The Intelligent Company: Five steps to success with evidence-based management

Author: Bernard Marr
ISBN: 0470685956

Author Bernard Marr is, his book tells us, “a leading global authority and best-selling author on organisational performance and business success”. It also tells us that CEO Journal considers him one of today’s leading business brains. Indeed, more than three pages are devoted to singing his praises and listing the achievements of the Advanced Performance Institute (API), of which he is chief executive. Sadly for those of us of a certain age, there is no mention of any possible kinship with erstwhile Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr.

This is a text book – it’s not a book you’ll ever dip into. It focuses on the concept of evidence-based management (EbM), where information is collected and used in the decision-making process. Marr refers to the likes of Tesco, Google and Capital One as adopters of this approach, calling them ‘analytics competitors’.

He also discusses how we can use evidence-based management in our private lives – for instance, by looking at crime statistics when looking at a new neighbourhood, or reading reviews before buying a car. But as he acknowledges, most of us would see this as good old common sense, rather than a new business concept. Or even a business concept like this, that the author admits is modelled on evidence-based medicine, in turn traceable to ancient China.

Marr emphasises that the first step is understanding the strategic aims of your organisation – and what information you will need to meet these. He says strategic goals need to be kept ‘front-of-mind’, to ensure any information gathered is relevant.

And apparently EbM has been used for thousands of years, in the form of experimentation – Marr refers to the experimentation cave men would have had to undertake to work out how to make bread from yeast, information that has had a massive impact ever since. This, says Marr, is an example of what we should be doing – putting data into context, analysing it and turning it into information and new knowledge.

This is a well-structured and thoughtfully laid-out book. It has plenty of diagrams, too, although they seem a bit on the small side. The academic tone is tempered – although perhaps not sufficiently so – by practical elements such as ’10 steps to ‘ lists. But I can’t quite escape the feeling that it is 200 pages about common sense, masquerading as a new business concept.

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