Death to All Sacred Cows: How Successful Business People Put the Old Rules Out to Pasture
by David Bernstein, Beau Fraser, and Bill Schwab
This book has received mixed reviews … everything from “totally worthless” to “memorable business book full of wisdom delivered with a wink.” Personally, I find any text generated on the subject of sacred cows is worth a glance, especially in today’s chaotic business environment when so many of those sacred cows are being eliminated by technology, competition, government regulations, budget, and customer demands.
A few years ago I wrote a review on another best seller, Sacred Cows Make the Best Burgers, which can be found on our website. Both books deal with a crucial subject we can no longer neglect and both publications used humor to drive home their messages. The authors of this book, however, may have gone a little overboard in their attempt to interject humor in every paragraph of every chapter introduction.
However, I learned many years ago that it’s near impossible to find an author who is capable of meeting your every need and requirement in their offering. Dealing with three authors makes it even more difficult. On the other hand, I will never pass up the opportunity to gain new knowledge simply because I’m not totally in agreement with something to do with the author … political affiliations, religious beliefs, sense of humor, business coalitions, etc. I’ve learned to overlook what I’m not comfortable with as I search for what may be beneficial for me in the future.
The three authors of this book, David Bernstein, Beau Fraser, and Bill Schwab, combine their talent and experience at their cutting-edge advertising agency, The Gate Worldwide, which has offices in New York, London, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Shanghai. They know of what they speak.
Their book is based on the assumption that most middle managers today are intellectually lazy, making decisions based on the comfort of long-established rules, formulas, actions … something they refer to as sacred cows. They go on to explain how to identify a sacred cow, why these plodding beasts hinder creativity and innovative thinking and ultimately the growth of your organization.
While there are obviously many sacred cows, the authors identify 19 of the most obvious (and a number of lesser indiscretions which they humorously refer to as sacred veal) and in detail, explain how each may negatively impact the organization and needs to die.
Here are just a few that you’ll learn about:
- “It’s okay to put up with jerks, if they’re talented.”
- “Teams create the best solutions.”
- “The customer is always right.”
- “Always trust your research.” Don’t forget Henry Ford’s famous quote, “If I asked my customers what they wanted, they would’ve said a faster horse.”
- “Don’t screw up.”
- “Everyone deserves a second chance.”
- “E-mail saves time.”
- “Learn to multitask.”
- “The sales force makes the sale.”
If you take just a moment to focus on your own work environment, I’m sure you’ll quickly acknowledge the existence of a good many sacred cows grazing lazily in the halls of corporate America.
The authors will reveal how to not only identify sacred cows but how to kill them … and they don’t stop there. They’ll also reveal brilliant alternatives that will help make your business more profitable, productive and innovative.
This bovine-bashing book will put a smile on your face one minute and then cause you to pause to ponder the existence of sacred cows in your own herd the next minute. The key, of course, is your own decision to take action on what you learn.
(This book review was originally published in 2008 as one of the Top 10 Books – Edition 18.)