Simplicity and cohesion

“Knowledge is what you still know after you have forgotten all the facts”. A notable statement from the famous American scholar, Howard Gardner, professor of cognitive psychology and pedagogy at Harvard University. As the author of sixteen books and hundreds of scientific articles about intelligence and education, you could mistakenly put him among intellectuals who complain bitterly about the lack of factual knowledge amongst many people. Gardner, however, does exactly the opposite. He expressly points out the danger of giving greater value to factual knowledge than insight and understanding. “I would much prefer that visitors to the Anne Frank House appreciate and understand how terrible it is to have to go into hiding than that they exactly remember afterwards when the Frank family was betrayed and picked up by the Gestapo. This date can always be looked up. Insight and understanding, on the other hand, cannot”.

When we examine existing literature that covers management, it seems as if this idea has not yet trickled through. Innumerable thick books focus on bundling together as many facts as possible. Few strive for simplicity and good organisation. It should, however, be stressed that this is not an easy thing to do. In con-trast to older sciences such as mathematics and biology, few seem to bother about a standard framework of terminology that everyone can agree to. A consequence of this is that a multitude of terms is doing the rounds that essentially mean the same (examples are terms such as output, outcome, result, product and service). Another issue is that knowledge is often fragmentarily presented. Many subdisciplines are involved that continue to develop within their own frameworks often without further harmonisation while the domains are linked to each other to a large extent (such as, for example, information management, knowledge management, communication management and human resources management).

And yet, many managers feel the need for a simple, cohesive and consistent picture of the most important fundamentals of the management profession. Where a multitude of loose facts is not the important issue but good access and immediate applicable knowledge modules are. This book makes an attempt to fill this gap.

In a world in which people, and most certainly managers, have less and less time to read and acquire knowledge, we use a number of starting points with regard to the organisation of The Art of Management.

We are most interested in simplicity. We constantly strive to make things as easy as possible while still guarding that we do not represent issues too simply. We also base ourselves on cohesion. We use known and recognised models as the consistent reference framework as much as possible. We also strongly believe in using graphical representation. An effective picture or figures is often a powerful tool to show the essence in a succinct way.

The combination of the book and the digital publications on the Internet is special in relation to the organisation of The Art of Management. We believe that books and the Internet are different media and that both have their strengths. They do not mutually exclude each other but, on the contrary, they supplement each other. A book as you have currently in front of you, is large and well-organised, can be easily taken with you and is comfortable to read. The Internet, on the other hand, is not. The Internet, however, does provide a lot more information, is often faster and more accurate and can be better used as a reference or search instrument in relation to specific details. We have also set up a website to ensure we use the strengths of both media. Our site contains relevant links and literature that has been classified using the same method as the sections of this book. You can, moreover, also ask questions and make remarks that the authors and co-visitors will see.

To conclude, this book should not be didactical in a pedantic way but should inspire. Often it is not the smartest teachers who teach best, but those who know how to inspire their students. This is why we are sometimes told that “learning is not about filling the gaps but about passion”. We hope that this book will provide be a ray of hope in the turbulent world of the modern manager.

Dr. Marcel Nieuwenhuis