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The 10 Worst Business Books of All Time

Most business books are mediocre; some are even useful. However, there are a few business books that are either so idiotic in concept that it's incredible that they got published. And there are also a few business books that got popular by encouraging toxic corporate and management behaviors.

This post contains my personal list of the worst business books I have ever seen or read. Some are famous, others obscure, but all of them are, IMHO, first class turkeys that would have been better left unpublished. Click on the link below to see my first pick...

Worst book #10: Reengineering the Corporation »
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    • Title: Reengineering the Corporation
    • Subtitle: A Manifesto for the Business Revolution.
    • Author: James Champy and Michael Hammer
    • Published in: 1993
    • Amazon Price (used): $.01
    • Why It's On the List: The reengineering concept caught on like wildfire and when the dust settled, analysts and researchers concluded that few, inf any, of the so-called reengineering efforts had a beneficial effect on the corporations that attempted them. Meanwhile, reengineering immediately became weasel-speak for downsizing, giving it respectability as a corporate strategy. Even today, companies use the term "reengineering" to justify eviscerating companies in order to jack up the stock price, while producing little or no lasting value.
    Worst book #9: Jesus CEO »
    • Title: Jesus CEO
    • Subtitle: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership
    • Author: Laurie Beth Jones
    • Published in: 1996
    • Amazon Price (used): $.01
    • Why It's On the List: The real-life Jesus espoused a communal lifestyle with no private ownership of property. For over a thousand years, Christianity forbade the lending of money at interest, which is the soul of the business world. Since there's no real meeting point between actual Christianity and the business world, all this book did was confirm the notion -- already common among the ranks of top management -- that the CEO should be treated like a god.
    Worst book #8: The Fifth Generation »
    • Title: The Fifth Generation
    • Subtitle: Artificial Intelligence and Japan's Computer Challenge to the World
    • Authors: Edward A. Feigenbaum and Pamela McCorduck
    • Published in: 1983
    • Amazon Price (used): $.01
    • Why It's On the List: This now-obscure text described how the Japanese government was investing hundreds of millions of dollars to create machines that could think and encouraged the U.S. to do the same. Japan's AI investment turned out to be a monumental failure that consumed several billion dollars, channeling much of Japan's high tech community into a technological dead end. Similar amounts of money invested in the United States (mostly in the form of private equity) similarly went down the toilet. Almost 30 years later, and strong AI (i.e. machines that emulate human intelligence) is no closer than it was back then.
    Worst book #7: Business Wisdom of the Electronic Elite »
    • Title: Success Secrets from Silicon Valley
    • Subtitle: How to Make Your Teams More Effective (No Matter What Business You're In)
    • Authors: Geoffrey James
    • Published in: 1998
    • Amazon Price (used): $.01
    • Why It's On the List: This piece of insanely enthusiastic dot-com boosterism lionized some of the most obnoxious managers on the planet. The book, like many other of the period, was full of recycled dot-com bromides and strategies that mostly didn't pan out as the Internet outpaced the ability of most named companies to take advantages of the trends. However, this book was definitely one of the worst of the lost. And, yes, that is my name and I did write it.
    Worst book #6: Countdown Y2K »
    • Title: Countdown Y2K
    • Subtitle: Business Survival Planning for the Year 2000
    • Authors: Peter De Jager and Richard Bergeon
    • Published in: 1998
    • Amazon Price (used): $1.39
    • Why It's On the List: The Y2K turnover generated a slew of books, but this one was responsible for much of the Y2K overspending inside thousands of business. While Y2K bugs did exist, they were never a major threat requiring "survival", as evidenced by the complete lack of the worldwide disasters that the authors predicted. In the end, companies wasted tens of billions of dollars on unneeded hardware and software upgrades, creating a dip in computer purchasing in the following years. That, combined with the crash of the dot-coms, helped propel the economy into a recession.
    Worst book #5: Dow, 30,000 by 2008 »
    • Title: Dow 30,000 by 2008
    • Subtitle: Why It's Different This Time (Second Printing)
    • Author: Robert Zuccaro
    • Published in: 2008
    • Amazon Price (used): $20.96
    • Why It's On the List: Uh..., it was different all right, but not in a Dow at 30,000 way. If anything, it was closer to Dow at 3,000, although thankfully it never dropped that low.
    Worst book #4: The Leadership Genius of George W. Bush »
    • Title: The Leadership Genius of George W. Bush
    • Subtitle: 10 Common Sense Lessons from the Commander-in-Chief
    • Author: Carolyn B. Thompson and James W. Ware
    • Published in: 2002
    • Amazon Price (used): $.01
    • Why It's On the List: Written the heady days following 9/11 when the country rallied around their fearless leader, this book is so bad that one of the authors doesn't even claim it as one of his works on his website. The premise was ridiculous because, regardless of what you thought of Bush as a president, he was never successful as a CEO. And at the end of his presidency, most people seemed pretty happy (at least at the time) to see him go.
    Worst book #3: In Search of Excellence »
    • Title: In Search of Excellence
    • Subtitle: Lessons from America's Best-Run Companies
    • Author: Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman
    • Published in: 1982
    • Amazon Price (used): $.21
    • Why It's On the List: Based on a study of forty-three of America's best-run companies from a diverse array of business sectors, describes eight basic principles of management - action-stimulating, people-oriented, profit-maximizing practices - that made these organizations successful. Unfortunately, the "excellent" companies featured in the book mostly went smack down the toilet not long after it was first published. Curiously, it's still considered a classic, which goes to show you that P.T. Barnum was right: a sucker IS born every minute.
    Worst book #2: Corporate Magick »
    • Title: Corporate Magick
    • Subtitle: Mystical Tools for Business Success
    • Author: Bob Johnson
    • Published in: 2002
    • Amazon Price (used): $1.79
    • Why It's On the List: Wooooooo!!!! Spooooooky!!!!! Brouhahaha!
    Worst book #1: Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun »
    • Title: Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun
    • Subtitle: Amazingly, non.
    • Author: Wess Roberts
    • Published in: 1990
    • Amazon Price (used): $.01
    • Why It's On the List: The apotheosis of corporate militarism. There were (and are) plenty of CEOs who think they're army commanders and who would be more than happy to lop off a few heads if it would make the other employees jump a little higher. It's that kind of thinking that's resulted in the myth of the all powerful CEO, with all the accompanying BS, like the obscenely high CEO salaries. CEOs are supposed to provide a service to their firms, not emulate dictator thugs.
    DEPARTMENT OF IRONY: I wrote another business book. It's called my new book How to Say It: Business to Business Selling available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Indiebound. Hopefully it won't ever end up on a list like this.
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