systems, Inc.