An observant, discerning work on understanding and improving organizations.

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An in-depth examination of “the psychology of citizenship.”

Using his dual perspectives as a psychiatrist and an organizational consultant, Shapiro addresses a subject that has vast implications for individuals and organizational leaders. He methodically analyzes human connections in the broadest sense of the word, beginning with the family, progressing to the group, and culminating in organizations. Part I is a crash course in organizational dynamics. It begins with three engaging stories that uniquely demonstrate how a single individual’s actions can significantly impact a group. Shapiro accurately observes, “The more we become aware that our experience of ourselves is affected by others…the less sure we seem to be about where our individual experience begins and ends.” In Part II, Shapiro shows the ways leaders help shape institutions. He relies heavily on his experience as CEO and medical director of the Austen Riggs Center, a psychiatric hospital and residential treatment center, to both offer an understanding of the CEO psyche and outline the complexity of the leader’s role. At Riggs, Shapiro discovered “central aspects of collaborative citizenship.” Part III is expansive; it moves from a consideration of the ways institutions respond to society’s needs to individuals’ identities within nations, specifically the United States. Shapiro wrestles with some uncomfortable truths in this section and offers insightful observations: “In assuming its own mature responsibilities for contributing to the marginalization of subgroups both within and without, this country might offer a realistic hope for transcending differences in the service of a larger integrative mission.” At the close of Part III, Shapiro ponders what it means to be a global citizen.

The book’s sections flow cohesively from one to the next, so the logical progression of the argument becomes clear. The author explores the complex psychological dynamics of individuals, families, groups, and organizations in lucid writing free of medical and scientific jargon. Throughout, Shapiro cites pertinent examples and includes anecdotes, each of which aptly illustrates a key point. These stories, whether they are about individuals in families, patients in hospitals, or employees in companies, all serve to enrich the theories presented here. The author’s observations also further understanding of the less-than-logical ways humans process their situations, something that seems intuitive only once it’s explained. For example, about workers, he notes, “The fantasies and beliefs that individuals carry about the nature of their workplace has at least as much of an impact on organizational behavior as the workplace itself.” About leaders, he writes, they “must be transparent about their motivations and the effects of their own irrationality.” Shapiro projects his own humility, too; describing an experience as an “Institute Leader,” he steps outside the story and inserts his own reflections, questioning his role and observing his behavior at the time. This adds an element of psychological self-analysis that makes the narrative even more interesting. His hypothesis at the end of the book—“It is perhaps possible to conceive of humanity as a multicellular learning system, with each of us as a working cell”—is worth remembering.

An observant, discerning work on understanding and improving organizations.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-912691-33-3

Page Count: 204

Publisher: Phoenix Publishing House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022



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


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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