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Fictions of Business: Insights on Management from Great Literature.

Robert A. Brawer. Fictions of Business: Insights on Management from Great Literature. New York: Wiley, 1998.

Looking for business insights? Forget the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and even the bestseller The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. If you really want to discover new management perspectives you ought to turn to Arthur Miller, David Mamet, Chaucer, and Bernard Shaw -- authors who, in addition to sharing their perceptions of the business world, created literary works that most readers will enjoy. So claims Robert A. Brawer, a former CEO of Maidenform Worldwide and before that a teacher of English literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Brawer believes that great novels and plays are an excellent untapped resource for managers seeking answers to the problems posed by the world of work. Using examples drawn from great literature, the author explores a variety of business themes such as the struggle for power and control in corporate hierarchies, the conflicting claims that personal and organizational values make on the lives of workers, and the operation of the principle of the survival of the fittest in a Darwinian business world. He also includes examples from his own business life to make various points. I was particularly intrigued by the story of Ida Rosenthal, a cofounder of Maidenform and one of the three original developers of the first uplift bra, who showed over seventy years ago that a woman can be as tough and as smart as a man in running a company.

Brawer writes knowledgeably and skillfully about business and literature and makes us rethink the notion that one is the "real world" and the other is "make-believe." And as a bonus he offers a section titled "A Working Man and Woman's Guide to Further Reading" that summarizes and lists books that stimulated his thinking about human problems and issues in corporate life (included is one of my all time favorite stories "The Catbird Seat" by James Thurber).

The next time you feel a need to pick up a self-help, inspirational, or how-to manual to help with a business problem stop and ask yourself, "Wouldn't there be more to gain from reading Death of a Salesman, The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit, or Babbitt?" Then go down to the library and get those books.
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Title Annotation:Review
Publication:ETC.: A Review of General Semantics
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 22, 1999
Previous Article:The Power of Metaphor in the Age of Electronic Media.

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