Relevant for some product development teams, but others may find the core idea too basic for their needs.

Focus for The Fuzzy Front End of Product Development


A former product engineer serves up a simple process to help companies choose the right ideas.

Here’s a stunning statistic: Companies “can consume 50 percent of development time” on the “fuzzy front end” of a product’s life cycle—the time when a product concept is formulated and the company decides whether or not to pursue the idea. Parker’s book is all about fixing this problem by using the dramatically simple “idea sheet” process. By creating a single, one-sided sheet of paper with a solid description of each idea, the author writes, a company’s product development team can quickly sift through the ideas, weed out the bad ones and pursue only the good ones. Lest the reader think the idea sheet is a no-brainer, it does require two crucial buy-ins: First, management (whom Parker labels “the boss”) has to support the process and second, valued customers need to be recruited as idea filters. Ultimately, it is a customer’s reaction to an idea that determines its go/no-go status. Parker meticulously details the entire idea sheet process, sometimes to a fault. He offers a blow-by-blow description of every element and each moment in an idea sheet meeting. At times, this level of specificity suggests the author’s objective is to bulk up the book since the content is too lean. On the positive side, Parker supplements the description of the process with idea sheet examples, a scenario—in which an engineer’s emotional involvement with an idea dooms it to failure—that represents what not to do, and some of his own experiences. All of this is good, but the book suffers from redundancy; it seems, for instance, that the author merely restates the same steps of the idea sheet process meeting in two different chapters. The text could be more crisply written, and black-and-white illustrations separating the chapters tend to look amateurish. Still, managers seeking an easy-to-implement way to cut down on wasted front-end product development time could benefit from Parker’s process.

Relevant for some product development teams, but others may find the core idea too basic for their needs.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1492812685

Page Count: 130

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2014

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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. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.


An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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