Book with a Huge Ego Boasts the Merits of Humility

egonomics.jpgDavid Marcum and Steven Smith, authors of “Egonomics,” appeared on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show yesterday.

Their primary message: Ego, especially in business, is a good thing when balanced with humility.

The only problem is that “balance” part. Hence, the book.

Marcum and Smith refer to humility as “constructive discontent”—or the ability to take pleasure in one’s successes, while continually asking: “What else can I do better?”

That includes learning to apologize when we screw up. Per Smith:

“To the extent we’re unwilling to apologize, we automatically start to close down, and we lose the ability to work with people—and to actually draw out the best talents from them.”

Examined in that light, one could consider Mattel’s recent apology to the Chinese government and people (see my blog from yesterday or just scroll down) as a sign of strength rather than weakness.

But I think the timing and tenor made it look more like a mea culpa from a company kowtowing—in the Western sense— under pressure.

Few companies truly get it right. It’s tough, given the enormous legal and marketing issues involved. Perhaps another book is in order: “The Art of the Corporate Apology.”