The Beekeeper: Pollinating Your Organization for Transformative Growth. By Katie P. Desiderio and Michael G. Frino. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2023.—This book is reviewed at the personal request of the authors, who sent a copy to Dr. Boli’s Celebrated Publishing Empire with a note asking “that you read it, share a review online, and then place this copy in a space for others to read.” Dr. Boli is still in conversation with his liability attorneys about whether he can safely do the third of those three things, but he is happy to oblige with the first two. In fact, he is going to be unusually thorough about the reviewing, which means that this review will have to be published in installments. There is only so much our readers can take in one gulp.
We note at the start that the book is published by John Wiley & Sons, the two-century-old publisher whose authors have included Washington Irving, Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, and now Katie P. Desiderio, MBA, PhD, and Michael C. Frino, MBA, PhD. One of those authors is an associate professor at Moravian University, one of the very small percentage of schools in this country founded before the Revolution. We mention these things so that readers may form an opinion of the general trend of intellectual development in These States.
If we look at the cover design, we notice that the second E in the word “Beekeeper” is rendered as the dotted flight trail of a bee, suggesting that the letter is flying away, leaving… what, students? Yes, that’s right! The noun “bee” sounds exactly like the verb “be,” and if you held out any hope that two MBA-PhDs would not be sucked in by the awful profundity of that pun, the cover sends a firm message that you must lay your hopes to rest.
But enough about the mere external accidents of the book. Let us open it and look at the words.
The Beekeeper is a simple fable whose moral is that, in order to function well in the capitalist world of today, we must place ourselves at the intellectual level of insects. For the heroine of the fable, this requires a lot of mental development. But she has advantages that not every reader will share:
Fortunately, my DiSC™* personality style is an Si-style, which means that I am easygoing and warm, always ready to offer support, collaborate, and be a team player.
You might think that the asterisk up there would lead to an explanation of what DiSC™ is, but you would be mistaken. It goes nowhere. Without an Internet search (which is not readily available in a hardcover book), we can only infer that DiSC™ must be an MBA-oriented branch of Chinese astrology. Incidentally, here is a principle that has saved Dr. Boli a lot of time and effort over the past few decades, and he willingly publishes it to the world at large: Nothing trademarked is true.
A glance at the table of contents shows us that every chapter title begins with “Be”: “Before,” “Be Transformational,” “Be Nourished,” “Be Proximal.” Fortunately we were warned by the cover graphics to expect something like this.
It is not until the third chapter that the story begins, because we have two chapters of setup to get through first.
In Chapter 1, “Before,” we are given the origin story of the beekeeper who will impart his simple wisdom of the bees to the heroine. It is very important to know that he was not always a beekeeper. In his origin story, we learn that he was once CEO of a marketing company, but retired to a farm he had inherited. It was important to get this established at the beginning, because otherwise the MBAs who are the target audience for this book would not understand how a beekeeper could have any advice to give them. Don’t worry, says the book: he’s a beekeeper now, but he’s really an MBA, and thus has real wisdom to share. We wouldn’t want you to think we were heretics who believed in knowledge outside business school.
Chapter 2, “Be Fulfilled,” jumps ahead into the future to give us a picture of our heroine’s life as she lives it now, after she has learned the lessons of the bees.
“Hello, this is Catherine,” I answered the phone. Air pods(1) in and luggage in tow, I was rushing through the chaos of the airport.
So you probably think some life-changing phone call is going to trigger the events of the story, but it’s a telephone solicitor “inquiring about franchising my essential oil business,” and she politely hangs up. This incident has no further effects in the story. As far as we can tell, these two opening paragraphs are there simply because the writers wanted to tell us that their heroine was named Catherine and she had an essential-oils company, but they wanted to do it in a natural way. They failed. They only drew attention to the fact that this story is an artificial construction by writers who are not very comfortable with storytelling technique.
From here we are given a picture of Catherine’s busy life as a management consultant. She flits here and there helping managers begin cultural transformations and become catalysts and stuff like that.
It was then off to New Jersey, where an executive leadership team of a Fortune 500 company was struggling to break down silos where fixed mindsets were encouraging overuse of traditions. The goal was to learn how to effectively demonstrate agility in considering how they could be cultural transformation stewards and impact collective growth from the top down.
If that is the goal, by the way, your company is in more trouble than you realize. Dr. Boli, whose own doctorate in business administration comes from the Boli Institute for Advanced Studies, thought that even a woman with an associate’s degree in business administration would know enough to ask, “How can we measure that?”
But this is a picture of Catherine living her ideal life. Her entire existence has become a symphony of buzzwords thanks to the simple wisdom of the bees. Surprisingly, our authors, who are firm believers in the profundity and power of bee-related puns set in italic type, have missed the wonderful opportunity here, but Dr. Boli is happy to point it out to them for use in the second edition.
How did Catherine reach this state of unmitigated bliss? Well, it all begins with her perfect children, who ambush her with a PowerPoint presentation. Aren’t children adorable?
Here, however, we need to stop for a while and take a good long drink before moving on. Dr. Boli himself is drinking Keemun tea, but if his readers feel that they need something a bit stronger than that, he understands and sympathizes.