Believe it or not, you can learn a lot from some successful moguls who just happen to be completely made up. Here's a look at the management strategies of some of our favorite fictional leaders.
1. Scrooge McDuck
This self-made Scottish duck tycoon, with holdings in mines and mills, seems an almost infallible industrial titan. He does have a few cracks as a businessman, though. For one thing, the opportunity cost of keeping all of one's money in a giant vault is vast. Even a conservative investment strategy could net Scrooge millions in interest each year, but he prefers to swim around in his coins instead. Also, Scrooge's willingness to appoint his young, probably under-qualified nephews to key positions within his empire smacks of nepotism. Moreover, any good human-resources manager will tell you that having a male boss running around without pants on all day is a multimillion-dollar lawsuit just waiting to happen.
2. Cosmo G. Spacely
George Jetson's boss at Spacely Space Sprockets isn't going to get many "World's Best Boss" coffee mugs. (If they even drink coffee in the future.) His diminutive stature belies his enormous drive to make irate videophone threats to his employees. Rather than seeking to maximize shareholder value with his sprocket business, Spacely focuses on destroying his chief competitor, Cogswell Cogs. This Ahab-like pursuit often leads Spacely to act irrationally, injuring the company's long-run prospects. Furthermore, Spacely's penchant for firing his employees at the drop of a hat exposes the company to a slew of wrongful-termination lawsuits.
3. C. Montgomery Burns
Homer Simpson's glowering boss at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant has always been a leader in new and ruthless business strategies. When his employees requested coffee breaks, for example, he outsourced the entire plant to India. In another incident, he devised a marketing coup to block out the sun to foster more demand for his product. His penny-pinching tactics have occasionally backfired, though. His tightfisted refusal to continue the company's dental plan led to a long and expensive strike, and his total disregard for safety codes has several times brought the plant to the brink of meltdown.
This article was excerpted from our upcoming 'Business School in a Box.'