Behind the scenes in business and academia

On Monday David Brooks argued that a major reason for the cultural divide between business and academia is that successful business people are dull:

“The C.E.O.’s that are most likely to succeed are humble, diffident, relentless and a bit unidimensional. They are often not the most exciting people to be around.

For this reason, people in the literary, academic and media worlds rarely understand business.”

Hmm, that’s funny. The same traits Brooks argues are essential to success as a CEO: “attention to detail, persistence, efficiency, analytic thoroughness and the ability to work long hours”, sound a lot like the description of a typical engineering professor. Hard work is universal to success in most fields, whether it’s business, biology, or haute cuisine. Behind the scenes are the unglamorous, tedious tasks that most people never see (and don’t really want to see). Brooks is right that some academics do perceive the business world as boring. But not because business requires diligence, focus, and incremental efforts to succeed. Those are things academics can relate to quite well.