I happened to see a video where academics were talking about the application of Stoicism in psychology. It was the usual stuff – each of them totally unable to say something interesting or meaningful, just in case they somehow made themselves vulnerable to attack (you should know that academics are amongst the most vicious people on the planet). Statements were being made about the use of Stoicism in business – how to handle change, how to deal with failure, the ethics of business, and so on. It was as if these people had lived their whole lives on a different planet, and were theorizing on what it must be like to be in a business environment.
So, how to deal with failure. In the academic world of Stoicism failure might be seen as a new opportunity, and this is how management should treat it. No. In the real business world, if you fail you often get the sack, or treated as if you had leprosy by peers who want to see you eliminated from the race to be promoted. Failure is not some nice, polite thing we can discuss over coffee. It possibly means you lose your job.
When it comes to dealing with change the academics were concerned that everyone was included in the change process. It’s never going to happen. Change comes about because someone in the business has seen an opportunity to further their career. And so things are changed around with the single aim of increasing such a person’s power – and to hell with everyone else. This is real change management. Everything else is just an attempt to make the ugly look pretty, and business management will pay consultants and academics to do that dirty work for them.
Let’s talk about ethics. It has become quite fashionable for medium and large businesses to employ a Chief Ethics Officer. As if ethical considerations were ever of any import in business. Some years ago I saw a cartoon where the Chief Executive Officer in the business was asking the Chief Ethics Officer how many people the company could kill through environmental pollution before fingers would be pointed. I’ve never come across a business or business manager that is ethical. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, but that they are probably quite rare.
The naive believe that business is about delivering a product or service that people want. Not so. A comedy sketch once illustrated the nature of business very well. Here is how you get started. Visit every cafe, diner and restaurant you can. Steal as many sachets and bottles of ketchup, vinegar, salt, mayonnaise and so on, as you can. Then set up a business to sell these things that you stole. This is business. – find a way to get the item you are going to sell for as little as possible, and then sell it for as much as possible. Easy.
Business is ultimately about theft and deception (marketing). However, just so no one sees the real nature of it, the academics produce all sorts of papers, books and research showing how sophisticated business people are, and how complicated business is.
So here is a million dollar’s worth of business advice. Find someone who doesn’t understand the value of what they have and buy it for a pittance. Even better, steal it from them. Then employ marketing people to make this low value crap you have picked up look desirable. Find a gullible market willing to pay over the odds, and you can proudly call yourself a businessperson.