The self-help publishing phenomenon is nothing new. Born into midwest American rural poverty, Dale Carnegie was born Dale Carnagey but changed his name to gain reflected glory from the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie and made a fortune bolstering the self-confidence of his countrymen before publishing this 15 million-selling book in 1937.

Carnegie held a view that is common currency now. He said that success is less about what you know than how you say it: those who could persuade, cajole and lead would be society's winners and empathy, an ability to inspire and win trust, and affection are the keys to worldly success.

How do you win friends and influence people? Carnegie's lessons are as bold and plain as tablets of stone.
You need to: act friendly, avoid apportioning blame, appreciate good work, instil desire, issue challenges, express yourself dramatically, listen carefully, admit you are wrong, show interest in the other person and make them feel important.

Whatever you do, you shouldn't: argue, express dissent, dominate conversation or note mistakes in others.

Some of the advice is saccharine by today's standards, notably the counsel to smile, say the person's name in conversation, or give them a chance to save face when they have made a mistake.

Still, which of us can say that in business exchanges we have not used or at least observed some or all of the above?

How To Win Friends has become the lingua franca for friendly persuasion; we follow its advice whether we notice it or not, having assimilated by osmosis the thinking behind the work. Just as, whether religious or not, a Briton cannot avoid being tugged by Christian tenets, we are all Carnegie's pupils.

Carnegie himself inspired that other sign of success - being copied. Today's raft of conferences, designed to make you a better communicator, manager or partner, have an umbilical link with Carnegie's thoughts. Indeed, with the pace of life and change faster today, such simple, direct lessons are eaten up by readers more than ever, even if few of the books being consumed give credit to the grand-daddy of the self-improvement industry, Dale Carnegie.