Welcome to Biz Book Fridays! I’ve got a whopper of a biz book habit and I’ll read ‘em so you don’t have to. I bring the juiciest morsels straight to you.
Everything’s a Boy Band
“Remember, Thursday, that scientific thought, indeed, any mode of thought whether it be religious or philosophical or anything else, is just like the fashions that we wear—only much longer-lived. It’s a little like a boy band.”
“Scientific thought a boy band? How do you figure that?”
“Well, every now and then a boy band comes along. We like it, buy the records, posters, parade them on TV, idolize them right up until—”
“—the next boy band?” I suggested.
“Precisely. Aristotle was a boy band. A very good one, but only number six or seven. He was the best boy band until Isaac Newton, but even Newton was transplanted by an even newer boy band. Same haircuts—but different moves.”
“Right. Do you see what I’m saying?”
“That the way we think is nothing more than a passing fad?”
“Exactly. Hard to visualize a new way of thinking? Try this. Go thirty or forty boy bands past Einstein. Where we would regard Einstein as someone who glimpsed a truth, played one good chord in seven forgettable albums.”
Some things are eternal. Just about everything else changes in cycles.
Some of those cycles are pendulums, swinging back and forth between two extremes. Examples: ornamentation and minimalism in design, or religion and reason. The thing about these cycles is that one actively leads to the other, because it’s a rebellion! Then that rebellion becomes commonplace and then people have to rebel against that.
Others are linear, fad giving away to fad, like in physics. (Can’t imagine us returning to pre-Einsteinian physics, can you?)
Boy Band Denial
If you’ve ever read a history book (or watched The Hitler Channel), you know this is true.
But even so… we never prairedog out of our little holes and go “Gee, this is just a cycle.” Nope. We say, “Aha! This is how things should have been all along. The way they will be. And rightly so!”
And…yet…we know that all those long-dead people in the history books thought exactly the same thing. About everything.
Boy Bands: They’re Everywhere!
In software development and design, we have Agile, scrum, pairing, test-first, test-never, lean, customer development, BDD, tooling, personas, no personas, action theory, beauty is function, ornament is a crime, user experience, user centered, undesign.
In business, we have Taylorism, Fordism, TQM, Six Sigma, follow your passion, dig in the muck for the brass, offshoring, outsourcing, home sourcing, human resources, team building exercises, incentives, no incentives, the customer is always right, the employee is always right, hug your customers, work is play, work is work and if you don’t like it there’s more where you came from, collective bargaining, every man for himself.
And then we have startups. Whether they’re funded big, or funded small, angel, VC, seed, institutional backers, pitch contests, startup weekends, liquidity events, go big or go home, “build stuff people want,” “build software that’ll get college students laid,” analytics for pirates or lead from your heart, Maslow, Mojito Island, founder as hustler, founder as hacker, founder as hagiographical hero, lifestyle business, 4-hour-work-week, sixteen-hour-work-day, IPO track, private sale, and of course, invent-your-own-accounting-standard.
These are all boy bands. All of them. Especially startups.
It’s boy bands all the way down.
History shows us that management theory, software development theory, design theory, and most importantly, startup ideology are all extremely faddish. But we treat each new boy band like they’re handed down On High.1
And things get bloody dangerous when we confuse the boy bands of today with Mozart.
1 We all know the only boy bands handed down on high were The Beatles and The Dead. Maybe The Scorpions. Nuff said.
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