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The deluded ‘zombie’ school

By Murray Bourne, 20 Nov 2005

smart executives fail

The ideas in Sydney Finkelstein's book "Why Smart Executives Fail" could also apply to educational institutions.

In a recent article, he described a company that was very positive and where divisions were very supportive of each other, but said they could be heading for disaster, since:

[The] company has created an insulated culture that systematically excludes any information that could contradict its reigning picture of reality.

After analysing 51 companies that had made major mistakes, he concluded that an accumulation of mind-numbing policies can be ultimately destructive. Everybody wants to maintain the illusion of success and no-one wants to rock the boat. People avoid mentioning unsettling ideas because they don't want to sound negative or get blamed for them. Problem is, when a crisis happens, no-one can cope.

Finkelstein's article concludes with advice on how to avoid such pitfalls. Key ones are:

  • Acknowledge and learn from failure
  • Reward experiments (including failures) that have knowledge returns

Food for thought...

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