Book Reviews


Throwing the Elephant: Zen and the Art of Managing Up

Author: Stanley Bing
Publisher HarperInformation
Publication Date: April, 2002

Reviewer:G.A. (Andy) Marken
In his nearly 25 years in the advertising/public relations field, Andy has been involved with a broad range of corporate and marketing activities. Prior to forming Marken Communications in mid-1977, Andy was vice president of Bozell & Jacobs and its predecessor agencies. During his 12 years with these agencies, he developed and coordinated a wide variety of highly visible and successful promotional campaigns and activities for clients. A graduate of Iowa State University, Andy received his Bachelor's Degree with majors in Radio & Television and Journalism. Widely published in the industry and trade press, he is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

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Stanley Bing (not his real name) has been in the communications jungle long enough to see practically every species of animal, bird and fish. By day he prowls the halls and heights of one of the world’s largest conglomerates. By night he is a columnist for Fortune and has been prolific in writing novels and tongue-in-cheek (but sharply true) business guides.

Throwing the Elephant is a very humorous but sharply accurate of how you deal with, survive and succeed in today’s cruel business environment.
If you can embrace Zen Buddhism you can succeed and make the enormous weight and size (your elephantine boss) work in your favor. To accomplish this the first thing you have to come to grips with the harsh reality that you aren’t an elephant. Once you have done this -- and come to accept the fact -- you understand that your task in life (business life) is to serve and control the huge beasts.

His latest book meters out his take on the jungle we live in based on experience rather than theory. Each chapter gives you a new way of viewing and dealing with your elephants. In a very entertaining manner he makes his point in chapters like “Playing Golf with the Elephant” and “Getting Drunk with the Elephant.”

Anyone who has been in the industry any time at all realizes that his or her primary goal is not simply to do the best job possible after all, anyone can do that. The key to your success (and survival) is throwing your elephant(s).

Throwing the Elephant is designed to put you in the proper state of mind, help you develop an effective step-by-step plan and successfully make that giant leap of faith.

You’re never certain if Bing has actually embraced Buddhism or has read about it enough to see how its principles can be used to your advantage. Not that it really matters to us because he gives you the blueprint for molding your elephant “like a ball of Silly Putty.”

The path to success for the individual reader is to come to grips with and be comfortable with the fact that he or she is not an elephant. After all Bing tells us there is nothing wrong with this fact because there are thousands of other animals in the jungle and as Darwin pointed out they are all important in the evolutionary sphere. If that is the case then you are in a position to dedicate your life to serving and controlling the very large and powerful beasts.

Throwing the Elephant is a practical business book that gives you practical guidelines and basic skills in elephant handling that will help you make your life in the jungle comfortable and perhaps even a little enjoyable. Keep in mind that no matter which corner of the jungle you visit one of your most basic tasks will be to follow along after the elephant with a broom and dustpan to handle the involuntary deposits that will be left in your organization’s day-to-day activities.

You can’t change the type of animal you are but with serious Buddhist study you can become the best and most valuable animal the elephant comes to rely on for its daily feeding. To help you achieve this higher level of consciousness; Bing gives you plenty of study tools including Polishing the Elephant’s Tusks, Hiding from the Elephant When it Has been Drinking and Feels Quite Nasty.

As you progress in your Zen mastery and become even more proficient in managing up you’ll actually learn how to leverage and ultimately throw your weightless elephant.

When you have reached this point your Ying and Yang are in perfect harmony. Now you’re able to carry out your complete and real job in a selfless, compassionate and totally empty manner.

Finally you will be at total peace with yourself, the others in the jungle and your elephant.

Life will be good…at least at the office.