to Read a Business Book
a Supplemental Syllabus
"preclassics" that do not speak specifically to business
management have often been used as the basis for deriving lessons
in how to conduct business. The earliest of these is Sun-Tsu's
The Art of War, written in the 6th century B.C., whose
recent translation by R. L. Wing was retitled The Art of Strategy
(1988, Doubleday) and is interpreted in Mark R. McNeilly's Sun
Tsu and the Art of Business (Oxford, 1996).
next is quite familiar to College alums, Niccolo Machiavelli's
The Prince and The Discourses, published in 1513 and digested
in such bizbooks as Antony Jay's Management and Machiavelli
(Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967), Richard Buskirk's Modern Management
and Machiavelli (Cahners Books, 1974), and Michael Ledeen's Machiavelli
on Modern Leadership (St. Martin's Press, 1999).
third is a book popularized in business schools with the rise
of Japanese management as a management paradigm, Miyamoto Musashi's
Gorin No Sho, written in 1645 and translated as The
Book of Five Rings (Bantam Books, 1982).
these books have in common is the use of war as a metaphor for
business. (I know of no attempt, though, to recast Machiavelli's
lesser known work, The Art of War, into a bizbook.) If
you are interested in this slant on business strategy, I also
recommend Mao Tse-tung's 1938 monograph, Strategic Problems
in the Anti-Japanese Guerilla War, translated into English
in 1954 by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.
Again, no one has turned this into a bizbook. But stay away from
others of this genre, for example, Wess Roberts's Leadership
Secrets of Attila the Hun (Warner Books, 1985), or some of
the more recent publications, including Alan Axelrod's Patton
on Leadership (Prentice Hall, 1999) and Al Kaltman's Leadership
Lessons from General Ulysses S. Grant (Prentice Hall, 1998).
shouldn't look only in books for seminal material. Many of the
great ideas first (or only) appeared as journal articles-and not
surprisingly, many of the authors had Chicago connections.
Coase, Ronald. 1937. The Nature of the Firm. Economica 4:386-403.
The 1991 Nobel Prize-winning paper by the Clifton R. Musser professor
emeritus in the Law School showed the importance of the institutional
structure of production, in particular transaction costs, in the
study of the firm.
Lindblom, Charles E. 1959. The Science of "Muddling Through."
Public Administration Review 19:79-88. A highly influential
work, both in justifying non-optimal, incremental decision-making
in public management and in stimulating business theorists (e.g.,
James Quinn, Ed Wrapp) to apply and formalize his approach to
business as well.
Simon, Herbert A. 1964. On the Concept of Organizational Goal.
Administrative Science Quarterly 9:1-22. A good starting point
for a gaze into the evolving thinking of 1978 Nobel laureate Simon,
AB'36, PhD'43, and how it applies to business.
Jensen, Michael and Meckling, William. 1976. Theory of the Firm.
Journal of Financial Economics 3:305-60. Jensen, MBA'64,
PhD'68, and Meckling apply microeconomic analysis to the role
of the CEO as agent of the shareholders of a firm.-A.M.
to Read a Business Book.