The Good, The Bad and The Org Chart (#3)

It's easy to forget the fact that even illegal businesses are driven by customers, processes and structure. My interest recently has been in how black market, illicit and drug dealing organisations structure themselves to serve their dubious markets. "Nemesis: One Man and The Battle for Rio" tells the true story of a leader Nem and the power structures within one of Rio's most famous favelas - Rocinha.

The chapters around reporting lines and engagement of the community are fascinating and address the problems faced by a thousand CEOs around the planet. Of course, it's uncomfortable reading in parts and I've no desire to glamourise a lifestyle that ruins lives, but "Nemesis" is a refreshing contrast to the ever-growing stack of bland business leader books gracing our bookshops. In fact, it reminded me of Sudhir Venkatesh and his book "Gang Leader for a Day", a book I read some years ago.

Venkatash will ring bells for seasoned freakonomics fans as the rogue sociologist who embedded himself within Chicago's South Side Projects. He befriended J.T, a gang leader for The Black Kings, and spent some months understanding the economics and organisational structures of the underground economy. The criminal element to one side, there are impressive stories of law abiding people creating a living in spite of a welfare system that has largely abandoned them.

My recommendation to balance against the anodyne stories behind FTSE  or DOW companies is to buy and read either of these books. Proof that leadership and intelligence are not the sole property of the mainstream economy.


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