Another of the wise men whose voice appears in these pages, the physicist Richard Feynman, once remarked that many fields have a tendency for pomposity, to make things seem deep and pro found. It’s as if the less we know, the more we try to dress things up with complicated-sounding terms. We do this in countless fields, from sociology to philosophy to history to economics – and it’s definitely the case in business. I suspect that the dreariness in so much business writing often stems from wanting to sound as though we have all the answers, and from a corresponding unwillingness to recognize the limits of what we know. Regarding a particularly self important philosopher, Feynman observed:
It isn’t the philosophy that gets me, it’s the pomposity. If they’d just laugh at themselves! If they’d just say, “I think it’s like this, but von Leipzig thought it was like that, and he has a good shot at it, too”.
Hunting for a guaranteed formula for success is a fool’s errand. As Phil Rosenzweig, Professor of Strategy and International Business at IMD wrote in The Halo Effect:
“Anyone who claims to have found laws of business physics either understands little about business, little about physics or little about both.”