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Business Exposed

Business Exposed

The naked truth about what really goes on in the world of business

Freek Vermeulen

Oct 2010, Paperback, 264 pages
ISBN13: 9780273732921
ISBN10: 0273732927
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Cutting edge, pithy and provocative, this is a no-holds barred analysis of business today that will entertain and appal you in equal measure.

This entertaining expose of the business world, reveals the scandals, quirks, counter-intuitive behaviour and downright silliness that make up business today. Based on rigorous research and verifiable facts, combining revelation, story-telling and analysis, this book will defy anyone to read it and not emerge better-informed about the reality of business today.

From the collective inertia of middle management to the cowardly reluctance of CEOs to stand out from the crowd, from the soap opera of working with consultants to the mystery of why top executives’ salaries bear no resemblance to the performance of their firms, Business Exposed will entertain and appal you in equal measure.

The author is widely recognised as a new and emerging business guru, speaking of him in 2009, the Financial Times said: “The London Business School associate professor is a rising star and his pithy observations are both accessible and authoritative.”

Table of Contents

About the Author

Publisher's acknowledgements

Introduction: The monkey story

1: Management happens

Forced to be stupid

Collective inertia - if you don’t join them, you can beat them!

Pharma - the devil is in the detailing

The Abilene Paradox

Same same but different

"Selection bias"

Numbers and strategy - do they mix?

Inebriated cyclists

Deciding stuff - that’s the easy bit

How well do you know your company? (My guess is not very well at all…)

How to make a compelling corporate strategy in six easy steps

Wanna play strategy? Get a board game

"Framing contests": What really happens in strategy meetings

It looks like we don’t have a strategy…

2: The Success trap (and some ideas how to get out of it)

Why good companies go bad

The Icarus paradox

Tunnel vision - "in the end, there is only flux"

Operation Market Garden

Mental models – let’s all think within the same box

A creosote bush: how "exploitation" drives out "exploration"

A bitter pill

Framing something as a threat or an opportunity dramatically alters what we choose

In a downturn, manage your revenues, not your costs

In a crisis, innovate

Is your company brave enough to survive?

3: The urge to conquer

How big is your yam? (not that it matters)

Deal-eager executives - tribal instincts

CEOs, marriage, mergers, geriatric millionaires, and blushing brides

When acquisitions take over

"Time compression diseconomies" - too much, too fast

Seeds and fertilizer - how to build a firm

"I've won... I've won"

Most acquisitions fail - really!

"Heerlijk, helder, Heineken"

Toads and acquisitions - where does CEO "hubris" come from?

4: Gods and villains

The heroes of our time

Narcissus versus humble bloke - and the winner is?

Are overconfident CEOs born or made?

Hang the hero

Celebrity CEOs and the burden of expectation

Successful managers - incompetent for sure

Executives: superhuman after all…

"Over the hill and far away, top managers are here to stay"

Chief story teller

Managers and leaders: are they different?

Women on top

5: Liaisons and intrigues

Fact over fiction

Analysts, astrologers, and lemmings - three of a kind?

Conflicts of interest - do analysts rate their bank's clients' stock more favorably?

Banks' blurry categorizations - have your cake and eat it too

Analysts rule the waves (whether we like it or not)

Sirens and investment bankers – birds of a feather

How to tame an analyst

Advice or influence? Why firms ask government officials to be directors

Boards of directors: cliques and elites

Board-cloning - a rewarding habit

Boardroom friends

CEOs and their stock options (oh please)

Stock options, risk, and manipulations

Too hot to handle: explaining excessive top management remuneration

How to justify paying top managers too much

CEOs do seek advice – if you pay them for it

Dirty laundry: who is hiding the bad stuff?

6: Myths in management

No stranger than fiction

Say you will - that'll do

Right again! Managers and their self-fulfilling prophecies

Your expectations manage you

"Reverse causality" - sorry, but life's not that simple

Eating Uncle Ed - don’t worry, its called downsizing

Does downsizing ever work?

Who can downsize without detriment?

What management bandwagons bring

Remember this one: "total quality management"?

ISO 9000 makes you reliable, myopic, efficient, and dull - and unable to invent Post-It notes

How bad practice prevails

Can we please stop saying that the market is efficient?

Pin-striped pigeons

Management consultants - happy slapping

Star knowledge workers - you really should not pay them that much, you know

Patent sharks

Information overload – and how to deal with it (if you’re the one loading)

When knowledge hurts

Exaggerating to make my point

R&D - it's a steal

7: Making far-reaching decisions (when you can’t see a fricking thing ahead of you)

The Red Queen

Binoculars in the mist

"Today's fast-changing business environment"? The same as it ever was!

Is innovation over-rated?

Customers? Ah, forget about them

Means and ends; profits and innovation

It is OK to get lucky - even for a top manager

Getting lucky - fortune favours the prepared firm

Sometimes it is about knowing when not to decide

Retaining your ability to make money? Causal ambiguity's the answer

Company cloning - how to change a winning formula

When to fire your M&A management consultant

Not all trouble is really trouble

Change for change's sake

"A serial changer"

"Innovation networks" and the size of the pie

Spinning clients - the McKinsey effect

8: A rock or a soft place?

The hidden cost of equity

"Shareholder value orientation" - now, where did that come from?

Who should come first? Shareholders? Are you sure..?

Human nature: self-interested bastard or community-builder?

Down-town Calcutta firms

Pay inequality - good or bad for team performance?

What really caused the 2008 banking crisis?

The third sin

"Work-family initiatives"…?! That's rather soft and fluffy isn't it?

Corporate social responsibility - nice, but does it earn you any money?

Taking care: companies make love and money (if their shareholders let them)

Epilogue: The Emperor's new clothes



Freek Vermeulen is Associate Professor of Strategic & International Management at London Business School, teaching courses to executives and executive MBA students. He is the recipient of several teaching and various research-related awards, including the first-ever LBS ‘Excellence in Teaching’ award and the prestigious Academy of Management Journal Best Paper Award. Freek is an active consultant for companies such as KPMG, and a key-note speaker on various topics.