Jess Whittlestone, writing for Quartz, (May 29, 2015) makes an argument that business books can be misleading by promoting the message “that anyone can be successful if they just understand what it takes, and follow the key steps.” Ultimately, business books can “end up perpetuating a number of harmful misconceptions about what it means to achieve success.” Here are the three misconceptions she outlines:

Misconception #1: The best way to understand high performance is to study successful people and organizations. Example, one big problem with In Search of Excellence, is that the research only looked at successful companies. “Knowing that all successful companies have something in common tells us nothing unless we also know that unsuccessful companies lack those things.”

Misconception #2: Success is a sign of capability. “We might think that as long as we compare successful companies with unsuccessful ones, and ensure our data are uncontaminated by the halo effect, then we can truly uncover the secrets of success. But this relies on a crucial assumption: that success is, in fact, a signal of high capabilities.”

Misconception #3: If we look hard enough, we can find a formula for success. “The key reason there’s no formula for success in business is that success is relative, not absolute.”

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