THE CASE FOR CULTURE

HOW TO STOP BEING A SLAVE TO YOUR LAW FIRM, GROW YOUR PRACTICE, AND ACTUALLY BE HAPPY

An upbeat, engaging guide to improving a work environment.

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A legal entrepreneur makes a case for establishing a strong corporate culture.

In his debut business book, Farber, the CEO and chief legal officer of Pacific Workers’ Compensation Law Center, shares lessons he’s learned from founding and running a law firm that, after some trial and error, has developed a strong sense of purpose, high employee satisfaction, and low turnover. The book takes readers through aspects of mission, self-awareness, hiring, and compensation, offering key insights that can also be applied to businesses outside of the legal field. Farber describes his mistakes as well as his successes, showing how, for instance, the firm’s original hiring process led to a weak staff, but it gradually improved as he learned to match the right person to the right job and ensure that new employees embraced the company’s core values. The book is well organized, with each chapter dealing with a different aspect of corporate culture and presenting concrete examples of successes and failures. Farber does a good job of explaining the seeming contradiction at the heart of his own company’s culture, which involved developing an extensive list of procedures and standards while also providing employees with the autonomy to put them into practice. He also provides a coherent explanation of why lawyers, steeped in a hierarchical and adversarial system (“Our thick skin projects an image of strength that, at first glance, seems at odds with vulnerability”), often have difficulty embracing a more effective workplace structure. Farber is open about the many other books that have shaped his understanding of business culture, and he does a good job of synthesizing and sharing those volumes’ lessons. The writing is strong throughout, and Farber displays an enthusiasm that makes for an engaging narrative. His willingness to discuss how he learned from errors, and improved his company as a result, keeps the book from devolving into self-congratulation.

An upbeat, engaging guide to improving a work environment.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5445-0587-9

Page Count: 242

Publisher: Lioncrest Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 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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