THE SERENDIPITY MINDSET

THE ART AND SCIENCE OF CREATING GOOD LUCK

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

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 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

MAGIC WORDS

WHAT TO SAY TO GET YOUR WAY

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

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

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