b-school, HRM, Management, MBA, Personal, Thoughts

Experiment: a management lesson from Porter (Cole, not Michael)

This week I’ve been listening to Cole Porter’s songs while driving to work.The Mobile World Congress 2008 has been clogging the traffic around Barcelona these days. Believe me, that has meant that I’ve had a lot of time while going to the airport. I happened to record a CD with a lot his songs and, one of them, simply surprised me: an unexpected snippet of wisdom.

It’s related to what I call ossification.

Ossification can happen in organisations, or to people. We tend to get used to the same thing, that we do increasingly efficiently.

Don’t you wish you were given the same assignment, the same topic, the same customer year after year? That would surely boost your ease and ability to achieve it. The customer would get to know you better and better… more trust, and you’d face that fright to a blank sheet no more.

But, as every good thing in life, that would also come with a trade off. You’d become less versatile, less adaptable.

You’d build muscle, yes, but your joints would calcify, become increasingly stable and unimaginative. You’d simply trade safety for vitality, stability for adaptability.

That means that not only your profit would increase but also your costs, albeit you wouldn’t perceive it, specially your opportunity costs (the gains you could have obtained if you had chosen the best available option). And your employability would decrease.

Finally, on the long run, there would be an expected outcome, that would not be the best possible outcome. Just imagine.


The treatment… that’s when Cole Porter, a composer and song writer that was born in 1891 and died in 1964 comes into play. There’s a simple but sound advice in this song. Think and reflect about it.

by Cole Porter
Before you leave these portals
to meet less fortunate mortals,
there’s just one final message I would give to you.

You all have learned reliance
on the sacred teachings of science,
so I hope through life you never will decline,
in spite of philistine defiance,
to do what all good scientists do.

Make it your motto day and night.

And it will lead you to the light.

The apple on the top of the tree
is never too high to achieve.
So take an example from Eve.


Be curious,
Though interfering friends may frown.

Get furious,
At each attempt to hold you down.

If this advice you’ll only employ,
the future can offer you infinite joy
and merriment.

and you’ll see.


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