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Why Smart Executives Fail: And What You Can Learn from Their Mistakes Hardcover – June 2, 2003

4.4 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Is there a more timely topic for a business book than brilliant executives running their companies into the ground? Dartmouth business professor Finkelstein has been on the case for six years, researching how otherwise intelligent people can manage to botch things up. Here, he dredges up old corporate screwups (like R. J. Reynolds's smokeless cigarettes) and new ones, too (WorldCom and Tyco, among others). There's a certain amount of schadenfreude involved, as the author crisply and incisively picks apart disaster after disaster, but the lessons drawn from this lengthy study are, for the most part, vastly unsurprising. While each company profiled tends to fail in its own way, there are common traits among top execs, such as a propensity to eliminate "anyone who isn't 100 percent behind them" and to "underestimate major obstacles." While Finkelstein suggests avoiding such destructive behaviors, the truth is, sometimes it's human nature to be blind to one's own weaknesses. And that's a mystery no book can fully deconstruct.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


" Casting off standard management fare, Finkelstein has raised eyebrows with his unconventional research.... lessons are more profound say students." -- Business Week, June 9, 2003

"...managers might be better advised to contemplate how companies fail...Finkelstein identifies 'seven habits of spectacularly unsuccessful people...'" -- The London Times, June 5, 2003

"Sydney Finkelstein...[conducted]...the largest and most comprehensive study of business failure...The result is a treasure trove of blunders." -- Financial Times, May 12, 2003

"Watch the parade of corporate disasters that passes through...'Truly colossal blunders don't come in isolation, they come in clusters.'" -- The Economist, May 31, 2003

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 318 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio Hardcover; First Edition edition (June 2, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591840104
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591840107
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #315,685 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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