Management principle from Dune

The other day Atamert Ölçgen quoted a passage from Dune in response to something I’d posted on Google+. I haven’t read the Dune books, but the passage puts generalists in a favorable light, and since I’m something of a generalist, I’m inclined to like such quotes. Here’s the part I particularly liked. It says that the mentat must be able to say

There’s no real mystery about this at the moment. This is what we want now. It may prove wrong later, but we’ll correct that when we come to it.

Too often we act as if every decision is weighty and permanent. Of course some decisions are weighty and permanent, but most are not. Wisdom is knowing which decisions are and which are not. Sometimes it pays to not try to look too far ahead, conceding that if you’re wrong “we’ll correct that when we come to it.”

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6 thoughts on “Management principle from Dune

  1. Knowing which decisions are permanent — i.e., which ones paint you into a corner; which ones cannot be revisited later, because they foreclosed the future options — is not wisdom; it is a manifestation of the halting problem. When someone guesses lucky, it looks like wisdom. When someone guesses lucky conspicuously often, it looks even more like wisdom. But it is still the halting problem and it is still guesswork.

  2. The first in the series is the best – it’s one of my all time favorites. The rest get pretty convoluted but are still entertaining.

    I love me some Robert Heinlein, though.

  3. Another bit of management advice from the Dune series, which I take to mean, “Don’t waste my time in meetings”:

    The convoluted wording of legalisms grew up around the necessity to hide from ourselves the violence we intend toward each other. Between depriving a man of one hour from his life and depriving him of his life there exists only a difference of degree. You have done violence to him, consumed his energy. Elaborate euphemisms may conceal your intent to kill, but behind any use of power over another the ultimate assumption remains: “I feed on your energy.”

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