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Old lessons for a modern World

How can a 500 year old book possibly be relevant in today's society? A fair question, but many religious texts are far older, and they still mean a great deal to the faithful of their respective beliefs. I'm actually referring to "The Prince", Nicolo Machiavelli's best known book, written in the early years of the 16th century.

Machiavelli was a civic official and diplomat from Florence, who wrote "The Price" as a study into how people gain, retain, and, in many cases lose, the right to rule. It was all about conflicts, and power, and devious behaviour, and winning hearts and minds. Hang on... doesn't that sound like some aspects of modern business? Yes, of course it does, although I have not knowingly met anyone who kills his would-be opponents, thankfully.

What I took from the book was the view that if you substitute "businessman" for "prince", most of old Nicolo's observations remain remarkably acute in today's business environment. This is, I suppose, why I've seen this old book referenced in a number of modern business guides. If you want people to like you, don't follow the advice in the book, but if you want to be successful, maybe there are some lessons there that you should follow. And if Machiavelli is to be believed, being liked and being successful are probably not compatible in the long run!

See what you make of these pieces of wisdom, selected from the many worthy comments in the book:


Iain Millar, 24 March 2011

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