A well-organized, well-written account of how Alibaba grew from a tiny startup to a corporate giant.

A key Alibaba executive looks at the culture that has underpinned the company’s growth—and what it means for the world.

Wong has held a number of senior positions at Alibaba, including as founder Jack Ma’s special assistant for international affairs. Because he joined the company in its early days (he was the 52nd employee and first American), he is well positioned to track the company’s development and explain the culture expansion. The book has the feel of an official corporate history, and anyone who is looking for critical analysis or an account of Alibaba’s ethically dubious cooperation with China’s authoritarian rulers will not find it here. That said, Wong has plenty to discuss. His initial emphasis is on the company’s priorities: customers first, employees second, shareholders third. This might sound like anathema to American businesses but it has worked well, and shareholders have received good returns. Wong points out that 20 years ago China had thousands of dynamic small companies which had no way to reach customers. Alibaba provided the portal to link sellers and buyers in a digital mall. Unlike Amazon, it did not have to carry huge inventory loads, but the key problem was payment. Credit cards were rare in China, so the answer was to jump to cellphones as primary payment mechanisms. Alibaba overcame the trust issue with its own payment arm, Alipay. Wong emphasizes that Alibaba has eschewed detailed planning in favor of responding to problems as they arise. Ma, when he was CEO, had an eye for good tech people although he also recruited people who showed capacities for innovation and customer relations rather than programming skills. The company gives division, branch, and team leaders wide discretion in decisions, which was especially valuable when Alibaba started global expansion and had to learn new cultural environments. The book might have been given more depth by a considered examination of some of the company’s failures but nevertheless The Tao of Alibaba presents a different way of looking at business as well as telling the story of a company that has become a key part of the world economy.

A well-organized, well-written account of how Alibaba grew from a tiny startup to a corporate giant.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5417-0165-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022



Perhaps not magic but appealing nonetheless.

Want to get ahead in business? Consult a dictionary.

By Wharton School professor Berger’s account, much of the art of persuasion lies in the art of choosing the right word. Want to jump ahead of others waiting in line to use a photocopy machine, even if they’re grizzled New Yorkers? Throw a because into the equation (“Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”), and you’re likely to get your way. Want someone to do your copying for you? Then change your verbs to nouns: not “Can you help me?” but “Can you be a helper?” As Berger notes, there’s a subtle psychological shift at play when a person becomes not a mere instrument in helping but instead acquires an identity as a helper. It’s the little things, one supposes, and the author offers some interesting strategies that eager readers will want to try out. Instead of alienating a listener with the omniscient should, as in “You should do this,” try could instead: “Well, you could…” induces all concerned “to recognize that there might be other possibilities.” Berger’s counsel that one should use abstractions contradicts his admonition to use concrete language, and it doesn’t help matters to say that each is appropriate to a particular situation, while grammarians will wince at his suggestion that a nerve-calming exercise to “try talking to yourself in the third person (‘You can do it!’)” in fact invokes the second person. Still, there are plenty of useful insights, particularly for students of advertising and public speaking. It’s intriguing to note that appeals to God are less effective in securing a loan than a simple affirmative such as “I pay all bills…on time”), and it’s helpful to keep in mind that “the right words used at the right time can have immense power.”

Perhaps not magic but appealing nonetheless.

Pub Date: March 7, 2023

ISBN: 9780063204935

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper Business

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2023


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

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