经济学人:不是不讲理 Uncommonly unreasonable
日期:2012-08-15 16:34


Book Review;

Eli Broad

Uncommonly unreasonable

The Art of Being Unreasonable: Lessons in Unconventional Thinking.

Few businessmen have achieved as much as Eli Broad. Not only did he develop two Fortune 500 businesses from scratch (and launch a third), he has also been a serial entrepreneur in the arts. Mr Broad backed Jeff Koons and Cindy Sherman, and founded the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (MoCA). This son of the Bronx now calls the City of Angels home and has set out to give it a new heart by driving the development of a downtown area with a strong emphasis on culture. He has also been a significant and controversial philanthropist, funding scientific research and failing schools.


Mr Broad's straight-to-the-point narrative—165 pages of text with a 12-page appendix of his “career highlights” and just the minimum colour necessary to illustrate the important lessons that life has taught him—is part of what he is trying to convey about himself. Where, say, Jack Welch spews out hundreds of pages in “Jack: Straight From the Gut” (2001) and Richard Branson spares no detail as he explains how he has spent his life trying to “Screw Business As Usual” (2011), Mr Broad has delivered a book that is as brief as he likes to keep everything else in life (“I never stay anywhere—parties, museums, meetings—longer than three hours,” he explains in a chapter entitled “How to Work 24/7 and Still Get 8 Hours of Sleep”).


The brevity of his autobiography is both a strength and a weakness. Messrs Welch and Branson devote much of their books to selling themselves as heroes, whereas Mr Broad's tendency to state the facts and move on often undersells how challenging a life he has led, and how hard won have been his triumphs. He writes of being amused at how films about successful people often condense the “critical ingredient to their success” into “moments overlaid with catchy music”, yet his book does that without the soundtrack.


For instance, the controversial story of how he fell out with the board of MoCA, which he co-founded in 1980 and then rescued when it came to the brink of liquidation in 2008, is given a mere page, when it alone could have filled an entire book. And he writes nothing about how he fell out with the board at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, let alone about MoCA's more recent troubles.


On the other hand, distilling a lifetime into a series of practical lessons has clearly pushed Mr Broad to do some hard thinking and self-analysis, which makes his book a useful read, especially for anyone engaging in entrepreneurship or philanthropy. His personality comes through clearly enough, though one can quibble over whether his choice of “unreasonable” to describe it is exactly right. Mr Broad means it in the same way George Bernard Shaw did, when he said that the unreasonable man “persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends upon the unreasonable man.” Mr Broad started adapting the world to himself at an early age, telling classmates to rhyme his name with “road”, rather than his immigrant father's “rod”. But he also adapted himself to the world, not least in fighting to overcome dyslexia, which he says gave him a work ethic that infuses every part of his life (perhaps too much: he describes his six-decade marriage to Edye in glowing terms, but regrets spending too little time with his growing sons).

另一方面,布罗德要将自己的一生浓缩成一系列的实践指导,就必然迫使他深入地思考,进行自我分析,也就让他的书读来十分实用,对于那些致力于企业产业和慈善事业的人则更甚。他的个性在书中展露无遗,不过人们对于到底是否应该用 “不讲道理”来形容这种个性可能还会有争议。这和乔治·萧伯纳的理解一致,他曾说过:不讲道理的人会“固执地让整个世界来适应自己。因此,世上所有的进步都来自于不讲道理的人。”布罗德年轻时就想摆脱父亲的移民姓氏“布娄德”,为了押韵让同学们叫他“布罗德”,从那时起他就开始让世界适应自己了。不过他也努力去适应这个世界,尤其是他为克服阅读障碍做出的努力,他认为那让一种职业道德渗透在他生活的方方面面(或许有点过分:他觉得与易迪亚60年的婚姻仍然激情澎湃,但后悔没有花时间多与儿子相处,陪他一同成长)。

Being a solitary child made him less prone than many people to going along with the crowd, and he likes nothing better than to challenge conventional wisdom with a “why not?”. Those are good attributes for an entrepreneur, though they are unlikely to make him loved in the world of art philanthropy, where his “candour” often “ruffled feathers”. (He claims several times not to care what people think of him, but he doth protest too much.) Still, unlike many of his peers among the current generation of American billionaire philanthropists, he does consider giving to the arts a good investment, to “bring beauty, inspiration, and the shock of the new to as many people as possible”.


Two of his rules of business, in particular, are rarely found in books on entrepreneurship. One is that, rather than being the pioneer, it is often better to be second with a new idea—as he was in launching KB Home, which became his first Fortune 500 firm, selling houses that were cheaper because they had no basement, a controversial idea at the time copied from a firm in another state. (“The second guy can just charge along the path the first guy has marked, avoiding the rough patches where he stumbled.”)

他有两条商业规则很特别,在同类企业书籍中很少提及。一是与其做个开拓者,不如做个有新点子的后来者。他就是这样创办了他的第一家世界500强企业科比房(KB Home),出售无地下室所以便宜的房子,这个想法效仿了国外的一家公司,在当时颇受争议。(“后来者有前人之路可循,还能避免开拓者走过的弯路。”)

This second rule challenges the conventional wisdom that the safest diversification is into an industry closely related to your own: after several years and a great deal of research, Mr Broad built his second Fortune 500 firm in an entirely unrelated business: financial products for retirement. He may call himself unreasonable, but in this short book, Mr Broad manages to talk a lot of sense.


  • relatedadj. 相关的,有亲属关系的
  • roughadj. 粗糙的,粗略的,粗暴的,艰难的,讨厌的,不适的
  • solitaryadj. 孤独的,独立的,单个的,唯一的,荒凉的 n.
  • philanthropyn. 慈善事业;博爱,慈善
  • basementn. 根基,地下室 n.(新英格兰)特别指学校中的
  • unconventionaladj. 非传统的
  • weaknessn. 软弱
  • conveyvt. 传达,表达,运输,转移 vt. [律]让与
  • fell动词fall的过去式 n. 兽皮 vt. 砍伐,击倒 a
  • diversificationn. 变化,多样化