THE CONFERENCE BOARD REVIEW
Some executives are seeking advice from corporate psychics. No joke.
VADIM LIBERMAN is senior editor of TCB Review. He has visions of you reading this article.
BY VADIM LIBERMAN * ILLUSTRATION BY JAMES STEINBERG
(www.TCBR.com) Mary Bosco was running out of time. She needed to make a decision quickly: Should she re-sign the lease for the headquarters of her IT training firm, MSMTechs? Or should she purchase a new building?
She struggled with the choice; she didn’t know what to do.
But Victoria Lynn Weston knew. “‘This afternoon, you will meet with a man named Kevin from Wachovia,’” Bosco recalls Weston telling her. “‘He’ll approve a loan to buy a new property, and you’ll end up purchasing it.’” Later that day, Bosco received the financing. The bank was Wachovia. She eventually acquired the property. And yes, the representative’s name was Kevin.
Most of us aren’t sure what we’re eating for dinner tonight, so how could Weston foretell Bosco’s financial future? Because she’s a psychic specializing in business readings. And she’s hardly the only one. More significantly, neither is Bosco. Increasingly, executives are turning to psychics such as Weston for help making tough calls: “Will this merger succeed?”, “Should I hire this job candidate?”, and, “When will my company turn a profit again?”
Hold on a second: Aren’t work colleagues, management consultants, and other experts supposed to be providing such help? Well, yes, but it’s not as if they can see the future. . . .
Are you rolling your eyes yet? (See, one needn’t be a psychic to have predicted that reaction.) You should be, not because you’re skeptical—though you should be that too—but because others aren’t skeptical enough. It’d be one thing if business leaders were hiring psychics simply to entertain at corporate functions. They already are, along with jugglers, magicians, and comedians. But CEOs aren’t asking jugglers, magicians, and comedians to sit in on board meetings or for their opinions on how the latest SEC regulation will affect the company, so why are they asking psychics?
When an organization’s direction hinges, even partly, on the flip of a tarot card, Jupiter’s location tomorrow, or mere intuition, good fun warps into questionable management. So it’s worth pondering: Why are any executives making paranormal the new normal?
It’s been said that in a rough economy, two professions will always thrive: prediction and prostitution. Victoria Woodhull worked at both at times in her life. (She was also the first female presidential candidate, in 1872; maybe she should have known she’d lose.) And Woodhull was one of the first prominent psychics to extend her predictions into the business world, counseling Cornelius Vanderbilt and other top bankers.
Granted, even in the nineteenth century, society held a corporate psychic in only slightly more repute than a prostitute. Still, at least we understand the nature of sex work. Not so psychic work. In fact, plenty of things about psychics remain unknown—for starters, just how many businesspeople actually solicit their services. Psychics interviewed for this article estimate that business readings account for 30 to 75 percent of their work.
It’s not so much that execs are quizzing psychics about their careers, promotions, or bonuses, though certainly, there’s plenty of that. They want recommendations about more strategic corporate matters: mergers, investments, media campaigns, sales, personnel, expansions, products.
These are all conventional topics and questions—only the answers are coming from unconventional advisers. Putting aside for now any justification, there’s at least an overriding logical explanation for why some executives look outside the box by turning to those who look inside a crystal ball (even if few psychics actually peer into crystal balls these days). Their assumed forecasting ability lures businesspeople disillusioned by their typical menagerie of management experts and analysts.
Think about it: If the people on whom you normally depend for advice couldn’t see this downturn coming, why believe that they can help you now? Furthermore, what does it say when you hire consultants—you know, the regular kind, with industry knowledge and expertise—who then end up hiring their own psychics to prepare reports for you? (It happens, psychics say.)
It says that in an uncertain economy, we’re all desperate for new advice to compensate for the perceived shortcomings of the old or, at least, to supplement it. And when execs confuse “new” with “good,” it’s no surprise that many psychics claim a business clientele boom as the economic rollercoaster hurtles along.
“When clients come to me, they are pretty open to the direction that I provide,” explains Carla Baron, a Los Angeles based “psychic, medium, and psychic profiler.” “They are willing to listen because whatever they were doing before wasn’t working. They’re stuck.” Danielle Daoust, a psychic in London, Ontario, even claims to have kept companies out of bankruptcy in recent times.
Who exactly are these clients that Baron and Daoust have helped? Neither psychic would name names, even of those who might verify the information anonymously. In fact, Weston, who works out of Atlanta, was the only psychic involved in this article willing to identify a few clients.