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Seeing business through science. (WIP).

"There is nothing worse than half-baked business conclusions drawn from quarter-understood scientific ideas." As Richard Koch makes that proclamation on page 2 of The Natural Laws of Business: Applying the Theories of Darwin, Einstein and Newton to Achieve Business Success (Currency Doubleday; $24.95), it is clear he is fairly confident that his conclusions are fully baked and grounded in completely understood ideas. While one could quibble with the temporal shift in the names in his subtitle as being slightly less than rigorous in accuracy, by and large, this is a fascinating book, one that should be of interest to those who think primarily with either side of their brains (i.e., managers or engineers).

The book is organized into four sections. These can be mainly characterized as (1) Darwin; (2) Newton and Einstein; (3) chaos theory; (4) a 4.5-page section that doesn't bring anything to the otherwise intellectually engaging party. It should be noted that Koch also draws upon insights from a variety of lesser lights in the worlds of science and business as he puts forth some solid thinking that is helpful regardless of what you do to make a living.

Sometimes, authors of business books borrow a theme from another field in order to make their argument about something. This tends to be nothing more than a metaphor with nothing more than the flimsiest supports (i.e., some of the terminology from that field is used with a certain amount of authoritative abandon: witness the spate of books from a few-years back that talked about chaos and undecidability and the like written by people who don't know the difference between fractals and Fritos).

But Koch uses science to bolster his views of what people within organizations can do to gain competitive advantage. So from Darwin, for example, lessons include working to "Vary, reinvent, multiply, and vary again," (the fittest will survive) and on the personal level: "if you are faced with a failing business or a failing career, quit! Find a different environment and change your character to fit the new environment better than any rival." Which is decidedly Darwinian. Newton teaches you that mass and distance matter, so get big in your market and gain as much distance as you can from your competitors. And so on.

There is one recommendation that Koch draws from nonlinear natural laws that ought to be a way of life and work for all of us: "Keep yourself and your firm humble, service-oriented, focused, lean, and hungry. Eschew corporate complexity. Root out arrogance, greed, and complacency." Although I think that idea can be realized from books more oriented to theology than business or science, regardless of its source, it is a lesson to be learned.
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Title Annotation:Review; review of The Natural Laws of Business: Applying the Theories of Darwin, Einstein and Newton to Achieve Business Success
Author:Vasilash, Gary S.
Publication:Automotive Design & Production
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2001
Words:456
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