BOOK REVIEW: The Cure for Corporate Stupidity, By Larry Bloom
Self-help and business books are two of the most popular categories in the publishing industry. The best-seller lists for non-fiction frequently contain volumes both on business topics and books about self-improvement. When a book deals with...
Self-help and business books are two of the most popular categories in the publishing industry. The best-seller lists for non-fiction frequently contain volumes both on business topics and books about self-improvement. When a book deals with both topics it can hit a “sweet spot” and become a huge best-seller such as The One-Minute Manager and Who Moved My Cheese?
With The Cure for Corporate Stupidity (Xmente, Atlanta, GA) author Larry Bloom has aimed for the sweet spot. He has thought long and hard about the “mind bugs” (a term he has coined and trademarked) that cause us to make mistakes or fall short of our goals.
So what are mind bugs? According to Bloom “mind bugs can exist when our non-conscious attachment to our thoughts, feelings, desires and decisions [is] stronger than our ability to let go of these attachments easily.” Thus, we are prone to stay with failing strategies, spend good money after bad, and so on.
Bloom is the former CEO of Bio-Lab of Atlanta. As an engineer and senior executive he has experienced first-hand the results of mind bugs on performance. The result is this 165-page volume of diagnosis and advice.
Bloom has big ambitions for the book: “I believe that the approach provided in this book will substantially reduce risk and improve the results of your decisions…. Eliminating mind-bugs could be the difference between sustainable performance and failure” (p. 11-12) and could allow us to “step out of thousands of years of collective human conditioning and begin to appreciate our mind for what it is.” (p. 167)
Has Bloom met his objectives? The results are mixed. The content of “The Cure” is impressive: 20 mind bugs categorized in four dimensions, a “six-step path to a better decisions ratio,” de-bugging tools for group work, a 30-second decision scan and a five-step basic mind de-bugging process. Clearly, Bloom has put a lot of effort into his mind bug thesis as witnessed by his 33 pages of appendices and list of 176 references.
However, as my grandmother used to say “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” and this book is a heavy meal. When business self-improvement books succeed it is because they present basic concepts and insights in a simple, entertaining manner.
The Cure for Corporate Stupidity reads like a technical proposal. The many valuable insights are often presented in prose that is dense with technical terms, many of which have been coined by Bloom. For example in chapter 2 he introduces the STAR (STimulus And Reaction) model for decision-making. STAR is a term to which he has given a trademark, but the underlying concept has been commonly accepted for years. The chapter continues with discussions on “automaticity,” “habitual actions” (“the result of non-conscious processes that allow us to have the freedom to take action without thinking”), “instant reactions,” “initiated actions,” and several other concepts.
As I read the book I was revisited by a feeling from my days in UNB Civil Engineering. It was like reading a textbook in a foreign discipline – akin to when I took an electrical engineering course. The new concepts, plentiful references, and dense prose made this a heavier read than required. The book seemed intended for “Mind Bugs: The Course” – not the general audience Bloom had targeted.
Andrew Steeves, P.Eng. is a principal with DFS (Design Firm Seminars) www.designfirmseminars.ca. A former vice president with ADI Group (now exp), he is engineer-in-residence at the University of New Brunswick. He is a past chair of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies – Canada and an editorial advisor to Canadian Consulting Engineer magazine.