February 4, 2012

Douchebags A Go-Go, Part Deux: The Book That Inspired It All

A few short weeks ago, I viewed the pilot for Showtime's new series House of Lies, and enjoyed it....with some reservations. What the series did for me, of course, was encourage me to seek out and read the book that inspired the series.

If you're looking for a book that reflects the content of the series, well, this isn't it. However, Martin Kihn's House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time is one of the sharpest, most incisive - and biting - examinations of corporate culture and the corporate mindset, showing how people who enter a very lucrative profession often end up at risk of gaining the world, but losing their soul.

This is a much more picaresque novel, and unlike the series (which seems to be a fix-the-broken-company formula that takes stylistic cues from the BBC's Hustle), the book actually manages to draw blood. Ironically, given Mr. Kihn's past as a comedy writer, his ability to juxtapose the sole purpose of a consultant (namely, shift data around, write reports, and regurgitate back to a client) is mixed with a sharp, insightful examination of how that culture functions.

In many ways, Kihn uses corporate jargon (which is now coming increasingly cliche) as a way of examining the undercurrents of corporate culture. As someone who has worked/is working in that culture, his insights are dead-on, creating a portrait of a culture which is smooth, intelligent reading for anyone who is even interested.

(Now, many of you know why I prefer to work in non-profits; yes, there is dysfunciton, but as Kihn demonstrates throughout, corporate consultants tend to be a self-perpetuating system, operating solely as a way to generate income through meaningless "advising". Non-profits, at their best, have a core set of non-corporate values which they strive to work towards....and now Kihn has me using it).

So please, head to your local library or independent bookstore and grab a copy of House of Lies. It's actually one book that's better than the series.

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