It is one of the paradoxes of the modern life that as science advances and our knowledge of the world around us improves, so the more we call on the irrational for help. How else can we explain the western world's growing attachment to the pseudo-sciences of horoscopes, psychics et al?
In fact the paradox is easily explained. As knowledge advances, so we realise how little we know and call on 'other forces' for help. As in our personal lives, so in business - hence the insatiable demand among corporate chiefs for the next great piece of management thinking.
Just as one of the attractions of psychics is the fact that they are not rooted in the real world, so - historically - with many management gurus.
One of the attractions of the new generation of gurus, however, as outlined in Stuart Crainer's compelling cover story (page 30), is that they are more practically minded than ever before. One important consequence of this is their preference for dealing in straightforward terminology.
The six selected here are also distinguished by other characteristics, perhaps the most important of which is their collective focus on the human side of business enterprise and the importance of corporate culture. When all is said and done, corporations are collections of individuals and it is the interaction between them that creates that culture and, ultimately, is more important than any mechanistic process.
Just what shapes a corporation is also the subject of a fascinating work by the American management thinker Jerry Porras. His technique is to marry the rigour of a historian with that of an organisational behaviourist to work out why some companies succeed and others fail (page 38).
Balancing work and home
If re-engineering and de-layering were the management mantras of the early '90s, so the late '90s are characterised by an emphasis on human capital - and not before time. But the human capital - that's you, dear reader - is stretched and strained as never before.
As a consequence, many individuals are beginning to question long-held assumptions about the balance between work and home. Over a quarter of male employees under 45, according to a recent survey, do not feel family life and career progression are compatible in their current position.
If human capital is their most precious asset, employers need to take account of this. Striking the right balance is probably the most important issue confronting us today.
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