March 03, 2006


Courtesy of the Simpsons: "When Flanders Failed"

Lisa: Dad, do you know what Schadenfreude is?
Homer: (sarcastically) No, I do not know what Schadenfreude is. Please tell me, because I'm dying to know!
Lisa: It's a German term for 'shameful joy', taking pleasure in the suffering of others.
Homer: Oh, come on Lisa. I'm just glad to see him fall flat on his butt!

There's something about reading of the misfortunes and failures of others that is so enjoyable and amusing - and the media seems to eat this up. Two of my favorite recurring features in the business press are dedicated to the mistakes made by public figures and company executives.

The first is's "The Five Dumbest Things on Wall Street This Week", which looks at the week's headlines, picks five blunders, and assigns them a numerical score on the "Dumb-O-Meter" from 1 to 100. This week, Google chimes in with a 93 over their CFO's reports of slowing growth, while CBS and Cisco also make the list.

The second is Business 2.0's annual feature "101 Dumbest Moments In Business", which does 20 times better, and always astounds me with how they quickly find amusing screw-ups and summarize them in a paragraph apiece. If you haven't read through this year's list, make sure you do. After all, if the best part of reading others' mistakes is to avoid your own, there are more than 100 things you can learn NOT to do.

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