The reason *insert label* talk about gurus is because they can’t spell the word charlatan

A little while ago, I was sparked by Dilbert and my own prejudice against external consultants to contribute two posts (1 and 2) critical of the assumptions underlying the idea of and the contribution of such folk. In some thesis reading today, I came across this great quote the continues my basic assumption of the basic silliness of a reliance on external consultants.

the reason American businessmen talk about gurus is because they can’t spell the word charlatan — (Micklethwait & Wooldridge 1996:11)

I came across the quote and the reference to the book it came from while reading Weick and Quinn (1999) which appears, so far, to be a very interesting paper around organisational change. More on this soon, I think.

According to the Amazon reviews, the “Witch Doctors” book (Micklethwait and Wooldridge, 1996) looks kind of interesting as well. Not the least of the reasons is that I expect you could see some correlations between the management gurus and e-learning/university gurus.

Dave Snowden jokes that consultants and their ideas infect business first. Then, just as or after they fail, they flee to infect governments. Birnbaum (2000) suggests that they then move from government into universities (e.g. TQM). A sentiment which my experience supports.


Birnbaum, R. (2000). Management Fads in Higher Education: Where They Come From, What They Do, Why They Fail. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass.

Micklethwait, J. Wooldridge, A. (1996). The Witch Doctors: Making sense of management gurus, Three Rivers Press

Weick, K. and R. Quinn (1999). “Organizational change and development.” Annual Review of Psychology 50: 361-386.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s