Being Beta

Exercises in the higher banter with One of 26. Elsewhere called 'poet of adland'. By a whipple-squeezer. Find out why being beta is the new alpha: betarish at googlemail dot com

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

An industry is not a business

From pp 169-70 of John Lanchester's Whoops!:

There is a profound anthropological and cultural difference between an industry and a business. An industry is an entity which as its primary purpose makes or does something, and makes money as a byproduct... Money is a byproduct of the business, rather than its fundamental raison d'etre. Who goes to work in the morning thinking that the most important thing they're going to do that day is to maximize shareholder value?... But many of these enterprises are increasingly owned by people who view them not as industries, but as businesses: and the purpose of a business is, purely and simply, to make money... the return on capital is the most important fact, and the human and cultural details involved are just that no more than details.


Leaving aside the implicit category error that he makes between one and many (and the fact that his quasi-Marxian analysis only really emerges at the end of the book, after some proper gumshoe reporting), this broad point is, surely, correct. Why aren't there Masters of Industrial Administration rather than MBAs (and no, I'm not necessarily convinced that this rise of design education in business as done here and here and championed here is the answer.)

John Kay, in his upcoming Obliquity, will be expanding on this.

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