Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Portfolio Life

Adrian Wooldridge, writing in The Wall Street Journal, on Charles Handy's book on his life as a management guru, which is a grand illustration of the illogical nature of careers. An excerpt:

Teaching management provided him with an escape from the corporate grind. Shell drafted him for its in-house training college. The new London Business School offered him a professorship. The government asked him for advice on management education. He was given one of those eccentric establishment positions that Britain specializes in, Warden of St. George's House, living in splendid apartments in Windsor Castle and introducing the great and the good, including highflying clergymen, to the new science of management.

The amateurishness of Mr. Handy's Britain in the 1950s and 1960s is shocking, as is the antibusiness prejudice that he routinely encountered. Shell gave him a job as an economist (he had been to Oxford, after all) though he had no acquaintance with the dismal science. The London Business School made him a full professor though he had no academic training or publications in the field. (He was sent off to MIT for a year to mug up on the subject.) He was once told, when he used the word "economics," to avoid jargon.

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