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Hi Dr. Sutton,
I liked your comments about "evidence based management".

I just read through the article mentioned by you "luck Inc."
It really resonated with me.

I am in search for books for lay people like me, which distills the wisdom of "evidence based management" and conveys that to "general readers".

Could you suggest few to me my address is npk107 at gmail dot com .


Hi Professor Sutton,

Excellent observation and comparison between Collin's somewhat deterministic perspective and Bennett's somewhat monte carlo-ist perspective.

I think its difficult to find any phenomenon in the world that isn't governed a little bit by core principles and a little bit by luck. You can take an extreme point of view by focusing on either in isolation - or - you can take the scientific approach of studying the issues that are governed by core principles and stating as known assumptions and exceptions the issues that cause deviances. Obviously the fact that a phenomenon is affected by luck doesn't preclude the possibility of core principles. Perhaps there is no surefire way to make money in the stock market, but there are definitely surefire ways to lose it - so there must be some combination of intelligence and luck in there.

In terms of writer credibility, I think this just becomes a supply/demand optimization problem. There are many readers out there who will believe anything that is written down, just because its written down. On the flipside, there are individuals who take no information for granted and examine with critical judgment. If you want your book to appeal to be demanded by this entire spectrum, it better appeal to the critical judgers' demand with a supply of critically argued evidence. But if you decide not to take the evidence-based approach, there will still be a market for your book, albeit a smaller one.

So I'm not sure if there is one right or wrong answer here. When I was working for a large well-known and fast growing company (Professor Sutton knows which one), I was called up by a student who wanted to interview me on how the company's IT group was better than every other company's. I asked the student why he thought the IT group would be better? He said, "well you're one of the most profitable companies in the Fortune 500, so everything you do in the company must be better." This is the kind of kid that buys Collins' books.

And so, is it bad for some folks to be making a fast buck off of the irrational lust of those who seek non-evidence-based and unscientific business pornography?


For me, Good to Great is as much as self-help/personal development book as a business book.

I'm not sure one could follow Good to Great principles to build a successful company. However, after I read Collins' book, I did try to change how I approach my career by following some of his principles. It did have some very positive impacts on how I work.


A fair and balanced post and explaining your anti-Collins stance. Where do you stand on Drucker btw ? The symptoms you point to result from deeper flaws on both the writer AND reader's side (as a previous commenter pointed out). Channeling my long-time colleague and friend Charles the Ruthless and my own thoughts:
1. Most bizzbooks (& consultants) are conceptual candy. One simple idea in isolation from the complexities of business. Most importantly they don't go deep enough into the operational details to be executable.
2. The ideas are isolated whereas a business is many moving parts that have to work together. Very few bizz books place their simple ideas in the context of the whole business that real world executives have to deal with.
3. Businesses are run on rules-of-thumb accumulated over lifetimes of experience. When patterns change so should the rules but because executives tend to be non-analytic they don't adapt.
If you believe those arguments or want to test them for yourselves, something that calls for thinking things thru in context there are also lessons that apply directly to business school curriculums and teaching methods. Think about it in relation to your post series on that topic as well.
Meanwhile try Adrian Slywotsky's "Art of Profitability" - the only one of his many that is holistic IMHO. And try KAISHA by Abbeglen as the only "whole enetrprise" dissection I've read.
Now the real question is why does no one think systemically and systematically about business ?

patsi Krakoff, Psy. D.

Excellent! There should be a book called In Praise of Level-headedness, and maybe you should write it, Bob. How happy we are, however, to find the secret keys to going from Good to Great. We want it all chunked down and bottom-lined for us and we don't want to think about the rigors of research. And of course we discount the random gods of just plain luck. All research is flawed and research that relies on retrospect and memory is terribly flawed. Neuroscientists have proven how easy it is to memory morph. Memory-based evidence just isn't reliable.

Chip Overclock

I've seen applications of the lessons of GOOD TO GREAT which bothered me. When I read the book myself, it was pretty clear to me that "get the right people on the bus" was referring to the senior management, e.g. VP and above. At least one of my former clients applied it to everyone, including the engineering stuff, laying off engineers with the rationale that "they weren't on the bus", whatever the hell that meant in that context. For sure it was effective in shutting up the expression of any contrary opinions by the engineers. This same organization implemented forced ranking and laying off the bottom 10%, so it paid to keep your mouth shut.

Glenn Whitfield


You are right on. I debate this with 'Collins Disciples' all the time. Also, I believe what adds to the issue is that too many people have stopped thinking. They read a book, follow it blindly, and believe they have all the answers. When they should read it, apply some critical thinking to see if and how it applies to their situation, then implement as appropriate.

I talk about what to do when your audience doesn't want to think here:

Great Post!

Mark Schar

Amen! Well said, Bob. There's nothing wrong with providing advice, advice that's worked for you. Just label it as such. Advice masquerading as research is bad pizza no matter how well it sells.

Scot Herrick

Although outside the realm of books, I'd suggest the same flaws in the continuous "100 best places to work" type articles in magazines. They send surveys to PR departments and then publish the results without really surveying the employees.

And your analysis of this type of business book is spot on.

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