Why strategy books are more interesting than self-help books

Self-help is a huge genre of business books. They mostly leave me flat.

I admit I’m biased. I started with advantages both economic and talentwise. I’ve always believed I could do things — at least academic and career-type things — so doubt was rarely a problem.

But put my biases aside for a moment. I need to know: why are there so many self-help books?

How many ways are there to tell you to believe in yourself, and to be yourself?

How many ways are there to tell you to “find your passion?”

How many methods are there for getting and staying organized?

Part of the challenge is the lack of change. People have always felt self-doubt. They have always had problems getting organized. They have always suffered from anxiety, depression, and dreadful, repetitive, uninspiring jobs.

What new solutions exist for these age-old problems, and why didn’t anybody figure them out before?

Strategy presents an endless collection of new ideas

In contrast to the worker’s human condition, strategy lives in an always changing environment.

The nature of competition changes continually, driven by evolving regulation and technology. What made your company successful last year won’t work so well five years from now.

Technology generates rapidly growing startup competitors and new ways of connecting with customers.

Disruption might as well be shorthand for “Well, need another new strategy.”

Global conditions keep shifting. A decades-long trend towards global supply chains and exporting jobs overseas is reversing — COVID showed the weakness in those strategies.

Consumer tastes keep shifting.

Marketing strategies keep emerging.

Macroeconomic conditions fluctuate.

Environmental conditions keep changing.

Strategies shift not just overall, but within industries. Think how different financial services is in the wake of the Internet. Or retail in the wake of online suppliers. Or manufacturing in a world of 3D modeling and 3D printing.

Strategy books become obsolete after a while. There’s always a need for new ones. There are always new ideas emerging to deal with new conditions.

That’s why I find strategy books endlessly fascinating and self-help books repetitive and boring.

Do you agree?

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