Joseph Schumpeter was an eminent Austrian-American economist best known for his work in the first half of the twentieth century. “Schumpeter” is also the name of a regular column in the British news magazine, The Economist, dedicated largely (though not exclusively) to the coverage of corporations, to big business.
This week’s column (link below) is titled “Twilight of the Guru’s.” Which gurus are being eclipsed, according to The Economist? Management gurus, men, and the occasional woman, who years ago held such sway that they could leap across buildings and, more importantly, sell millions of copies of their books in a New York minute. What we have now, Schumpeter writes, is a “far cry from the glory years of the 1980s and 1990s, when ‘In Search of Excellence,’ by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, sold 3m copies in its first four years and ‘Re-engineering the Corporation,’ by James Champy and Michael Hammer, touched off a global re-engineering craze.”
Assuming that the claim is true – that the “guru business is reaching the end of a long cycle of creativity” – the question is why? Why is that the “thought leadership industry” has entered into what Schumpeter suggests could be a permanent drought? Is it that we’ve become stupider, that the thought leaders of a generation or so ago were simply smarter? Or, has something else changed, something that makes it harder for single individuals to be thought leaders now, at least in the same way, than it was say twenty, thirty years ago?
For my own answers to my own question, stay tuned.