A fast-paced account of a key business institution, its deeds and misdeeds.

THE FIRM

THE STORY OF MCKINSEY AND ITS SECRET INFLUENCE ON AMERICAN BUSINESS

A history of the McKinsey consulting business and an evaluation of whether it is a “net increaser of ‘value’ or merely the most capable mercenary force in the corporate world.”

In a timely book, Fortune and New York Observer contributor McDonald (Last Man Standing: The Ascent of Jamie Dimon and JPMorgan Chase, 2010) probes the leading business consulting company in the country, considering McKinsey's role in the functioning of America’s corporations and their leadership. The author leaves no doubt about his own critical views as he discusses such questions as whether the firm's advice is worth what its customer pay. He discusses the extent to which it has been “preying on the insecurity of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ ” by feeding on the tendency of one organization to imitate another or simply providing corporate leadership with cover stories from the outside “disinterested expert” who recommends what corporations want to do anyway. McDonald asserts that McKinsey “made the bulk of its money helping its clients slash costs” and suggests the company may have been the impetus for more job losses than any entity in U.S. corporate history. Originally, business consulting provided a way for corporations to maneuver around antitrust laws and a vehicle for swapping intelligence and business practices. Marvin Bower, successor of the founder, made McKinsey into the force it became as top companies like General Motors were recruited as clients in the 1930s. Contracts to reorganize national security and defense during the Eisenhower administration gave the company new leverage and clients. McDonald discusses whether the advice the company gave during the 1990s to clients like Enron and Citibank may have contributed to subsequent economic crises. He also emphasizes the firm's defense that they only provide advice; others choose whether to implement it.

A fast-paced account of a key business institution, its deeds and misdeeds.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4391-9097-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2013

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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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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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