The Man Was Nuts (Hooray!)

I love words. Felicitous phrases. There’s one I can’t get out of my mind. You know, it keeps rolling around and rolling around like a favorite line or two from a song. In this case: “chimera of a moonstruck mind.” This hyper-critical phrase was used almost exactly 200 years ago by the “conservative” Federalist newspaper to describe the, in their minds, totally whacky latest move by the hated (by them) Thomas Jefferson. The dastardly deed by the “moonstruck” Jefferson? The Louisiana Purchase … in retrospect one of the Top 10 All-time Strategic Moves made by an American President. In terms of a near-spontaneous Presidential act which Changed Everything, maybe it’s a “Top 1” Strategic Move!

At any rate it reminds me—and I always need reminding—that the decisions that cause the world (of business, politics, whatever) to do backflips are almost always immediately judged as a “chimera of a moonstruck mind.” The re-evaluation as genius can take months to years to decades.

Which in turn reminds me, and admittedly it doesn’t take much, of my “deep concern” about most MBA programs—and consultants, for that matter. MBA programs, even those that nod in the direction of entrepreneurship, aim to throttle emotional decision making. (The label on the course package reads something like: Advanced Expected Value Analysis, 5 credit hours.) Consultants in turn (many suffering the aftereffects of MBAs!) offer rational, fact-based, “measured” advice. Consider: Hypothetical consultant to Steve Jobs, circa 1980: “Don’t mess with IBM, you idiot.” Consultants to Sears (on combating Wal*Mart … this truly happened): “Clean up your business processes.” MBA, considering whether or not to join Lewis and Clark on another of Jefferson’s “misguided” “chimeras”: “I’ll take the McKinsey offer instead. I’ll go hiking at age 40, when I’ve put a few mil away.”

Tom Peters posted this on September 17, 2004, in Strategies.
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