THE MAP AND THE TERRITORY

RISK, HUMAN NATURE, AND THE FUTURE OF FORECASTING

Sober without being dour and with a perhaps surprisingly optimistic conclusion. For policy wonks and readers with a grasp of...

Former Federal Reserve Board chairman Greenspan (The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World, 2007, etc.) lightens up on free market orthodoxies to ponder the fact that people do not always behave, economically, as we wish them to—and neither do markets.

The author has long espoused a kind of laissez faire–ism that assumes that markets are self-adjusting and guided by the enlightened self-interest of individuals. Even so, Greenspan warned darkly of “over-exuberance” in the market, a polite way of hinting that a bubble was about to burst. The author opens with the admission that, yes, some people behave with less than “rational long-term self-interest” when everyone else is clamoring for the wonders of high-tech and the South Seas. A touch late in the game, he also asserts that, since we know of our irrationality as players in the economic game, we should be able to build this flaw into our economic forecasting models and predict future crashes. Though much of the book is a rather technical discussion—it is the dismal science after all—of things such as risk aversion and time preference, Greenspan scores some important points along the way. We need, he suggests, regulation in the marketplace—just not the kind of regulation we’ve been getting. Further, many of our problems, though of an economic nature, are political and not strictly matters of the exchequer, meaning that political solutions are required if, due to the current political mood in Washington, not likely to be soon forthcoming. On a level both micro and macro, the author also notes that “[o]ne of the most fundamental propositions of economics is that advances in standards of living require savings,” a bit of wisdom that we’ve all been neglecting.

Sober without being dour and with a perhaps surprisingly optimistic conclusion. For policy wonks and readers with a grasp of basic economics, a refreshing re-examination of doctrine, reality and effect.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59420-481-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

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. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

THE CULTURE MAP

BREAKING THROUGH THE INVISIBLE BOUNDARIES OF GLOBAL BUSINESS

These are not hard and fast rules, but Meyer delivers important reading for those engaged in international business.

A helpful guide to working effectively with people from other cultures.

“The sad truth is that the vast majority of managers who conduct business internationally have little understanding about how culture is impacting their work,” writes Meyer, a professor at INSEAD, an international business school. Yet they face a wider array of work styles than ever before in dealing with clients, suppliers and colleagues from around the world. When is it best to speak or stay quiet? What is the role of the leader in the room? When working with foreign business people, failing to take cultural differences into account can lead to frustration, misunderstanding or worse. Based on research and her experiences teaching cross-cultural behaviors to executive students, the author examines a handful of key areas. Among others, they include communicating (Anglo-Saxons are explicit; Asians communicate implicitly, requiring listeners to read between the lines), developing a sense of trust (Brazilians do it over long lunches), and decision-making (Germans rely on consensus, Americans on one decider). In each area, the author provides a “culture map scale” that positions behaviors in more than 20 countries along a continuum, allowing readers to anticipate the preferences of individuals from a particular country: Do they like direct or indirect negative feedback? Are they rigid or flexible regarding deadlines? Do they favor verbal or written commitments? And so on. Meyer discusses managers who have faced perplexing situations, such as knowledgeable team members who fail to speak up in meetings or Indians who offer a puzzling half-shake, half-nod of the head. Cultural differences—not personality quirks—are the motivating factors behind many behavioral styles. Depending on our cultures, we understand the world in a particular way, find certain arguments persuasive or lacking merit, and consider some ways of making decisions or measuring time natural and others quite strange.

These are not hard and fast rules, but Meyer delivers important reading for those engaged in international business.

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61039-250-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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