ANATOMY OF GREED

THE UNSHREDDED TRUTH FROM AN ENRON INSIDER

Gossipy and superficial, but a worthy companion to such kindred works as The Late Show, Microserfs, and Barbarians at the...

A rueful memoir by a young Enron acolyte who saw his dreams of wealth go down in flames—and here gets a little payback.

Employees of Enron, for a time the nation’s seventh most valuable corporation, were driven by two forces: fear and greed. Within what they called the “Death Star,” writes Cruver, fear came in the form of “rank and yank” performance reviews and the periodic purging of whole departments; greed was inspired by “colossal bonuses, millions in stock options,” and the promise of influence in the comparatively small pond that was Houston. Fear and greed were also what brought Enron down: paralyzed at the thought of gainsaying the company line, sure that instant wealth lay just around the corner, Cruver and his colleagues chose to ignore warnings that Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, Andy Fastow, and other Enron officers were playing fast and loose with the facts and the books. The collapse of the proposed Enron/Dynergy merger in November 2001 finally shook all but the most ardent company loyalists awake; While sometimes sophomoric and self-satisfied, Cruver’s narrative has several virtues, among them its explanation of how Enron’s culture reflected the personalities and ambitions of Lay, a consummate politician (Cruver guesses that Lay had been preparing for a run at high public office before the collapse), and Skilling, supremely arrogant and “known to himself and others as the smartest human being ever to walk the face of the earth.” Cruver is also self-aware enough to know that his is but the first of a likely wave of books about Enron, and that other volumes will bring the depth of analysis that his does not—which does not diminish its value for business-oriented readers seeking tips on how not to run a company.

Gossipy and superficial, but a worthy companion to such kindred works as The Late Show, Microserfs, and Barbarians at the Gate.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-7867-1093-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2002

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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