Business Evolution

Last Updated Oct 2, 2008 2:52 AM EDT

I post arguing that entrepreneurs are like physicists of business, and immediately run across a new discussion of how business evolves. In The Life Cycle of Great Business Ideas (registration required), an edited version of a panel discussion on how ideas evolve is led by Art Kleiner, editor-in-chief of strategy+business and author of
"The Age of Heretics: A History of the Radical Thinkers Who Reinvented Corporate Management."

The panel had three central discussions:

Do management ideas have a life cycle? The panel's answers tended towards no, which was odd, given the title of the piece suggests that there is a life cycle to ideas. Generally, they argued that good ideas endure, or perhaps wax, wane and wax again.
How can you learn to tell the difference between a good idea and a bad one? Answers were all over the map, as one might expect. One panelist made the intriguing remark that if you had invested in the public companies on the annual Fortune list of the Best Companies to Work For, you'd have earned a 600 percent return, much better than the S&P 500 over the same period. Kleiner himself argued that modern management is in its medieval medicine stage.

What's the next big thing in management thinking? The only comment that wasn't wishful was one predicting that the next big trend is using data to do a better job of making predictions.
All in all, a crackling discussion, with good thoughts, and a couple of good book recommendations.

Kleiner's panelists, by the way, were Edith Seashore, who was featured in "The Age of Heretics" for her early support of diversity in hiring; her husband, organizational development professor Charles Seashore, management professor and author Phil Rosenzweig, P.V. Kannan, CEO of outsourcer 24/7 Customer and Steven Wheeler, a former Booz & Co. consultant.

  • Michael Fitzgerald

    Michael Fitzgerald writes about innovation and other big ideas in business for publications like the New York Times, The Economist, Fast Company, Inc. and CIO. He’s worked as a writer or editor at Red Herring, ZDNet, TechTV and Computerworld, and has received numerous awards as a writer and editor. Most recently, his piece on the hacker collective the l0pht won the 2008 award for best trade piece from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. He was also a 2007 Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellow in Science and Religion.