Book Review: If Harry Potter Ran General Electric

If Harry Potter Ran General Electric:  Leadership Wisdom From The World Of The Wizards, by Tom Morris

This book exists on at least two levels, and both of them are worthy of consideration for both readers and writers about the intersection of pop culture and philosophy with business theory.  This book is an example of two different phenomena in our contemporary world of publishing:  the ubiquity of books relating seemingly superficial pop culture with deep and searching philosophical examination [1] and the tendency of books on business to seek legitimacy from popular culture and history [2].  These tendencies are not bad, they just radically shape the sort of works that are created by and about business culture that reach readers like myself (and presumably yourself, since you are read this as well).  On the one hand, the book seeks to show the philosophical heft of the Harry Potter series and its relevance to management, something the author does skillfully, while on the other hand the author seeks to portray milquetoast GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt as a sort of wizard himself, which he is less successful at.  Understanding that both goals–legitimizing Harry Potter by associating it with a real world notable business culture, and legitimizing the business culture of GE by associating it with the cultural cachet of Harry Potter–is essential to understanding this book and the fact that there are so many like it in our contemporary society.

The contents of the book are straightforward and also striking, in that the author has shown himself to be a deep reader of the Harry Potter series, at least the first six books of that series that are included here, making this yet another book that was released before the series was done [3] that seeks to mine insight from the books as a whole and to put them on a cultural pedestal.  The roughly 250 pages of this highly quotable [4] book are divided into seven chapters dealing with such subjects as Albus Dumbledore as an ideal CEO, the courage of Harry Potter, the ethics of wizards, truth and lies at Hogwarts, leadership alchemy, the wisdom of the wizards, and questions of happiness and meaning.  Throughout the book as a whole the author does an admirable job of showing close reading of his material and avoiding spoilers for those who have not read the books as a whole but who might be open to gaining wisdom from them.  Overall, the book offers a fine balance between contemporary humanistic management theory in the vein of Maslow and Vroom and others and a literary analysis of the Harry Potter books themselves, something that should satisfy a wide audience.

There are at least a few worthy takeaways that a reader can gain from this book.  One of them is the desire that many companies have of being seen as cool, and the way that business seek to gain legitimacy through the creative arts, whether in terms of film or music or literature.  For another, this book is ample evidence of the nature of a philosophically inclined person to be able to think deeply based on nearly any material that comes to mind, and that for the philosopher, both business and popular culture are some of the few areas where philosophers can conduct their trade and maintain some sort of steady income, given the rarity of philosophy as an area of interest in the wider scope of American culture.  It is rather telling, and relevant, that the author draws attention to the fact that the first novel in the Harry Potter series is known as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Rowling’s native Great Britain and most of the world, while in the United States the novel is known as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone because it was thought that Americans would be unfamiliar or uninterested in philosophy, something that seems to hurt the writer (and likely many readers in his intended audience) on a particularly personal level.  This book makes for a fine example of why popular philosophy deserves a much better reputation among American readers.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/01/12/book-review-the-legend-of-zelda-and-philosophy-i-link-therefore-i-am/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/02/11/book-review-final-fantasy-and-philosophy-the-ultimate-walkthrough/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/06/05/book-review-dungeons-dragons-and-philosophy/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/book-review-the-cognitive-style-of-power-point/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/11/25/when-gratitude-doesnt-last-a-musing-on-black-friday/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/07/30/book-review-rise/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/05/09/book-review-the-navy-seal-art-of-war/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/01/21/book-review-fairness-is-overrated/

[3] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/05/28/book-review-god-the-devil-harry-potter/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/book-review-what-will-happen-in-harry-potter-7/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/06/15/book-review-readings-on-j-k-rowling/

[4] See, for example, the following quotes:

“Nervousness is a form of energy.  It’s up to us what we do with it.  We can let it shut us down, or we can surf on it to success.  The best people often feel quite nervous just prior to a performance or challenge.  Those who rarely experience this electric emotion tend for the most part to be clueless slackers who really just don’t care, and who therefore never accomplish very much.  Nervousness is a sign of emotional commitment and existential, personal investment–a reflection of our values–and it can even be an indication of inner readiness (43-44).”

“Harry’s friend Hermoine Granger is, of course, the poster girl for intelligence and logical reason in all its manifestations.  When any problem arises, she wants to get busy with research right away, to position herself to know whatever is already understood about the many elements of the challenge she faces.  If Hermoine is ever in doubt about anything, she hits the library.  You can easily imagine her on a computer and Googling in all her free time.  But in the world of Hogwarts, she is immersed in books.  Rowling shows us through the character of Hermoine the practical impact of knowledge–the vital importance of research and study outside the classroom as well as within its walls (194).”

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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9 Responses to Book Review: If Harry Potter Ran General Electric

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