Review: The Halo Effect: … and the Eight Other Business Delusions That Deceive Managers

4 Star, Leadership, Misinformation & Propaganda

Halo EffectBusiness Emperor is Naked, As Are the Courtiers,

May 20, 2007

Phil Rosenzweig

Other reviewers have listed the delusions, so I will not do that. This book was recommended to me by a disgruntled reader of one of my reviews, and I care what thinking people say in the Comments, so I got it and went through it.

The author is as good as it gets in terms of deep academic and practical understanding of business. This book is the equivalent of saying that not only is the Emperor of Business naked, but so are all of his courtiers.

I recommend the book in part because the author has done a lovely job of integrating and reviewing, with scathing subtlety, every major business weekly and business “guru”, showing how they are all blowing the breeze and have no clue which way is up.

I am reminded of Michael Lewis’s “Liar’s Poker” about Wall Street exploding the client (one reason most investment firms do well is because they off-load the bad stuff to their low-end customers–they play the upside of the IPO and then bail out leaving the little guy to take all the risk and suffer the consequences after the smart money bails out).

I did find it off-putting that the author thinks Rubin bailed out Mexico for some grand strategic reason. My reading of the situation is that Rubin bailed out Mexico to bail out all the idiots on Wall Street that invested in Mexico and were not prepared to suffer the consequences of their ill-advised investments. Here I am reminded of General Smedley Butler’s book, “War is a Racket,” where he rails against Wall Street lending money to decrepit Third World nations and their corrupt leaders, and then sending in the Marines when it all goes bad. See also my review of “The Global Class War” and of “Unintended Consequences: The United States at War.”

This book is worth reading if you are all too prone, as most are, to accept conventional wisdom and blatant lies (e.g. “our books are balanced” or “there is no doubt Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.” For the rest of us that are skeptical about virtually every statement by any corporation chief or any politician, this book is reinforcement on the margins.

Like Al Gore, the author does a good job of showing us what the problem is. He does not offer solutions or any new integrated concept of business analysis that properly provides for all that is external to the corporation.

I am especially struck by the fact that “green” or “environment” or “Capitalism 3.0” or “Natural Capitalism” do not appear in this book. Let us conclude then, that the author has done an excellent job of burying the past, and now needs to spend some time thinking about the future (see my list on Natural Capitalism).

I am nominating Paul Hawkins, Herman Daly, and Lester Brown for the Nobel Prize. Al Gore is not even close–his Hollywood Oscar will have to do. Paul Hawkins especially (see his latest, “Blessed Unrest” and also the online World Index of Social and Environmental Responsibility) has actually mobilized and organized and suffered for the future.

Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming
The Global Class War: How America’s Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future – and What It Will Take to Win It Back
Liar’s Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street
Unintended Consequences: The United States at War
War Is a Racket: The Anti-War Classic by America’s Most Decorated General, Two Other Anti=Interventionist Tracts, and Photographs from the Horror of It

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