Why “Experts” Keep Getting It Wrong

Management theorists lack depth, I realized, because they have been doing for only a century what philosophers and creative thinkers have been doing for millennia. This explains why future business leaders are better off reading histories, philosophical essays, or just a good novel than pursuing degrees in business.

I just read “The Management Myth: Why the “Experts” Keep Getting It Wrong”, a book written by Matthew Stewart. It challenges the traditional ideas and practices of management in modern businesses. In his book, Stewart argues that the current system of management is based on flawed assumptions and that it is in need of a major overhaul. Basically, it needs more Schopenhauer, Kant, and Jung, than it needs Taylor.

One of the main ideas that Stewart explores in the book is the concept of expertise. He argues that the current system of management relies heavily on the idea of expertise, with managers being viewed as the experts who have all the answers. However, Stewart asserts that this notion of expertise is often misguided and that it can actually hinder progress and innovation.

“The idea of expertise is a trap. It seduces us into thinking that we know more than we do and that we can predict the future with greater accuracy than is possible. It lulls us into complacency and dulls our senses to the possibility of surprise.”

Stewart also critiques the way that modern businesses are structured, arguing that they often prioritize short-term profits over long-term sustainability. He argues that this focus on short-term gains leads to a lack of innovation and a failure to adapt to changing circumstances. It also leads to an all too positive view of what new shiny technilogy can do, dating all the way back to the beginning of the industrialisation:

This confusion of facts and values—or, more generally, the attempt to find pseudotechnical solutions to moral and political problems—is the most consequential error in Taylor’s work and is the cardinal sin of management theory to the present.

The book also brings up a thing I have noted when swithcing from privately owned companies to working for the City of Malmö:

“The main problem with the modern business enterprise is not that it is inefficient, but that it is a machine for the production of the wrong things. It is designed to produce profits for the benefit of a small group of shareholders and executives, rather than for the benefit of society as a whole.”

It is very liberating to not have a board of directors I never meet but who decide if I am needed or not, and to always work for the next quarter. Instead, we are in it for the long run and work for the great of the public instead of shareholders. A nice change.

Finally, the book brilliantly presents the steps anyone who worked with a management consulting firm has seen:

  1. Marketing (The Luring). Fly in “experts” from around the world, never to be seen again. Hold “conferences.”
  2. Diagnostic (Halloween). It’s trick and treat time. First, scare the pants off them. Crater their self-esteem. This requires what is known in the trade as a “trick.” A trick is a quick and easy analysis that will produce predictably horrifying results—predictable for you, horrifying for them. Consultants spend years honing these tricks. Second, offer to give them their self-esteem back in exchange for your treat!
  3. Implementation (Eating the Brain). The key to establishing an enduring presence is to colonize key functions in the client’s central nervous system. A good place to start is the planning function.
  4. Follow-ons (Metastasis). You’re already expanding deep inside the client organization, so think like a cancer.
  5. The Breakup.

It all ends in sending a hefty bill and the planning for a new round.

Of course, there are management consultants that can bring value. But after having read this book, written by a management consultant, I will be very cautious regarding whom to hire.

Image by maximiliano estevez from Pixaba, portraying a healthily sceptical manager.

A new road opens, thanks to my network

The summer began with me being asked by my former employer to leave the company alongside many others. The pandemic hit the automotive industry very hard, and apparently, not even the company expert on Office 365 could be saved. At the same time, I prepared and went through the biggest house move ever, where I and the kids and the dog moved to a new place. So what to do to find a new professional future?

I reached out on LinkedIn saying what happened and then asking for help to find something interesting again. That post has not been viewed by more than 24 000 people globally, and it directly led to my two new work arrangements. This is the true power of building a rich network of experts, which I have built over a decade. I learned from Harold Jarche, Valdis Krebs, Michelle Ockers, and many others by then, and continued this year after year.

Starting on September 1, I will work 80% as the Digital Workplace Architect at Play n’ GO and 20% as the Community Manager Nordics for the Digital Workplace Group (DWG) to expand the collaboration between companies in these crucial times. This means I both take care of a digital workplace and advice others on how to do this. The best of two worlds.

So, my advice today is for you to keep building a rich network of people that you learn from. One day you might need them more than ever like I did this summer, and until that day you have grown every day thanks to them.

Awakening from the meaning crisis, in Swedish

In my last post, I wrote about a life crisis and my way of dealing with it. One of the many ways I chose to take the next step is by engaging in John Vervaeke’s video series “Awakening from the meaning crisis”. Every Monday, I discuss an episode with members of the Future Thinkers network. But to really understand it, I also record short versions of each episode in Swedish. I gain two things from this: I teach the material and need to know it, and the Swedish audience gets a quicker way of learning this rather complex material.

For example, here is my Swedish version of episode 8 where John task about Siddharta Gautama (Buddha) and mindfulness:

I don’t have an explicit plan with these Swedish versions but they help me. And if anyone else can benefit from them, that just makes me happier. To access the rest of my recordings, please visit my YouTube page.

You will find the links to both John’s full course and to Future Thinkers in the description of the video if you open it in YouTube. For anyone deeply interested in these questions, I highly recommend the full series from John and the watch parties and discussions with Future Thinkers.

Ray Dalio’s ‘Principles’ – a reading and some reflections

After I was recommended Ray Dalio’s book ‘Principles’ by many others, I decided to read it. After all, I should not miss an author that people refer to as having written a revolutionary book. One one hand I share the enthusiasm for Ray’s way of turning simple to-dos into principles and algorithms. Once you start doing this your life can change. On the other hand, I think we should complement Ray’s principles with the work of others, to create a fuller picture of what it means to be a human and what it means to work.

My biggest gain from reading Principles is that we can escape the often egocentric and rather flimsy decision models we have created through life, and instead use principles as “a good collection of recipes for success.” On every page, Ray focuses on the absolute ownership we have over our decisions. We must face hardships straight on and be radically open-minded and radically transparent towards ourselves and others. We should dream big but also stay firmly grounded, leading up to algorithms like “Dreams + Reality + Determination = A Successful Life.” To be successful in any area, you need to set big goals, plan what is needed to get there, and then act without giving up. Yes, we have heard this before, but Ray’s algorithms helped me remember this more easily. The same goes for the deceivingly simple algorithm “Pain + Reflection = Progress.” We all meet pain in life, but if you learn from reflecting on it, you are moving forward.

Ray also has a view that organizations should be hierarchical, and that people should adjust to the organization and not the other way around in quotes like:

“Create an organizational chart to look like a pyramid, with straight lines down that don’t cross.” […] “Don’t build the organization to fit the people.”

Towards the end of the book, Ray covers the idea of idea meritocracy and some interesting tools they use at Bridgewater during meetings and as daily follow-ups. Meritocracy is a philosophy which holds that certain things, such as economic goods or power, should be vested in individuals by the talent they bring. At Bridgewater, the best ideas should win, and Ray shows us how they succeed in building such a workplace. My impression is that this can also happen under rather tough situations, and some passages in the book had me relate to military principles.

This led me to some reflections that could complement Ray’s ideas. Instead of only focusing on strict hierarchical business models, we should also investigate how well we could work in networks and wirearchies, as stated by Valdis Krebs and Jon Husband (pdf file). Combine this with the proven value of open, collaborative social enterprise networks as described by people like Rita Zonius, plus knowledge catalysts as described by Harold Harche, and we can find new ways of collaborating outside the formal structures.

Connected to the wirearchies, we can also reflect on the work of the future in networks, as done by Stowe Boyd and Esko Kilpi in “Perspectives on new work” (pdf file):

What form, then, will companies take? Kilpi tells us that businesses will be transitioning from Coase-style corporations with clearly defined ‘insides’ and ‘outsides’ to semi-permeable platforms, on which ‘architectures of participation and choice’ will be devised, and they will be fast-and-loose: “Work systems differ in the degree to which their components are loosely or tightly coupled. Coupling is a measure of the degree to which communication and power relations between the components are predetermined and fixed or not. Hierarchies and processes were based on tight couplings. The new post-industrial platforms are based on loose couplings following the logic of the Internet. Some people will work on one platform every now and then, while others will work simultaneously and continuously on many different platforms. The worker makes the decision about where, with whom and how much to work. The old dichotomy of employers and employees is a thing of the past.”

Reading Ray’s book was rewarding, and I will revisit my Kindle notes from this book for years to come. Above all, Ray’s idea of moving from busy to-do lists, over to principles, and finally algorithms can truly change people’s lives. I also like his daily updates with colleagues – something many companies miss. Meanwhile, we should remember that Ray runs an American investment fund and that the rules set up for this business automatically don’t suit all other companies in all markets. Ray often describes his company as a machine, but running a company is as if it is a living organism can also be very rewarding.


Photo by Robert Lukeman on Unsplash

Remember to also not give a f*ck

Back from the holidays, it is far too easy to jump at any anything and everything that lies before you at work and at home. Everything you postponed until after the holidays just lays there and is waiting for you to Get Things Done and be awesome. But wait. Before you dive into a full schedule of to-dos, remember that you don’t need to give a f*ck about everything before you. Why the swearing, you might wonder? I just read Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life.

First, question your goals and beliefs to make sure you are on the right path. Don’t wait for others to take responsibility for your life – it is up to you. Remove the tasks, meetings, and to-dos that don’t add value to the bigger goals in your personal and professional life. As Stephen Covey would say, put First Things First – if you pour in the sand first, the bigger and more important rocks won’t fit. Then prepare to meet hardships, since this is how you grow. At the end of the hardships you might find happiness and freedom, but more importantly you have grown as a human. No, not everything is in your control, but make sure that you are in charge of the things you can control and stop blaming others.

So, if you need a push in the right direction, I advise you to read Mark’s book. Then run off and make the world a better place, and prepare for some struggling. As he says: “Who you are is defined by what you’re willing to struggle for.”

Enough with the digital disruption – show some stewardship also

Every morning on my way to and from work, I listen to smart people talking to other smart people about being human. For example, this morning I listened to Krista Tippett talking to Maria Popova about creating meaning in a digital age. In one of the passages, Maria quotes a conversation she had with Andrew Sullivan:

POPOVA: And then he said, “You know, culture needs stewardship, not disruption.”

TIPPETT: Mm. That’s lovely.

POPOVA: And I was like, “Yes.” But I actually think, yes, we have forsaken stewardship to a large degree, but we need both, always, to move forward.

When I look at Twitter and blogs, there is a ton of material written about ‘digital disruption’, as if that would awaken and guide us. Mostly, I just get tired and think the authors write ‘disruption’ because they have nothing else to say, no more words to use to increase the nuances. Let us look at the definition of ‘disruption’:


noun: forcible separation or division into parts.


noun: disturbance or problems which interrupt an event, activity, or process.

synonyms: disturbance, disordering, disarrangement, disarranging, interference, upset, upsetting, unsettling, confusion, confusing;

So, here we are, listening to all these consultants who think we find pleasure in hearing that our businesses will be “forcible separated” causing unsettling confusion. Again, look at what Maria referred to:

“You know, culture needs stewardship, not disruption.”

Where are the consultants and big thinkers who can show stewardship in how technology will support us? And no, I don’t mean how it can make us more ‘productive’ and create busy-work with yet another gadget, or show us where technologies are placed on Gartner’s hype cycle. I mean how technology can guide us to better businesses and help us lead better lives. Technology is part of our culture today, and it could sure win from more wisdom and less colorful hype with cool hashtags and top managers and consultants telling us what we already know.

Please, the next time you want to write about ‘digital disruption’, think about what you want to tell us. We all know that the world is changing, but please guide us more. Once you know how what you say will help us, write your words and publish.

Reinventing ourselves: Tim Ferriss, James Altucher, and Constructive Developmental Theory

The last six months I have made it a habit to read and listen to the books and podcasts from Tim Ferriss and James Altucher, and then apply some of their ideas. For example, Tim’s book “Tools of Titans” contains a tremendous number of tricks and tips to live smarter, while James’ books in the Choose Yourself series helps you build a stronger foundation for everything in life.

Meanwhile, via Lee Bryant and PostShift, I have been introduced to the Quantified Organization relating to the Quantified Self.  Instead of guessing if we are making progress or not, we can measure if we are or not. On a personal level, it happens via apps, habits, smartwatches and more, and on an organizational level we use KPIs of all sorts.

It is, however, hard to measure if you are progressing in your personal development. Many of the tips coming from Tim’s and James’ podcasts and books feel great, but then I wonder if I can measure if I am progressing or not. Then it struck me that I might as well practice ‘idea sex’ as James puts it. By combining the advice from James and Tim with a theory like Constructive Developmental Theory, I might gain some clarity. This is a half-baked idea, but that’s ok: I learned from Harold Jarche that a great way to develop your own thinking is by releasing such ideas into the open. Then others can react, and we can continue building our collective knowledge.

I first heard about John Kegan’s Constructive Developmental Theory when reading about change, and especially why some people never want to change. Fast Company wrote about it when mentioning the mind-set we need to succeed in the future, and linked to Future Trends in Leadership Development (PDF) from the Center of Creative Leadership. Then Ana Cristina Campos Marques Curitiba clarified all of Robert Kegan’s five levels in her post on Constructive Developmental Theory:

  1. The Impulsive Mind: The first stage is what mainly characterizes the behavior of children.
  2. Instrumental Mind: The human being has only one perspective, his own.
  3. The Socialized Mind: Such a stance tends to be reliant on authority for direction and less likely to question, making one a loyal follower.
  4. The Self-Authoring Mind: Guided by their own internal compass, such a person becomes subject to his own ideology. These individuals tend to be self-directed, independent thinkers.
  5. The Self-Transforming Mind: This multi-frame perspective is able to hold the contradictions between competing belief systems and is therefore subject to the dialectic between systems of thought.

No matter if such levels are true or not, they can work as mental models. I find that the ideas presented via Tim’s and James’ books and podcasts urge us to move up the above ladder. By adopting the best tips and tricks and habits, we can move from being loyal followers who don’t question anything, over to self-directed thinkers and then self-transforming minds. It is almost as if we in this later stage can hold ourselves in our hand and objectively analyze what is best for this person.

As Jay Barbuto puts it in this video, at this level we are no longer the prisoners of our own identity. Instead, we see all the different nuances and possibilities and can reinvent ourselves.

So there we have it: By merging great ideas from people like James and Tim and their guests with developmental theories, we can reinvent ourselves. A great start for a new way of life.

Culture, Machine Intelligence, and Ways of Working

As my followers know, I have written about the digital workplace for some years. Lately, however, I have grown somewhat tired of it: It seems we either only talk about the latest semi-smart upgrades in Office 365 and how they can be used, or some futuristic views of how we will work in 5 years from now. In one sense these are interesting subjects. In another sense, they are somewhat boring, repetitive, and distant. Some days, I couldn’t care less about the tools Microsoft throw at us, and how they relate to Slack. Meanwhile, I have started a blog on Machine Intelligence, and oh that has opened my eyes. Suddenly, I see more of the woods instead of just staring at the trees, and where we look is the deal breaker:

“Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.”
― Arthur Schopenhauer, Studies in Pessimism: The Essays

By expanding my field of vision, the limits of my world are moved further away. Then there are other writers who help me understand the world. One such example during the last months is Gloria Lombardi’s compilation of what she refers to as the future of work predictions for 2017. A line of smart people present their views on what they think will come this year, and here is my quick interpretation of the things the interviewees talk about:


Very short version: If you don’t take care of your employees and the exponential technology that is coming, the smart employees will leave and you will lose business deals while feeling left behind.

I have written and spoken about corporate culture before, and I have just entered the world of Machine Intelligence. Now I read more about the ways we organize work, including the Gig Economy which I honestly don’t see coming as fast yet but maybe it is. We should never think entrepreneurs are the only ones to save the world – the intrapreneurs are crucial here. Don’t underestimate the existing industrial companies.

So, let’s look at what Deloitte says about Machine Intelligence:

Collectively, these and other tools constitute machine intelligence: algorithmic capabilities that can augment employee performance, automate increasingly complex workloads, and develop “cognitive agents” that simulate both human thinking and engagement.

Exponential data growth is requiring Personal Knowledge Management for individuals, faster-distributed systems are democratizing information handling, and smarter algorithms help us process information to understand the world better. Combine these with the strong positive cultures we need, and the new ways we should trust the coworkers no matter where they are, and an interesting painting is forming. Trust me: Companies who miss this train, will for sure be left behind.

And on that note, we might as well focus on something important while working, and maybe this is the middle of the three rings: The purpose that the culture, machine intelligence, and ways of organizing work creates. The company I work for creates brakes and other safety equipment for large trucks and trailers. We all want them to stop instead of running into us, and we want them to be kind to the environment. We are also very focused on the culture we nurture and create, while keeping a close eye on the technology that is evolving. I think these are all keys to the great kinds of workplaces we look for.

If you think you lack a purpose, which is alarming since a purpose is the jet fuel in our tanks, you can always look at the upcoming possibilities. Just look at World Economic Forum which helps us zoom out and see the big picture, as in 5 global problems that AI could help us solve.

There is a lot of thought work left to be done from many people, to understand this. Thankfully, a lot of people are engaged in this, and I follow them closely.

Change – this time it is personal

I have written before on change management, and especially how it has failed to support companies. But that’s change on the macro level. Now it’s time for changing myself. I started the year by reading Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss.

If you ever thought about changing your life for real, then read this book now. It has nearly no quick solutions. Instead, it has smart solutions. Really smart solutions. I have already started to meditate, planned my finances better, drinking wonderful teas, and building a stronger body. Gladly, many others such as Michelle Ockers are reading this book as well, and I look forward to many interesting ideas.

Thank you, Tim Ferriss, for all the time and effort spent to create this book. The rest is up to us.

Change can be hard, but it is necessary

All companies are going through changes, and must handle them in some way. Things are no different where I work:

  1. Our CEO has resigned to be the CEO of a larger industrial company. Meanwhile, we have a strong and experienced management team to steer the company.
  2. One of our competitors just announced that shareholders representing 86% of our shares have accepted their offer, and they can potentially buy us. Until the deal is signed, if it happens, anything can happen.
  3. We work in a market that is changing rapidly, with self-driving trucks, smart algorithms, platooning, and much more. Our customers are preparing for a trucking and logistics world that is radically different from what we all are used to.


70% of the change initiatives fail to reach their targets

One way to handle changes such as these, could be to be worried, complain, and lose valuable sleep. Of course, that is of no use. It is simply impossible to know where all the above lands and we must handle these changes constructively. Meanwhile, many companies approach it the wrong way:

What if everything we have been told about Change Management over the course of the last few decades was all just … plain wrong?

Luiz Suarez hits the nail on the head in his blog post “When Context Transcends Change Management”. 70% of company change initiatives fail to achieve their goals, meaning companies are bad at handling change. Meanwhile, there is a multitude of consultants who want to take our money since they have figured it out, they say. Most of the time, they haven’t. Just look at the numbers. If they were truly good, the results would say far more change initiatives succeeded.

Small actions that change perceptions

Among other things, Luiz highlights parts of the analysis made by Dave Snowden in “Towards a new theory of change” such as:

But the real change in organisations is when you change the way that people connect, and the most profound way in which that connection can be achieved is through small actions that change perceptions in an evolutionary way.  People argue that it is easier to change an individual that to change the system and that may be right.  But if you want systemic change there are simply too many individuals to change to achieve it and it is a lot easier to change the interactions and allow people autonomy over what they are.

Small actions that change perceptions in an evolutionary way. Sounds far more intriguing that the standard grand change management PPT. For those interested, even more myth busting is presented in “Debunking the myths of organizational change management”. Yes, it is presented by Accenture, a consultancy firm, but their presentation is based on a rigid set of data spanning 15 years. For example, it is not the change that causes organizations to go off track. The changes instead just expose what is not working – things you should pay attention to.

Models for change that could work for your company

So, how do we move away from the massive set of bad change programs? There are of course many ways, and I can only mention a few here. Two models that might work are these:

  1. The Cynefin framework, which helps organizations deal with complex problems by enhancing communication and building understanding of the current context, and more. I first heard about it via “A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making“ from a 2007 article and have later learned about it via conferences and more. For an introduction, see Dave Snowden:[x_video_embed type=”16:9″][/x_video_embed]
  2. Moving from traditional Change Management, over to Change Leadership. Yes, it might sound like consultancy speak, but I really believe in the difference. John P. Kotter’s 8-step model as presented in “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail” – also from a 2007 article – explains this. Also this model focuses on small actions that can change perceptions. Without a sense of urgency, gathering the right people, communicating where we all are going and more, change initiatives grind to a halt. For example, how do you know when the urgency rate is high enough to enable change?

    “When is the urgency rate high enough? From what I have seen, the answer is when about 75% of a company’s management is honestly convinced that business as usual is totally unacceptable. Anything less can produce very serious problems later on in the process.”

    For an introduction to the difference between change management and change leadership, see:[x_video_embed type=”16:9″][/x_video_embed]

Soon, 10 years have passed since the above articles were published. Still, companies fail to change fast enough, and the world that has accelerated even faster during the decade. My advice is to pick a model that makes sense, the above two or not, and then just start. As we heard, status quo is totally unacceptable.