Worth digesting, whether the reader relies on it for self-help purposes or merely for nonfiction entertainment.

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THE INTELLIGENT ENTREPRENEUR

HOW THREE HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL GRADUATES LEARNED THE 10 RULES OF SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURSHIP

An unusual hybrid work of self-help, business and narrative nonfiction.

Former Washington Post reporter Murphy (In a Time of War: The Proud and Perilous Journey of West Point’s Class of 2002, 2008) admits to his failed attempts to start businesses, but his fascination with entrepreneurship led him to learn more by researching this book. The author focuses on three students who graduated from Harvard Business School in the late ’90s. The chapters alternate between the corporate start-up sagas of Marla Malcolm Beck, Marc Cenedella and Chris Michel on one hand, and each of the ten rules mentioned in the book’s subtitle on the other. Murphy’s explication of the rules is detailed and clear, although at times painfully obvious to the point of cliché. The journalism behind the author’s entrepreneurial profiles is strong, however, and the narrative chapters are compelling even though none of the featured businesspeople is famous, and their businesses, some of which they later sold, are known more to niche consumers than to a widespread audience. The degree of cooperation Murphy received from his subjects—as well as their classmates, professors, business partners and employees—is astounding, and greatly enriches the book. Most of the HBS classmates of the three leading characters did not follow the entrepreneurial path, causing the author to wonder about the specific qualities that made Beck, Cenedella and Michel stand out from the pack. Murphy digs deep into the minds and documents of the three protagonists to delineate the lessons they learned as they launched and nurtured their companies. The author then translates the lessons into a didactic context for readers who want to start enterprises based on HBS teachings.

Worth digesting, whether the reader relies on it for self-help purposes or merely for nonfiction entertainment.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9166-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2010

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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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A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY

A massive investigation of economic history in the service of proposing a political order to overcome inequality.

Readers who like their political manifestoes in manageable sizes, à la Common Sense or The Communist Manifesto, may be overwhelmed by the latest from famed French economist Piketty (Top Incomes in France in the Twentieth Century: Inequality and Redistribution, 1901-1998, 2014, etc.), but it’s a significant work. The author interrogates the principal forms of economic organization over time, from slavery to “non-European trifunctional societies,” Chinese-style communism, and “hypercapitalist” orders, in order to examine relative levels of inequality and its evolution. Each system is founded on an ideology, and “every ideology, no matter how extreme it may seem in its defense of inequality, expresses a certain idea of social justice.” In the present era, at least in the U.S., that idea of social justice would seem to be only that the big ones eat the little ones, the principal justification being that the wealthiest people became rich because they are “the most enterprising, deserving, and useful.” In fact, as Piketty demonstrates, there’s more to inequality than the mere “size of the income gap.” Contrary to hypercapitalist ideology and its defenders, the playing field is not level, the market is not self-regulating, and access is not evenly distributed. Against this, Piketty arrives at a proposed system that, among other things, would redistribute wealth across societies by heavy taxation, especially of inheritances, to create a “participatory socialism” in which power is widely shared and trade across nations is truly free. The word “socialism,” he allows, is a kind of Pandora’s box that can scare people off—and, he further acknowledges, “the Russian and Czech oligarchs who buy athletic teams and newspapers may not be the most savory characters, but the Soviet system was a nightmare and had to go.” Yet so, too, writes the author, is a capitalism that rewards so few at the expense of so many.

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98082-2

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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