Thursday, September 02, 2004

Fad Surfing

I'm desperately behind in my blog reading. i just found this post at Photon Courier on the question of corporate fad surfing.

Those who tend to be excessively devoted to particular intellectual systems, it seems to me, are those who concretize abstractions..who think that some conceptual model, which may be useful under particular circumstances, is actually something real and tangible. Falling under the sway of abstractions, when one doesn't really understand how abstractions work, can be dangerous. Whether a person who thinks this way is "intelligent but uncreative" or really not all that intelligent in the first place is, I guess, mainly a matter of definition.
I'll throw a couple more ideas into the stew. When i compared Clausewitz and Michael Porter I suggested that a key difference in their respective theories lay in the relative importance of "doing" versus "thinking."

Clausewitz presents descriptive theories, his aim is to help the future commander prepare himself for the challenges he will face. In contrast, Porter's work is intensely prescriptive. His Five-factor framework and generic strategies are templates waiting for the executive's implementation.
Porter's, then, implies that the key to business strategy is "knowing". The doing will almost take care of itself. Clausewitz never presumed that the science of war (which gets studied in peacetime) could ever supplant the art of war (which wins actual battles and campaigns).

Also, this observation by John Derbyshire gives much the same diagnosis as Photon Courier:
The nature of the confirmation process ensures that in all but the most confident administrations (of which, I think, FDR's was the last), nominees to SCOTUS are controversy-free mediocrities. As Robert Bork discovered, a nominee who possesses a lively imagination, a willing pen, and a head full of interesting ideas will stand the same chance under congressional scrutiny that the beautiful Hypatia, the only great female mathematician of antiquity, stood
with the Alexandrian mob. Which is to say, he will be stripped naked and then have the flesh scraped from his living body with oyster shells.

A side effect of the justices being drawn from the lower-middle of the justicial bell curve is that, like other well-read but weak-minded folk, they are more than usually susceptible to intellectual fads.

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