Putting Sacred Cows out to pasture.


Always trust your research. Only hire someone who has done the job before. The customer is always right. These are just three of the countless catchphrases that business people rely on to justify their decision making. Problem is, these so-called “Sacred Cows”—rules, standards and formulas perceived to be unassailably true—are often blindly followed, if for no other reason than “that’s the way it’s always been done.”

In the new book “Death To All Sacred Cows: How Successful Business People Put the Old Rules Out to Pasture” (Hyperion), authors David Bernstein, Beau Fraser and Bill Schwab—partners in The Gate Worldwide ad agency—target 19 of the most common Sacred Cows and illustrate why they should be invoked cautiously, if at all. Along the way, this trio of Cow wranglers also introduces the concept of Sacred Veal—“newer, less engrained business thoughts which run the risk of growing into full-fledged, bothersome, stifling, constricting, industry-wide business edicts.”

With so many Sacred Cows overpopulating the business landscape, Bernstein was only too happy to speak with Failure magazine editor Jason Zasky about creating the corporate will to kill them. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

How did the three of you come up with the idea for the book?
The way it started was pretty strange. We did an advertisement for our agency that ran in The New York Times. Beau, who is our managing director, suggested we do the ad. Then Bill and I—I’m a writer and Bill is an art director—created the ad. It listed all the Sacred Cows in advertising and how at our agency we see things a little differently. The ad did more than just poke holes in the advertising industry; it also suggested ways to do things better.

The morning the ad ran in the Times, the top publisher at Hyperion called us and said, “I know you did an ad but you [also] have an idea for a book.”

With three authors how did the creative process work?
When it came time to write the book we sat down and together decided what the Cows would be. And then whichever Cow was most relevant to Beau or Bill or myself, that person would be responsible for that chapter. We tried to write it differently from the way most business books are written. It has a lighter tone and more snarky attitude.

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