Andrea Mandel Campbell

April 22, 2008
We sympathize with Andrea’s argument, however must point out that we also believe that William Marsden’s excellent “Stupid to the last drop” bears on business and public policy, and we are delighted by the news that “[the] Critic of oilsands wins business book award — Montreal journalist William Marsden wins $20,000 prize”

The first B stands for ‘Bogus’
Andrea Mandel Campbell

(National Post) I must admit, I was a little disappointed that my book, Why Mexicans Don’t Drink Molson, didn’t make the shortlist for the National Business Book Awards announced this month. After all, it has been nominated for two other big prizes.
Now, I agree, just because I’ve spent the last year travelling nonstop, speaking to various business groups across the country, participating in government policy retreats and guest lecturing at some of the country’s leading business schools, doesn’t mean my book deserves a prize. But, as I read over the five nominees for the 2007 National Business Book Award, I can’t help noticing that there aren’t, well, any actual business books on the list.
For starters, Don Tapscott’s internationally acclaimed Wikinomics, about how Internet collaboration can increase product and service innovation, isn’t on the list either. Nor are any number of Canadian books, from billionaire entrepreneur Seymour Schulich’s tough love guide, Get Smarter, to Richard Haskayne’s Northern Tigers or The Opposable Mind by Roger Martin, dean of University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.
If none of these books are on the list, pray tell, then what is? Well, there’s a book about the court battle over Lord Beaver-brook’s art collection, and another on the role of guns in pop culture (yes, that’s right). Then there’s the subtly titled Stupid to the Last Drop, about the environmental Armageddon being wrought by the Alberta oil sands, followed by another environmental treatise about ecopioneers in 10 countries, which I am sure is very inspiring. And of course, the list would not be complete without the Canadian anti-capitalist poster girl, Naomi Klein, and her book, Shock Doctrine.
I am sure these are all fine books in their own way. But may I ask: Are they business books? You know, the kind that foment a sophisticated debate about the latest trends, ideas and thinking that are relevant to business. Not as far as I can tell, unless you include the 1960s-style rework of the Das Kapital genre.
In fact, not one of the nominees is even found in the business section at Chapters bookstore. Rather, they are variously categorized under cultural studies, biography and history and political science.
How did it happen that the shortlist for this country’s self-described “most prestigious” business book award, sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers and BMO Financial no less, looks like it came out of a university course on the Evils of Capitalism? If I were a conspiracy theorist like Naomi Klein, I would wonder whether this was an elaborate exercise on the part of Big Business to burnish its public relations credentials. But, alas, I am not.
So I decided to see who was on the jury. As it turns out, the five-member panel is made up of a librarian and president of something called Books for Business, two journalists (including CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge), and two kindly and long retired gentlemen: Bill Davis, a career politician and former Ontario premier who served as Canada’s Special Envoy on Acid Rain in the 1980s, and William Dimma, a career corporate director, and as far as I can tell, the only (very former) businessman of the bunch.
In case you don’t find anything particularly odd about this, let’s compare it to the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award.
Their 2007 panel included the CEOs and founders of some of the world’s leading companies –WPP, Infosys Technologies and Goldman Sachs. There was also a deputy governor of the Bank of England, a renowned trade and business professor at the Yale School of Management and the editor of the Financial Times, who, last I checked, writes about business for a living. What’s even more interesting is this year’s shortlist: Naomi Klein isn’t on it, but Don Tapscott sure is.
As far I knew, Canada was a member of the Group of Eight industrialized countries. You would think we could scare up a few heavy hitters — a couple of wildly successful businesspeople, a leading-edge academic thinker and maybe even a respected business journalist. The heads of PwC and BMO could even participate!
It is their award, after all.
For some reason, however, it seems there is a prevailing belief that businesspeople in this country can’t be trusted to have an adult conversation about business issues. Either that, or they just don’t have the cojones to take ownership of what is rightfully theirs.
Copyright © 2007 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.

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