A mixed bag, but it contains solid contributions to the literature of creativity and organizational change.

THE SERENDIPITY MINDSET

THE ART AND SCIENCE OF CREATING GOOD LUCK

An exploration of how “we are all prone to coincidental encounters”—and how we can use them to our advantage.

A horrific car accident as an 18-year-old set Busch to thinking about good luck—or, as he calls it, serendipity, “the hidden force in the world, and it is present all around us, from the smallest day-to-day events to life-changing, and sometimes world-changing, breakthroughs.” Surely, surviving a wreck counts as good luck, and being open to good luck probably leads to more rather than less of it—as Louis Pasteur said, “chance favors only the prepared mind.” Busch delivers a narrative that is partly common-sensical but that too often veers off into pseudo-science, speculation, and New Age–y platitudes: “Things such as synchronicity—these meaningful coincidences in time—tend to happen when we put energy into the universe.” Those practical elements are squarely in the business/self-help tradition, and while there’s not much surprising about them, it’s useful to be reminded: Reframe a problem as an opportunity, and you’re likely to come up with something interesting. Surround yourself with interesting people, diverse but not so diverse as to be diffuse. Build networks and be active in doing good things for their members; “nobody appreciates being in your address book just because of what they can do for you.” The author is adept at analyzing specific events and institutions to help drive home his points. For example, he studies the physical layout of Burning Man to deduce that its closely spaced public places foster meetings while filling their centers with art provides an opportunity for people admiring the same piece to interact. After all, plenty of things happen as a result of chance encounters. Even so, readers interested in luck and accident would do just as well to read Arthur Koestler’s 1972 book The Roots of Coincidence.

A mixed bag, but it contains solid contributions to the literature of creativity and organizational change.

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-08602-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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