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A RECENT article in Fortune magazine explained why efforts to create executive management “dream teams” often fail. I found one reason fascinating: Participants don’t want the truth, but rather just a positive message. The author recalled books advocating team-building exercises that sold millions of copies and directed thousands of managers to retreats where they were supposed to learn how to build trust in one another. If you attended one, I bet you’d agree that, for the most part, it wasn’t very useful. Why not? Because building trust takes time. It doesn’t develop the instant when, in the typical trust-building exercise, you catch people as they fall into your arms.Analysis of other “management techniques du jour” books indicates their “secrets of success” don’t pan out either. What does work is daily incremental improvement. Why aren’t people reading about that in business magazines and flocking to retreats to learn more? Because the message is too boring to sell and doesn’t promise instant, painless gratification.

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