Gurus and the art of gibberish

As a former editor of Punch magazine, William Davis is no stranger to the "light touch" when it comes to writing. And since he has also served as a financial journalist and run a business, there can be few people better equipped to demolish a few business myths.

Accordingly, his new book - Great Myths of Business (just published by Kogan Page at pounds 18.99) - is likely to prove a welcome antidote to all those worthy but exceedingly dull tomes that float across the Atlantic with the aim of stirring executives into radical change programmes once they return from their summer breaks. Chances are they will chuckle into their suntan lotion or fall off their beach chairs as they read Mr Davis's attack on such ideas as "banks know best" or that "numbers don't lie". But what they are likely to enjoy is the sustained assault on management gurus and the consultants who in effect act as bag carriers.

Gurus, he says, "have a passion for convoluted theories and fancy jargon accompanied by incomprehensible diagrams. It often turns out to be pretentious waffle, but it impresses the people who pay the bills." Consultants, meanwhile, have become almost as essential to many business people as "a psychiatrist to a Hollywood star".

This is not to say that he views the two groups as completely worthless. He has a lot of time for Peter Drucker, who sees his contribution to clients as "basically to be very stupid and very dense" in contrast with most experts who delight in clever-clever bamboozling.

But it is clear that a lot of what he calls "the consultancy game" fails to impress him. Acknowledging that it is unfair to blame gurus or consultants for the fact that nothing is certain in the world, he nevertheless argues that the coming in and out of fashion of such ideas as downsizing and re-engineering only points up the fact that "one should not take everything the gurus say at face value".

And then there are the "expert MBAs" of whom he warns business to beware. In pointing out that "consultancies feel that MBAs help to convey an aura of professionalism and many corporations like them", Mr Davis, to say the least, his doubts.

As such, he has more than a little sympathy with the business people who argue that students should be taught "practical skills that employers want" rather than have their heads crammed with "interesting but unusable facts".

But then he also accepts that business executives also have a lot to answer for. Gurus and consultants can attack complacency and the established order, but "the ultimate responsibility for improvement lies squarely on the shoulders of the audience".

A simple truth, but one which - unlike a few myths - merits close examination.

Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Market Risk & Control Manager

Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Head of Audit

To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam