Fine inspiration for entrepreneurs that should be required reading in any business school curriculum.

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THE PASSION ECONOMY

THE NEW RULES FOR THRIVING IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

Financial journalist Davidson explores the new economy of pursuing one’s dreams instead of plodding through a thankless career.

Do what you love, and the money will follow. Davidson, a New Yorker staff writer and creator of NPR’s Planet Money podcast, takes that idea and runs with it, his book predicated on the thrilling idea that a new economy is right around the corner, one in which “our work lives and our deepest passions can merge, happily, in ways that make us better off financially and personally.” Think of a place like a certain well-known fast-food chain, one that makes it “immediately clear that you are not in a place of joy,” a place where workers are replaceable and know it. Then contrast that with someone with a rare skill set, someone who, as with one of his examples, took training as a naval aviator and retail consultant and turned that into a delicious, much-sought-after candy bar, successful even though the candy giants had a lock on the distribution chain. Another example is a woman who grew up around the people who, with callused hands and dirty boots, did the hard work of harvesting grapes, and she converted her in-depth knowledge into a marketing business positioning wines before discerning audiences of drinkers. There’s a new paradigm at work here, one that defies the old laws of supply and demand and that instead posits that price, for instance, is one of those things that a customer understands is a token of “the benefits they hope to receive: benefits based on very specialized knowledge.” Technology and interlocked global markets bring this specialized knowledge to the world in ways that could only have been dreamed of in the past. Davidson’s case studies are excellent, but the heart of the book is a set of rules worthy of committing to memory—e.g., “Pursue intimacy at scale”; “Know what business you’re in, and it’s probably not what you think.”

Fine inspiration for entrepreneurs that should be required reading in any business school curriculum.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-38-535352-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

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EDISON

One of history’s most prolific inventors receives his due from one of the world’s greatest biographers.

Pulitzer and National Book Award winner Morris (This Living Hand and Other Essays, 2012, etc.), who died this year, agrees that Thomas Edison (1847-1931) almost certainly said, “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration,” and few readers of this outstanding biography will doubt that he was the quintessential workaholic. Raised in a middle-class Michigan family, Edison displayed an obsessive entrepreneurial spirit from childhood. As an adolescent, he ran a thriving business selling food and newspapers on a local railroad. Learning Morse code, he spent the Civil War as a telegrapher, impressing colleagues with his speed and superiors with his ability to improve the equipment. In 1870, he opened his own shop to produce inventions to order. By 1876, he had money to build a large laboratory in New Jersey, possibly the world’s first industrial research facility. Never a loner, Edison hired talented people to assist him. The dazzling results included the first commercially successful light bulb for which, Morris reminds readers, he invented the entire system: dynamo, wires, transformers, connections, and switches. Critics proclaim that Edison’s innovations (motion pictures, fluoroscope, rechargeable batteries, mimeograph, etc.) were merely improvements on others’ work, but this is mostly a matter of sour grapes. Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone was a clunky, short-range device until it added Edison’s carbon microphone. And his phonograph flabbergasted everyone. Humans had been making images long before Daguerre, but no one had ever reproduced sound. Morris rivetingly describes the personalities, business details, and practical uses of Edison’s inventions as well as the massive technical details of years of research and trial and error for both his triumphs and his failures. For no obvious reason, the author writes in reverse chronological order, beginning in 1920, with each of the seven following chapters backtracking a decade. It may not satisfy all readers, but it works.

Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9311-0

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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