Fads and Fashions in Management

By Adrian Furnham

In this article, the author shows that many fads and fashions in management are short lived and based upon flimsy evidence, yet enjoy a period of support. His arguments are important tools for managers who want to understand the substance and rigour, or lack of it, associated with modern management ideas and concepts.


The management world is highly susceptible to crazes: fads and fashions that change as frequently as clothes styles. And just like clothes styles, some come back again after “a few years” away, repackaged, rebranded, but essentially the same.

A fad is a craze for something: a short time when there is an exaggerated zeal for a particular idea or practice. Fads are by definition short-lived. They go in one ear and out the other. Fads are very popular in business, driven by a heady mix of desperate and naïve managers as well as avaricious consultants.

Worst, fallacious concepts are found in abundance in management. These are usually processes that simply do not work in the way they are said to. Brainstorming is a good example. Study after study shows that individuals working alone produce both more and better ideas than brainstorming groups. Brainstorming is a fallacy or a myth. But only one of many because of the essential non- or at least pre-scientific nature of management theory.

Another recent example is Rob Briner’s brilliant analysis of the current fad for Engagement at Work1. He argued that researchers need to consider five key challenges facing the field: defining engagement; measuring engagement; whether Engagement is new or different; whether there is any good quality evidence with which to answer the most important questions about engagement; and the extent to which over-claiming and mis-claiming the importance and role of engagement occurs.

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