A highly readable business book addressing key aspects of cultural change.




A business fable reveals the importance of leadership in a developing corporate culture.

In this book, McGoff (The Primes, 2011, etc.) tells the story of Carolyn Qualey, opening with the first day of work for the newly appointed CEO of Phossium Enterprises. Carolyn quickly learns that Phossium’s apathetic culture of buck-passing and stagnation is the reason the company is rapidly shedding customers. She understands that she will have to rebuild the employees’ way of thinking about work if the firm is going to succeed (“First, she had to follow the symptoms of Phossium’s default culture back to its roots, discover the cause, and destroy it at the source so the problems would go away for good”). Carolyn encounters resistance from the start, but she slowly discovers thoughtful and idealistic staffers willing to join her in taking responsibility for their actions and moving the company in a positive direction. She encourages some of the more disgruntled workers, especially on the leadership team, to depart. Carolyn also learns to temper her zeal for change with humility and empathy, motivating employees instead of issuing orders, and ultimately inspires a public display of loyalty from her staff. After Carolyn’s tale concludes, the final quarter of the book is a more straightforward presentation of the central message, highlighting the crucial lessons presented in the fictional account (“In a peak performance culture, the people and the organization, as a whole, maintain a posture of clear, shared intention, enabling the universe to assist in surprising ways”). The volume also presents helpful action items for executives looking to transform corporate cultures (“Think of this as getting a shared perspective on the underlying physics of the organization”). McGoff’s prose is measured and straightforward, presenting realistic solutions and avoiding hyperbole. The combination of fictional narrative and more traditional business book is an effective one, with the story engaging enough to serve as a canvas for the guide’s lessons. The line drawings by Nuttle (I Wonder, 2007) add a touch of whimsy to the work, reinforcing the allegorical facets of Carolyn’s tale. Although it is less concise than genre classics like Who Moved My Cheese? the manual is a useful tool for executives in search of inspiration.

A highly readable business book addressing key aspects of cultural change.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-946633-12-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: ForbesBooks

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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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. 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.


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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