A thorough but flawed attempt to penetrate a corporate icon’s blank white shell.



Fortune senior editor at large Lashinsky wonders if the success of Apple can be replicated, or even continued, in the wake of the death of Steve Jobs.

The author writes clearly and efficiently but is repetitive in his analysis of this secretive cultural giant. “For years it was an article of faith in Silicon Valley that Apple should not be emulated,” he writes. Yet his narrative picks apart Jobs’ entrepreneurial philosophy and the company’s remarkable post-1997 trajectory—when it first revolutionized personal computing, then introduced the iPod and iPhone—in attempting to discuss such a strategy. One problem, as Lashinsky writes, is the company’s cultivated lack of transparency. The author seems to rely on secondary sources, and comments from current and former Apple employees are often unattributed. The basic narrative of Apple’s resurgence is well known: After Jobs left his own company due to corporate squabbling, it declined rapidly in the Internet era. Yet Jobs’ return in 1997 ushered in a season of risky corporate paring-down, followed by a string of success, starting with the iconic iMac. Jobs introduced compartmentalization and hyper-competitiveness to every aspect of the company. For example, his annual “Top 100” meetings were pointedly exclusionary, which Lashinsky suggests is not the norm at such retreats. Apple as a workplace is portrayed as nearly monastic in employees’ willingness to sacrifice their personal lives, remain incommunicado and achieve the extreme interdepartmental cooperation Jobs sought, even at the end. Lashinsky describes Jobs’ successor Tim Cook as “a Mr. Fix-it who blended in but didn’t take no for an answer.” Among other late corporate innovations, Jobs quietly created a management-training program, Apple University, to “record, codify, and teach Apple’s business history.” Such points allow Lashinsky to support parallel assertions throughout—that Jobs’ management style may or may not be transferable, and that Apple’s special success may or may not endure once Jobs-approved projects pass through the pipeline.

A thorough but flawed attempt to penetrate a corporate icon’s blank white shell.

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4555-1215-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Business Plus/Grand Central

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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


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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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.


Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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