The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly – a gentle review

The Dream ManagerThe Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Richard Dawkins says in his Devil’s Chaplain:

Dawkins’ Law of the Conservation of Difficulty states that obscurantism in an academic subject expands to fill the vacuum of its intrinsic simplicity. Physics is a genuinely difficult and profound subject, so physicists need to – and do – work hard to make their language as simple as possible (‘but no simpler,’ rightly insisted Einstein). Other academics – some would point the finger at continental schools of literary criticism and social science – suffer from what Peter Medawar (I think) called Physics Envy. They want to be thought profound, but their subject is actually rather easy and shallow, so they have to language it up to redress the balance.

I’ve found a similar “Law” with too many business books. The less substantive, the more an author wants to dress up the product with, well, dressings. With parable/story presentations, the sad truth is that any real message is obscured in trite contrivances that are almost insulting to anyone with any intelligence (think Blanchard’s One- Minute fluff). When I see

“The secret within this story unveils…”

and the last line of the introduction

“…you are about to discover something that will change your life forever.”

… warning bells scream at me.

In setting the story, one character (the owner) can’t figure out why his hypothetical company has high turnover, and a manager says, “Let’s find out why.” The owner character asks, “How?” and the manager says, “We’ll ask them.”

“Huh!” grunted Greg. Clearly, this idea had never occurred to him.

Well…I suppose there are entrepreneurs who have been gifted with maybe a trust fund and have never had to have a tangible thought with respect to leading people and actually managing a company, but that pomposity in a modern age won’t get you far. Probably to some elected office, maybe, but that far.

So… this gem screamed at me:

In many ways, we are our dreams. But people stop dreaming because they get caught up in the hustle and bustle of surviving. And once we stop dreaming, we start to lead lives of quiet desperation, and little by little the passion and energy begin to disappear from our lives.

Yep. “Quiet desperation”. But that didn’t scream as loudly as

We all need it. Taking this kob has made me see that I need a Dream Manager, too. Everyone needs a Dream Manager. To a certain extent, we can do it for ourselves. But we all need someone who can help us articulate our dreams, determine the priority of our dreams, pull together a plan for the fulfillment of those dreams, and hold us accountable on a regular basis for the actions that help us achieve our dreams or hold us back from our dreams.

And that folks, is how you promote your cottage industry providing Dream Manager certification. The formula is time worn: take an established concept (let’s say… mentor), give it a new name (let’s say… Dream Manager), make up a bunch of (obviously contrived and unsubstantiated so as to avoid direct critique) revelations, and…voilà! Three page tracts don’t make money, but if you fluff them out to book size, you can!

The problem with this, as with similar compositions, is that the author oversimplifies and idealizes to hawk the product – “See how great these groundbreaking, life-changing, unbelievably so not intuitively obvious ideas are?!” (my words, not a quote from the book) – and even a dedicated reader is hard pressed to extract anything of value from this. (“Productivity is up. Costs are down. Who would have thought that these would be the benefits of teaching our employees to dream a little?” His words, quote from the book. Oh, please.)

There are no references or citations in this book. No backup. That belies any attempt at credibility, and it really is just one guy talking out loud (okay, writing out loud.) To anyone who has read anything about emotional intelligence (hopefully not, shudder, Goleman), or leadership, or even a good management book, nothing here will be new. And more than a little of it will be annoying.

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