There Are Only Business Problems… - Bruce Turkel

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Business Problems

If you went to business school I’ll bet you remember taking courses in various subjects — finance, marketing, accounting, HR. I assume that those subjects were broken down like that for a number of reasons:

1. It made it easier for instructors to organize their curriculum and plan their courses.

2. It made it easier for the deans to hire professors with the proper skills to pass on to their students.

3. It made it easier for administrators to make sure that a business graduate had been exposed to all the various principles of business before they matriculated.

Funny enough, none of these reasons consider what these business students will face once they’re in the real world where the problems they will encounter are not neatly segmented into carefully organized specific silos.

According to Roger Martin the former dean of the Robins School of Business at the University of Richmond, “business problems sloppily span across a bunch of domains (which) business education has abdicated and doesn’t even try to teach how to think across domains. Consistent with a lot of the huge problems in the world, thinking that you can decompose things into little pieces and somehow add them up together and they’ll add up to the whole that you wish, doesn’t happen.”

Remember when congress questioned Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg about how his business ran? Because the congress people were using old-think and comparing Facebook to traditional business, they were asking single-silo questions whose answers got them no closer to understanding Zuckerberg’s business nor what they should do about it. Congress was asking about privacy and about revenue streams when they needed to be asking holistic questions about how the social media service operated and what consequences it was creating. But because those questions required an inter-disciplinary approach, congress’ single-minded inquest uncovered nothing useful and just embarrassed those of us who watched.

Interestingly enough, Congress is populated with people from many different careers, including at least one accountant, astronaut, car dealer, dentist, engineer, farmer, filmmaker, fisherman, funeral homeowner, journalist, microbiologist, minister, nurse, optometrist, psychiatrist, psychologist, physician, physicist, pilot, professional football player, radio talk show host, rodeo announcer, social worker, software engineer, stockbroker, veterinarian, vintner, and welder, as well as attorneys and celebrities. 

This suggests that if the group had been willing to work together they could have asked taken advantage of all their different experiences and asked the varied questions that could have gotten them closer to the kinds of answers that would have made a difference.

Just like Congress, we too get high on our own supply. That is, we ask questions, hear answers, and then make subsequent decisions based on our own single-minded experiences – not bothering to see how other people – with other educations, knowledge, and experiences might look at what we’re going through and interpret it differently.

That’s when having a personal board of directors – a group who have your best interests in mind and are concerned with helping you help yourself – can become so valuable. Because it’s often another opinion, developed from other experiences, that can help you see the exact right answer for whatever it is that’s concerning you.

And that’s what you get in a Strategic Roundtable; people who have your best interests at heart and are willing to share four things with you while you share the same with them:

1. Talents.

2. Experiences.

3. Skillsets. And,

4. Contacts.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how to benefit from this, click HERE. Because a multi-disciplinary approach is exactly what’s needed to help you find certainty in today’s uncertain times.

Because as Peter Drucker succinctly pointed out: “There are no marketing problems, there are no finance problems, there are no accounting problems, there are only business problems.”


  1. Robert DeVito says:

    This is an amazing and timely post on this particular subject. As we in Florida are being inundated with a new proposal for Bright Futures scholarships – that they only be used for education that leads to a specific career – we all might need to take a look at the interdisciplinary aspects of education and knowledge.

    As someone who benefitted from that sort of education, I am 100% in support of degrees in the humanities and other fields that some may deem “basket-weaving”, to quote my dad. True, that PhD in Philosophy might not guarantee you a job. Or, you might end up as a Vice President of Coca Cola. I was lucky at community college to be asked to do a two year interdisciplinary honors program that covered the entire history of Western civilization over four semesters, and that led to my education at New College, the honors university of the state of Florida and often voted one of the best values in education in the USA. My areas of concentration were Music, Buddhism, and Cultural Studies. Many of my fellow students have gone on to do great things with all sorts of educational paths. Most of them were non-traditional and likely to be thought of as unemployable.

    The skills gained by an interdisciplinary education from school and in life helps one to see things from a more holistic and well-rounded perspective. While I still admire my ex-girlfriend who got her degree in Chemical Engineering and is now the director of public utilities for a city in our great state, it seemed that she had to give up so much to focus entirely on one narrow slice of the knowledge base. Specialists are needed, it is for sure. I don’t want a general practitioner MD fooling around in my brain if I need a neurologist. But I do feel that those who are able to step back from their role, to look at it with the knowledge of history, culture, and human experience can make better decisions at the executive level.

    And, there’s nothing wrong with some Himalayan Basket Weaving classes mixed in.

    • Bruce Turkel says:

      No wonder we hit it off Bobby. My studies included art, design, music, and English lit. A strange combination that seems to have worked out pretty well.

  2. David Bibicoff says:

    I would go a step further and suggest there are no business problems. There are just problems. A person’s business problems impacts their personal life and vice versa. There are just problems. Deliver value to help with the problems and you will be highly valued.

  3. I love the term ” using old-think “. I actually never went to business school. My degrees are in therapy and the fine arts. I ardently believe that most artists are skilled problem solvers and make great teammates for work projects because they are able to view issues from many different perspectives. I never officially got an MBA but feel like I earned one along the way. Your strategic roundtable approach is interesting to me.

    • Bruce Turkel says:

      Hah!! That’s funny, Grace. I feel the same way about my lack of an MBA. I matriculated with a degree in fine arts and a degree in design. Who knew I’d run a business one day? But the skills stack up pretty quickly when you’re in the trenches doing it, doing it, doing it.
      One of the things the Strategic Roundtable does for all of us who participate is give us access to the entire group’s collective skill sets. You’d be at how many things a group of people is good at doing and how willing people are to share.

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