Consultants, if they are wise, limit their claims of expertise to just those subjects in which no one else can claim to know what they are doing.


Martin Seligman, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, launched his career by administering painful electric shocks to dogs to determine what causes mammals to succumb to despair. He coined the term “learned helplessness,” wrote a book about it, and got hired by the CIA to help put together its “enhanced interrogation” program. Then he got himself elected president of the American Psychological Association (APA).

Always a man with a sense of the well-timed career move, he used his new role at the APA to shift focus. At his ...

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