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Don’t dumb down — brain up!

HeffernanHere is a brief excerpt from article written by Margaret Heffernan for CBS MoneyWatch, the CBS Interactive Business Network. To check out an abundance of valuable resources and obtain a free subscription to one or more of the website’s newsletters, please click here.

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(MoneyWatch) The leadership thinker Sally Helgesen recently wrote about a common experience she has in working with large companies that seek her insight. What they wanted, she said, was a “few simple takeaways” — things they could implement right away. What they didn’t want was anything complicated.

This made Helgesen uncomfortable, and it should. For years now, there has been a marked increase in what I think of as recipe books for managers: A few short steps and you can cook up a stunning success. Such works follow firmly in the footsteps of cooking, diet and fitness books, appearing to offer total transformation in a few quick and easy methods.

They are all frauds. As Helgesen reflects, the world has not become simpler but more complex. The issues we all confront — globalization, volatility, disruptive technologies, blind spots, biases — don’t make thinking less necessary, but more so. Such challenges aren’t susceptible to quick fixes. No business is immune to them, and I don’t know of a single company that has found a replicable way of handling them. In other words, however much Helgesen’s consulting clients might yearn for simplicity, they should be very suspicious if anybody offers it to them.

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To read the complete article, please click here.

Margaret Heffernan has been CEO of five businesses in the United States and United Kingdom. A speaker and writer, her most recent book Willful Blindness was shortlisted for the Financial Times Best Business Book 2011. Visit her on www.MHeffernan.com.

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