Monday, 21 January, 2008

Doctor, what are you reading?

Would you trust an allopathic doctor who reads, say, self-help diet books or magneto-therapy, whatever that is?

You may, if you are convinced he’s doing so out of plain curiosity, and would never try any of that on you. Otherwise, you’ll keep away from him, though, inconsistently, you may believe and adapt the magneto-therapy and magic diet business on your own.

We expect our experts to read only certain types of books, even when they are reading for pleasure. We expect their libraries to be stacked with reputable journals and tedious tomes.

Strangely, entrepreneurs and executives are exempt from this expectation. Rare is the businessperson who confesses a weakness for perplexing research papers. In fact, many unashamedly admit reading pop physiology or popular statistics.

For example, many a fat cat manager takes great pride in having read Freakonomics. It’s no doubt a wonderful book. I’d recommend it heartily, but as an appetiser, not the main course.

Similarly, executives insist that reading editorials of a business newspaper suffices for all the managerial economics they needs.

And some businessmen go to the extent of damning all reading, claiming that their intuition and commonsense allows them to keep the world wonderfully uncomplicated an profitable.

Yet we obey them unconditionally as employees, and reward them generously as shareholders.

The point is not whether business requires the same degree of continuing education as do professions like engineering, science or medicine. For all I know, excessive learning may be a dangerous thing in big business.

What is strange is the difference in the way we evaluate men in business from the way we (literally) price men in other lines of work.

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