Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Dean Bruner's Blog

The trail takes a turn and re-appears at the Univ of Virginia, Darden School of Business, where Dean Robert Bruner blogs.

The distinction between puzzles and mysteries was drawn by Gregory Treverton, a national security expert. A puzzle has a “simple, factual answer” and is solved by getting more information. The location of Osama bin Laden is a puzzle. Finding the answer requires increasing the collection of intelligence. A mystery is different—it may have many contingencies and is solved by more analysis rather than more fact-gathering. What will happen to Iraq in 2007 is a mystery. Solving puzzles depends on what we are told; solving mysteries depends on what we hear, on listening well.

Gladwell argues that the financial community needs to make a transition from fact-gathering to true analysis. This is not a new plea. In my book on merger failures I wrote about the disastrous combination of the New York Central and Pennsylvania railroads in 1968 (the merged firm went bankrupt in 1970). The classic lament then was that the analysts could tell you how many miles of track lie between New York and Chicago, but not whether the firm would survive. Too many business and financial analysts dwell on fact-gathering and fact-recitation.

Read his full post on Malcolm Gladwell's New Yorker article on Enron.

This is the final act of a tragedy that began with the optimistic hiring of a Jack Welch lieutenant and soured with the revelation of Nardelli’s pay package and brusque style. The fact that Home Depot’s stock price fell was the last straw for Relational Investors and others who called for the Board of Directors to intervene. Nardelli’s exit package of $210 million will stoke outrage among investors—but that’s grist for another day’s posting.

Business schools have a great deal to say about one’s career progression and climb up to executive power. And they have a great deal to say about keeping one’s position. But business schools are relatively mute about leaving office, or one’s “greatness.”

Read Dean Bruner's assessment of the Roberth Nardelli exit at Home Depot.

The answer to this question is that “fun” is not why I took this job. The fact is that any job has its less appealing aspects—they call it “work” for a reason. But I took this job out of a sense of fulfillment and a sense of mission. It is absolutely fulfilling to help great people get on to accomplish great things. Darden attracts a very high caliber of student, faculty, and staff. To help facilitate their successes is thrilling. The whole community benefits from these wins, the celebration of which gives me deep satisfaction.

My satisfaction is also sustained by a sense of mission. At a very macro level, great business schools help to discover and disseminate best practices into the business profession—this helps to elevate growth and profitability in the private sector globally, thus creating more jobs, paying more taxes, and inventing better products and services. Our graduates serve business and communities in a variety of ways—their leadership has a visible impact in the world. Ultimately, business schools help to increase human welfare.

Read his full posting on "Are you having fun yet?"

And if these snippets were enough to indicate that adding Dean Bruner's blog to your RSS Reader might add some good reading and a sense of fun to your day, please go ahead and do so!

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