Of considerable interest to investors in emerging economies as well as development specialists and policymakers.

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THE PROSPERITY PARADOX

HOW INNOVATION CAN LIFT NATIONS OUT OF POVERTY

Why have some nations become prosperous while others have remained poor—and in many cases poorer than half a century ago? Harvard Business School professor Christensen (The Power of Everyday Missionaries: The What and How of Sharing the Gospel, 2013, etc.) and colleagues venture some suggestive answers.

Prosperity, by the authors’ account, does not mean simply relative wealth, but also access to goods such as education and health care as well as the promise of good governance and upward mobility. By these lights, readers may well wonder whether the United States counts as a prosperous nation; be that as it may, an ingredient for prosperity is the ability to see a problem and solve it by opening a market that pulls infrastructure and other social goods up with it. A case in point is Mo Ibrahim, who, 20-odd years ago, saw that in Africa, with its lack of landline infrastructure, lay the opportunity to build a vast cellphone network to serve the continent’s billion people. This, writes the authors, speaks to “nonconsumption,” or unattainability—“there’s no affordable and accessible solution to their problem,” in short—that Ibrahim saw his way through to addressing by innovating in areas such as pay-as-you-go programs rather than fixed monthly fees. No bank would touch his Celtel, which he funded with equity financing, but Ibrahim built an empire overnight that spurred other “market-creating innovation.” All this is of a piece with Christensen’s doctrine of disruptive innovation: Creating markets is preferable to sustaining them (the original iPhone did the former, he writes, while the iPhone X does the latter) and to making innovations in efficiency. Christensen and colleagues serve up examples from business histories (among the most winning of them the Bank of America) around the world, including Mexico, long touted as “the next potential superpower—but it’s always stuck there.” Their extensive notes may seem a touch daunting, but they lend a case-study aspect to a book that will be valuable to business readers.

Of considerable interest to investors in emerging economies as well as development specialists and policymakers.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-285182-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper Business

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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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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A readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.

REIMAGINING CAPITALISM IN A WORLD ON FIRE

A well-constructed critique of an economic system that, by the author’s account, is a driver of the world’s destruction.

Harvard Business School professor Henderson vigorously questions the bromide that “management’s only duty is to maximize shareholder value,” a notion advanced by Milton Friedman and accepted uncritically in business schools ever since. By that logic, writes the author, there is no reason why corporations should not fish out the oceans, raise drug prices, militate against public education (since it costs tax money), and otherwise behave ruinously and anti-socially. Many do, even though an alternative theory of business organization argues that corporations and society should enjoy a symbiotic relationship of mutual benefit, which includes corporate investment in what economists call public goods. Given that the history of humankind is “the story of our increasing ability to cooperate at larger and larger scales,” one would hope that in the face of environmental degradation and other threats, we might adopt the symbiotic model rather than the winner-take-all one. Problems abound, of course, including that of the “free rider,” the corporation that takes the benefits from collaborative agreements but does none of the work. Henderson examines case studies such as a large food company that emphasized environmentally responsible production and in turn built “purpose-led, sustainable living brands” and otherwise led the way in increasing shareholder value by reducing risk while building demand. The author argues that the “short-termism” that dominates corporate thinking needs to be adjusted to a longer view even though the larger problem might be better characterized as “failure of information.” Henderson closes with a set of prescriptions for bringing a more equitable economics to the personal level, one that, among other things, asks us to step outside routine—eat less meat, drive less—and become active in forcing corporations (and politicians) to be better citizens.

A readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5417-3015-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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