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

INSIDE APPLE

HOW AMERICA'S MOST ADMIRED--AND SECRETIVE--COMPANY REALLY WORKS

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...

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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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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