Intriguing findings that should play a transformative role, not only in the field of psychology, but also in corporate...

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SEEING WHAT OTHERS DON'T

THE REMARKABLE WAYS WE GAIN INSIGHTS

Experimental psychologist Klein (Streetlights and Shadows: Searching for the Keys to Adaptive Decision Making, 2009, etc.) examines the transformative role of creative insight.

The author recounts a story that a policeman told him about a routine patrol, during which his partner noticed the driver of a new BMW flicking cigarette ash on the car's upholstery and immediately realized that the vehicle was stolen. Klein decided to explore the mechanism behind such aha moments. Seeking to discover “how people come up with unexpected insights in their work,” he began to search for clues by systematically collecting human interest stories. These include accounts by firefighters who survived life-threatening situations by improvising, Dr. Michael Gottlieb's realization that the epidemic killing young gay men was an immune disorder, and financial analyst Harry Markopolos' recognition that Bernie Madoff had to be a crook. Two decades earlier, Klein was one of the pioneers in the field of “naturalist decision making, which studies the way people think in natural settings,” as opposed to contrived laboratory experiments. He used the same method to probe the creative process, and he shares a fascinating array of illustrative examples of creativity—e.g., Darwin's recognition of the role of natural selection and Daniel Boone's rescue of his daughter from Indian kidnappers. After painstaking analysis, Klein identified the three primary drivers: making unexpected connections (the policeman's observation), identifying contradictions (Markopolos smelled a fraud) and being driven to despair by an unresolved problem (Gottlieb's dying HIV patients). In each case, the bottom line was freedom to substitute out-of-the-box thinking for a preconceived, systematic approach and the willingness to take the risk of making errors.

Intriguing findings that should play a transformative role, not only in the field of psychology, but also in corporate boardrooms.

Pub Date: June 25, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-61039-251-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2013

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

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EDISON

One of history’s most prolific inventors receives his due from one of the world’s greatest biographers.

Pulitzer and National Book Award winner Morris (This Living Hand and Other Essays, 2012, etc.), who died this year, agrees that Thomas Edison (1847-1931) almost certainly said, “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration,” and few readers of this outstanding biography will doubt that he was the quintessential workaholic. Raised in a middle-class Michigan family, Edison displayed an obsessive entrepreneurial spirit from childhood. As an adolescent, he ran a thriving business selling food and newspapers on a local railroad. Learning Morse code, he spent the Civil War as a telegrapher, impressing colleagues with his speed and superiors with his ability to improve the equipment. In 1870, he opened his own shop to produce inventions to order. By 1876, he had money to build a large laboratory in New Jersey, possibly the world’s first industrial research facility. Never a loner, Edison hired talented people to assist him. The dazzling results included the first commercially successful light bulb for which, Morris reminds readers, he invented the entire system: dynamo, wires, transformers, connections, and switches. Critics proclaim that Edison’s innovations (motion pictures, fluoroscope, rechargeable batteries, mimeograph, etc.) were merely improvements on others’ work, but this is mostly a matter of sour grapes. Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone was a clunky, short-range device until it added Edison’s carbon microphone. And his phonograph flabbergasted everyone. Humans had been making images long before Daguerre, but no one had ever reproduced sound. Morris rivetingly describes the personalities, business details, and practical uses of Edison’s inventions as well as the massive technical details of years of research and trial and error for both his triumphs and his failures. For no obvious reason, the author writes in reverse chronological order, beginning in 1920, with each of the seven following chapters backtracking a decade. It may not satisfy all readers, but it works.

Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9311-0

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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