Although each strategy is common-sensical in its own right, taken together, they form a thoughtful, easy-to-digest approach...

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THE POWER OF FIFTY BITS

THE NEW SCIENCE OF TURNING GOOD INTENTIONS INTO POSITIVE RESULTS

Useful advice on how to act on your good intentions.

In his debut, Nease, who served as the chief scientist at Express Scripts, a health care company that helps patients make better decisions regarding prescription drugs, describes strategies for improving human behaviors. People “make lousy decisions and behave badly,” he writes, because our brains are “wired for inattention and inertia, not for attention and choice.” Recent research shows that our brains process 10 million bits of information each second, of which only 50 bits are devoted to conscious thought. Most often, we focus on what is most pressing or pleasurable. To encourage positive behaviors, Nease has developed a series of strategies based on the belief that most people want to do the right thing—whether saving money, eating right, exercising more, or being more charitable—but need help acting on those good intentions. The strategies include requiring choice, locking in good intentions, using opt-outs, getting in the flow of people’s attention, reframing choices, piggybacking (making the desired behavior the side effect of something already deemed enjoyable), and simplifying (to make wrong choices more difficult). The author explains the reasoning behind and how to use each strategy, with examples drawn from his own experience as a high-level decision-maker in the health care industry. He stresses the need to use these strategies in combination, as needed, with an emphasis on making preferred choices as simple as possible. For example, to encourage people to climb stairs rather than take an elevator, a stairway must be “easy to find, well illuminated, and visually appealing.” Focusing on activating good intentions that many people already have can be much more effective than trying to change their intentions through education and increased incentives.

Although each strategy is common-sensical in its own right, taken together, they form a thoughtful, easy-to-digest approach for individuals and organizations seeking to foster better choices.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-240745-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Harper Business

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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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 readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.

REIMAGINING CAPITALISM IN A WORLD ON FIRE

A well-constructed critique of an economic system that, by the author’s account, is a driver of the world’s destruction.

Harvard Business School professor Henderson vigorously questions the bromide that “management’s only duty is to maximize shareholder value,” a notion advanced by Milton Friedman and accepted uncritically in business schools ever since. By that logic, writes the author, there is no reason why corporations should not fish out the oceans, raise drug prices, militate against public education (since it costs tax money), and otherwise behave ruinously and anti-socially. Many do, even though an alternative theory of business organization argues that corporations and society should enjoy a symbiotic relationship of mutual benefit, which includes corporate investment in what economists call public goods. Given that the history of humankind is “the story of our increasing ability to cooperate at larger and larger scales,” one would hope that in the face of environmental degradation and other threats, we might adopt the symbiotic model rather than the winner-take-all one. Problems abound, of course, including that of the “free rider,” the corporation that takes the benefits from collaborative agreements but does none of the work. Henderson examines case studies such as a large food company that emphasized environmentally responsible production and in turn built “purpose-led, sustainable living brands” and otherwise led the way in increasing shareholder value by reducing risk while building demand. The author argues that the “short-termism” that dominates corporate thinking needs to be adjusted to a longer view even though the larger problem might be better characterized as “failure of information.” Henderson closes with a set of prescriptions for bringing a more equitable economics to the personal level, one that, among other things, asks us to step outside routine—eat less meat, drive less—and become active in forcing corporations (and politicians) to be better citizens.

A readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5417-3015-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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