This week's Economist gives a compelling comment to the guru business in management, by drawing the parallel to the reformation of the Catholic Church. Obviously management education also gets its part of criticism. No surprise. But to be fair, the "theories" quoted here, and those often taught, are not theories. Or does anybody seriously believes in Porter's Five Forces? Or thinks that SWOT-Analysis is an analysis? Or Blue Ocean Strategy is a strategy? The "World is Flat"? Big Data? Not even to talk about the mantras of people like Jack Welch and newly also the Donald Trumps? Leadership! The Art of the Deal? Think Big and Kick Ass. Come on! That's just story telling. Nobody with a brain takes this serious. It is just picking a few handy things out and putting them into a framework, or developing an ideology around them. Like "competitive theory", which already mutated into an ideology long ago. Or "entrepreneurship" which is a cult. It is just meant to sell a few ideas to a boarder audience. Nothing serious. Just a reality show. Not reality. Think of it like of Santa Claus. Nice story, specially at this time of the year. That's it. The rest is just a different costume: one is red, the other one gray or navy blue.
But there is a lot of serious work done to understand the mechanisms of businesses and markets better. It is just not done by Santa Claus in a suit. People work on this and do come to meaningful conclusions. And then there is the "academic research" which is often used as a synonym for "useless". My observation is, that this is because often academics in this field, choose research questions which give them a quick paper in a journal with a high "impact factor". We know the game, right? We know what "impact" this impact factor has.
But this does not mean to abolish the scientific method, common sense, evidence, math. What I always found interesting is that in the practice of natural sciences, we try to strip down complexity to bare fundamental principles. By contrast, "management theory" tries to cover up weak fundamentals by a big narrative body.
I was often thinking, why these guys don't go deeper. From the few I have met, I have an impression: because they can't. Not smart enough. The second reason, maybe that they are not really interested. They are happy with some fame, and then they start to believe in themselves. Reform needed, or to put it in church terms: Reformation. But again, it is more who we listen to, than what to believe in.