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Chapter 1

The Challenge to Mainstream Businesses

With deep respect and a little nostalgia I look back at the 1990s and recall the first days of each year’s Mid-Tier President’s Course at Harvard. Shortly after the second break, a cloud would lift in the sanctuary of the classroom, after twenty or so CEOs, presidents, and general managers had revealed a hidden secret: No one had a clear idea about how to do his job.

More recently, it occurred to me that a related irony runs through many business books, the kinds of books that people who run businesses, or aspire to run them, read to relieve their anxieties. But a lot of those books have less relevance than we think, particularly those written by ex-Fortune 500 CEOs and their consultants ...

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