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Beware Icarus Wannabes

The risks of over-confidence, micro decisions and useless business lingo in our round-up of professor blogs


London Business School’s Freek Vermeulen warns businesses off being “Icarus Wannabes” in his blog “Random Rantings”. More than half the Fortune 100 companies around in 1966 had disappeared by 2006, he notes: “For a variety of industries, very successful firms have trouble staying successful”, due to “blindness to the dangers of continuing a previously successful course of action for too long”. Icarus was a figure in Greek mythology whose over-confidence led to his death: “the same thing that had made Icarus successful is what led to his downfall”.
In “time compression diseconomies” Vermeulen encourages slow and steady growth. He uses his own childhood attempt to master the cello to show how businesses may fail to achieve as much by compressing growth into a short period of time as when they spread efforts out over a longer period.
Also on sustainable business growth, Professor Tom Davenport of Babson College discusses ways to improve “micro decisions” for better “macro impact.” In his blog “The Next Big Thing”. Davenport stresses the importance of “micro decisions” that can be the “difference between sloppy and effective execution, and between profit and loss”.
“Yes, but what’s the value add to take away from your presentation?” is a posh (and irritating) way of saying “I don't understand”, according to online music entrepreneur David Silverman. Silverman lists the ten most pompous business phrases. In his blog on Harvard Business Publishing. The list includes the terms “value add”, “people manager” (“As opposed to ‘goldfish supervisor’?”), and “at the end of day”.
Silverman also scorns over-use of the word “individual”. He sees it as a way to “distance the speaker from actual people”. Readers added their own most-hated business vocab, including “that being said” and “strategic”.

Peter Bregman’s “Need to Find a Job? Stop Looking So Hard”, is the second most read article on Harvard Business Publishing, reflecting as it does many people’s current concern. Bregman uses examples of his friends to show that it is a great strategy to pursue something one truly loves when nobody is hiring.

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