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Top 5 Totally Useless Business Experts

The world economy has been thrown into turmoil because a business expert decided to downgrade the credit rating of the United States. Unfortunately, business experts are often wrong, and some of them are wrong far more than they're right.

This post describes the five most useless experts in the business world. Chances are that one (or more) of them is busily ruining your company, your career, or your economy, so best you be able to spot them as quickly as you can!

To see the first useless expert, click on the green NEXT button to the right.


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Useless Expert #1: Management Consultant
These are the vampires of the corporate world. They latch onto a corporate artery (usually a C-level exec) and then use the management fad du jour to set up dozens of meetings where they provide mountains of unwanted and unneeded advice. At the same time, they neatly remove themselves from any responsibility for results. If something bad happens, it's because you didn't follow their advice carefully enough. If something good happens, well, you know...

I personally watched McKinsey suck $2 million in blood money out of an engineering budget inside a company on the verge of major layoffs. And that was just the direct cost of the consulting. The lost opportunity cost was probably in the order of $10 million more. The result of this vast effort? A 60 page collection of irrelevant piffle, which ended up sitting, unread, on the CEO's desk, while he prepared his golden parachute.

True story.

Useless Expert #2: Corporate Psychic
Yes, Virginia, there are actually companies who hire psychics to help them come up with a workable business strategy. It's not a surprising concept, when you realize that a third of the population of the United States believes in astrology, while another fifth is "unsure" whether it's real. That lines up with other frightening statistics, such as the fact that half the population believes in ghosts.

Under the circumstance, if anything is surprising, it's that there aren't more companies who have psychics on staff, using their mystical powers to predict the future of the stock market, the location of likely sales leads, the probable success of various products, and so forth. And, apparently, they're really good a sussing out hidden agendas even in impossible circumstances. In one company, a psychic was actually rumored to have gotten sales and marketing to work more closely together (!!!)

But perhaps I'm being unfair. Given the record of some of the other experts in this post, I'll bet that the psychics are probably as accurate as the rest of the crowd.

Useless Expert #3: Industry Analyst
Back in the day, I used to hire industry analysts to do market research for a Fortune 50 company. Then, for ten years, I did freelance work for three major industry analyst firms. I can tell you with the authority of an insider, that most industry analysts (in the computer business at least) don't know their corporate assets from a hole in the ground.

While some of these experts are intelligent, their business model is based upon telling you exactly what you want to hear. Providing you pay them. And I'm not kidding.

The only way to make sure that industry analysts don't print bad things about you is to buy their subscription service and then treat them to paid vacations (ooops! I mean "briefings") and plenty of free gifts (ooops! I mean "evaluation copies").

My wife is still using a Toshiba laptop I got for free in 1999, at a luxury hotel, in February, in warm and sunny Southern California. Note: I tried to send it back, but there was nobody willing to take it.

In fact, the lack of ethics in that field is the primary reason I got out of the industry analyst biz. By contrast, as a journalist and blogger for CBS, I'm contractually forbidden from accepting anything free. Which is, of course, exactly as it should be.

Useless Expert #4: Credit Rater
Last week, S&P downgraded the U.S. credit rating from AAA, causing vast turmoil in the worldwide economy. What's hilarious about this is that S&P should have absolutely no credibility whatsoever with anybody. Like their credit rating counterparts elsewhere, these guys are usually so completely wrong about risk that it's amazing anybody still takes them seriously.

As economist Paul Krugman points out in today's New York Times, S&P "played a major role in causing [the 2008] crisis, by giving AAA ratings to mortgage-backed assets that have since turned into toxic waste." S&P also "gave Lehman Brothers, whose collapse triggered a global panic, an A rating right up to the month of its demise." Heck, even the report that downgraded the U.S. debt from AAA had a $2 trillion error.

Can you spell "bozos", boys and girls?

Note: Did you catch the hideous mustache on the S&P exec who announced the downgrade? Hard to believe that anyone would take seriously the opinions of a guy who would go out in public looking like a two-bit actor playing Hitler in a B-movie:

Useless Expert #5: Corporate Pastor
It's not as if the workplace isn't confusing already. Why not add a patina of religiousity just to round things out?

According to the Corporate Chaplains of America, a corporate pastor provides many of the functions of a corporate psychologist. However, whatever training these individuals get will naturally be heavy on the theology and light on practical business knowledge. As such, while a corporate pastor may come up with some practical advice, it's going to be leavened with the same kind of supernaturalism that's espoused by corporate psychics.

There is however, one sense in which a corporate pastor may be useful. It's definitely in the interests of management to keep employees focused on the afterlife rather than on pesky real-life issues like unionizing and working conditions.