Whitaker proves herself a genial, informed companion for a journey toward “creative flexibility.”

How to foster creativity in any workplace.

Leonardo da Vinci is one among many artists, scientists, business entrepreneurs, athletes, and writers whom Whitaker (Museum Legs: Fatigue and Hope in the Face of Art, 2009, etc.) investigates in her cheerful, encouraging, and practical guide to creativity. “This book,” she writes, “is a meditation and a manual, a manifesto and a love story, for how art—creativity writ large—and business go together. It is about how to construct a life of originality and meaning within the real constraints of the market economy.” Having earned both a master’s of business and a master’s of fine art, Whitaker aims to merge “the mindsets of art” with “the tools of business.” She advises setting aside space “for open-ended, failure-is-possible exploration” without being afraid of uncertainty; finding a guide, a colleague, and other allies to become part of one’s creative team; and broadening one’s definition of creative activity to include the “practice of friendship and the invention of play,” civic involvement, spiritual enhancement, “exploration of the body, in sports or dance or movement,” music, storytelling, and visual design. Taking a “portfolio approach,” writes Whitaker, balances “steady and low-risk” parts of one’s life with more risky forays into art. For the author, the process matters more than the end product, and she warns against “excessive monitoring and reporting.” As she notes, many successfully creative people began as failures: Elvis Presley failed music class; Michael Jordan was cut from his high school’s basketball team; Dr. Seuss’ first book was rejected 27 times. Just as failure is no excuse for giving up, easy success can stunt “the muscle memory of resilience.” Creativity, the author claims, is primarily an expression of one’s unique selfhood: “You are an amalgamation at any point in time that is snowflake-like in its irreproducibility.”

Whitaker proves herself a genial, informed companion for a journey toward “creative flexibility.”

Pub Date: July 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-235827-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper Business

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2016


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


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

“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. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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