I read this book for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted over at My Reader’s Block from January 1 – December 31, 2017. The challenge is to read books that you already own.
Flavor of the Month: Why Smart People Fall for Fads - Joel Best
The author defines “fads” as institutional vogues, not crazes such as pokemon go or juju on the beat. So readers that work in schools at all levels may be interested in his observation that administrators in education don’t feel like “real managers” so they are susceptible to fads from the private sector.
The search for the one true panacea for deep-seated educational problems leads to a dissipation of energy and effort in the schools, not to mention a significant waste of time and money. Such waste and resulting demoralization and apathy due to management fads often occur in the private sector, but “failure has no father” so we don’t hear obituaries about Six Sigma, business process reengineering, matrix management, management by consensus, total quality management, core competency, management by objectives, and searching for excellence.
It is because educators don’t know about the skeletons in the management fad closets that they feel like amateurs compared to the steely-eyed captains of the private sector. Anybody with any sense stops listening when they hear some rich man who wants to be king is going to “run government like a business.”
Best argues from examples that there are three stages to institutional fads. First, a problem is identified and a new solution devised, both forming a TED Talk-type narrative story to be sold by slick promoters to sell books and extrovert careerists within the organization looking to get ahead. After all, there are livings to be made in the advancement of fads. Second, momentum builds as the narrative spreads, because of endless American-style optimism and fear of the career-sinking reputation as a stick in the mud and not a team-player. Third, after countless hours and dollars, the narrative is let go because of disappointing results, staleness, or the next big thing comes along.
Best provides the basic advice that we Doubting Thomases already know, either by temperament or bitter experience. Don’t forget what happened last time and remind other people – tactfully – of lessons learned. Demand astonishing evidence for astonishing claims. Always insist on persuasive evidence. Don’t fear being left behind. Be alert, especially to signs that people are jumping off the bandwagon.
Readers who will like this book include teachers and staff in education and students in fields like communication, sociology, anthropology, history, and, of course, English, because English majors should know a little about everything and cultivate a skeptical frame of mind.