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The Invisible Powers: The Language of Business Hardcover – 1 May 1999

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Lexington Books (1 May 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0739100734
  • ISBN-13: 978-0739100738
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 2.5 x 23.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,036,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

John Clancy has provided the unexpected. He has written a literate businessman's guide to the language of business. In addition to being an enjoyable read, it should sharpen the ability of executives to communicate. -- Murray Weidenbaum, Director of the Center for Study of American Business, St. Louis A very rare book by a very rare man-a thorough, careful scholar and a highly successful executive. Clancy advances our understanding of organizations and their leaders through an impressive synthesis of knowledge. Both academics and professional managers will enjoy and learn from his efforts. -- Walter Nord, Professor of Organization Psychology at the John M. Olin School of Business This is an erudite book about business. If you believe that the purpose of business-your business-is obvious, you need to read this book to broaden and deepen your thinking. As you read, you will feel challenged to decide if these different ways of looking at business (paradigms) are somehow compatible or are mutually exclusive as Clancy contends. If one blind man (any one of us) were to examine an elephant (business) from three different approaches (paradigms), what opinion about the nature of elephants (business) would result? Written by a thoughtful businessman who appreciates the importance of business, this book helps us to think about [this question]: What is the real justification for business to exist? -- Armand C. Stalnaker, professor of management, Graduate School of Business Administration, Washington University For those who enjoy the ebb and flow of the business world and live by its tides, Clancy has written a fascinating book. From metaphors to mergers, from metaphysics to megabucks, he presents an interesting insight into the jargon of the trade. For the thinking people in the business world, and for all those who would like to join that elite group, The Invisible Powers has all the earmarks of a classic cult work. It's a twenty-game winner. Don't miss it. -- J. Frank Cashen, Executive Vice President, General Manager, and Chief Operating Officer, New York Mets

About the Author

John J. Clancy is an information systems industry executive who spent twenty-five years with a major corporation in R&D, sales, marketing, and general management.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Allen Baird on 12 Jan. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Why isn't this book more widely read and known? I don't know. It's a masterpiece, a unique blend of business, philosophy and other goodies. Many books try to explain the how of business; few take a step back as ask what business is. Clancy analyses this question by examining the way business leaders describe what they see themselves as doing, particularly in their speeches. The results are remarkable.

We know that business can be described as journey, as game and as war. He also considers how a business structure can be viewed as a machine, as an organism or as a society. Finally, different leaders see the purpose of business as the production of goods/services, as the production of wealth or the productions of an institution. This is the basic breakdown of the book. At the end of each chapter Clancy offers a summary of the salient points.

I won't rehearse these points. I will make it clear that Clancy is not operating at the level of mere rhetoric or catchphrases here. Metaphors are reflectors and even creators of reality. They tell us something deep about the mind and worldview of the user. They carry along with them numerous 'entailments' or implications which can be connecting or dangerously inappropriate (28). For businesspeople, the utilised metaphor is both "a reflection and a prime determinate" of their intellectual framework.

But what do these powerful metaphors actually do in business? Three areas came immediately to my mind. First, in business ethics, someone who is working within a game paradigm might view 'business bluffing' differently that an opponent who does not (see famous article by Albert Z Carr).
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Phenomenal 17 Nov. 1999
By Lee Wenzel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I read this book 6 years ago and can still outline his major points for you at a party, as I've done several times. Absolutlely phenomenal insight into what drives different organizations. His methodology of analyzing CEO speeches to identify the metaphors that define the rules and systems governing different organizations is insightful and to be replicated as a methodology, apart from the insights discovered from the analysis.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A powerful analysis of the invisible powers that govern the visible hands of business 7 Nov. 2013
By Allen Baird - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Why isn't this book more widely read and known? I don't know. It's a masterpiece, a unique blend of business, philosophy and other goodies. Many books try to explain the how of business; few take a step back as ask what business is. Clancy analyses this question by examining the way business leaders describe what they see themselves as doing, particularly in their speeches. The results are remarkable.

We know that business can be described as journey, as game and as war. He also considers how a business structure can be viewed as a machine, as an organism or as a society. Finally, different leaders see the purpose of business as the production of goods/services, as the production of wealth or the productions of an institution. This is the basic breakdown of the book. At the end of each chapter Clancy offers a summary of the salient points.

I won't rehearse these points. I will make it clear that Clancy is not operating at the level of mere rhetoric or catchphrases here. Metaphors are reflectors and even creators of reality. They tell us something deep about the mind and worldview of the user. They carry along with them numerous 'entailments' or implications which can be connecting or dangerously inappropriate (28). For businesspeople, the utilised metaphor is both "a reflection and a prime determinate" of their intellectual framework.

But what do these powerful metaphors actually do in business? Three areas came immediately to my mind. First, in business ethics, someone who is working within a game paradigm might view 'business bluffing' differently that an opponent who does not (see famous article by Albert Z Carr). Second, speaking of opponents, someone who has taken Sun Tzu for their guru (Gordon Gekko for instance) will possess a different motivation than a jolly journeyman-adventurer. Finally, corporate culture is shaped largely by an organisation's choice of root metaphor: are employees mindless cogs or internal citizens? At this point the theory becomes terribly concrete.

Are there any weaknesses in Clancy's work? His style is analytical for the most part; the book began life as a university study project. Due to Clancy's drawing from multiple disciplines the flavour is far from dry. Come on, where else will you read a business book that refers to Thomas Kuhn, Joseph Campbell and Walt Whitman, without ignoring the usual suspects (e.g. Josiah Wedgewood, Frederick Taylor and Tom Peters)?

But sometimes I wish Clancy would let rip with his own creativity. He's excellent at finding weaknesses with each metaphor but what does he put in their place? True, he shows sympathy for James P Carse's concept of an 'infinite game' (60-61). He mentions this again on the final page (299) along with his notions of "cathedral building" (see 290), "shape-changing" (293) and "the medieval fair" (294). These tantalising titbits are not developed. Maybe 300 pages is long enough. Maybe a sequel is required.

Great notes, great bibliography, and a great index. Extremely useful graphs and tables showing the prevailing metaphors with different authors at different points of time (30-31). A graceful, engaging style of writing. Juicy, interdisciplinary sources. Bubbling with applications and insights. Unlike many business books written in the 80s, it does not feel dated. Also, unlike many business books period, I can't instantly think of half-a-dozen that cover similar ground.
Very significant, blending language, business & insight 27 Mar. 2010
By June - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Let me walk you into this book, just to whet your appetite: Clancy discusses the "web of language," giving an historical context for his interest in how business has utilized specific metaphors to reach its various goals. He then turns to the theory of metaphor and discusses metaphors used in business, identifying a number of families of metaphors (examples: the journey, games, war, the machine, organisms, society), and indicating which have appeared useful contextually for eliciting various responses (ex: pleasure, purpose, cooperation, precision, meaning, ambiguity, leadership, etc. etc.). For each group, Clancy analyzes their origins, modern use and implications. He then moves on, in Part 2, to analyze how business, purpose and metaphor are related, the economic and cultural sources of these purposes, and ends with (prescient) predictions on the future of language use in creating power and purpose in global business. Fascinated? If not, you are surely a fool! I found this so engaging. Its combination of historical context, interest in language and application to the business world, its inquisitive philosophical bent, and its accessible and natural style, are truly enjoyable, and practically significant for future economics research and business development.
A must read for business communication 21 Jan. 2014
By Technologist - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
John Clancy provides a rich weaving of art, philosophy and case studies - simultaneously distilling this into six business metaphors and three paradigms of operation. Much like Jared Diamond in Guns, Germs and Steel, John Clancy draws from a myriad of sources to provide you with a complete perspective. The metaphors and paradigms in this book define our reality, how business results are measured and ultimately what business success is. This book is a great risk assessment tool to identify mismatches in approach, and disarm them with clear communication.
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