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Thursday, 28 October 2010

Bean-Counter Management Madness: take care of the details and let other people drone on about strategy

Ever wondered how U.S. lawyers are able to extract lunatic sums of money for the smallest injuries?

Why do supermarkets put the booze at the last aisle? How could Eurostar have saved a few billion - and made passengers wish the journey was longer?

How could people think a thumping great big Rolls Royce Phantom is actually a good deal at £327,000? Why do you sell more TV sets when your ad appears on a page selling holidays? How do hotels get people to reuse their towels?

These are just a few of the subjects Rory Sutherland covered with us yesterday evening.

In fact he entertained us yesterday for 79 minutes without a single note - in the process revealing quite a few things I didn't know, one of which I found deeply depressing.

It seems Britain has a higher proportion of firms run by financial people than any other country. That explains a lot - like why we're in such a mess.

He gave quite a number of reasons - and some telling examples - to prove that in this and quite a few other ways the way things are run is stupid.

He showed why numbers are often a dreadful basis on which to make decisions; that people rarely if ever act for logical reasons and that attention to detail is often far more effective than strategy if you want to make more money.

I didn't give him a brief - just asked him to make single helpful suggestion. After all, if you do just one important thing better next year than this, you'll probably outperform your competitors.

His plea was that firms ought to have a director of detail, and have one meeting a year devoted to nothing but detail. Few people worry more about things that are really quite unimportant than your aged correspondent, so Amen to that.

If ever you want your mind stretched a lot of laughs, some hilarious examples and a fair old dollop of good ideas, try and see him one day if you possibly can .

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