A useful manual for fostering a sustainable culture of change.

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CREATIVE CONSTRUCTION

THE DNA OF SUSTAINED INNOVATION

How big companies can innovate.

The economist Joseph Schumpeter said companies sow the seeds of their own “creative destruction”—and lose their original purpose—when they innovate. Not so, writes Pisano (Business Administration/Harvard Business School; Science Business: The Promise, the Reality, and the Future of Biotech, 2006, etc.). In this deeply informed book, he describes how large enterprises can succeed at transformative innovation by “systematically creating an innovation strategy, designing an innovation system, and building an innovation culture.” He goes on, “big does not always mean ugly. Scale alone is not an impediment to innovative capacity.” Nor is acquisition the only road to growth. Even so, innovation is hard work, “akin to renovating a home while living in it.” The key is leadership prepared to “exploit” scale; size and age matter far less. Drawing on research and his own consulting experiences, Pisano explains how companies from IBM to Apple have innovated successfully by building their capabilities, identifying unmet customer needs, and working in familiar or unknown terrain, or both, to achieve goals. Driven by his use of vivid examples, the narrative covers the types of innovation, from routine (ready-to-eat salad) to outside the home court (Honda creates HondaJet) to disruptive business model (Uber vs. traditional taxis); details what goes into them; and urges companies to pursue a balanced portfolio of approaches. Especially valuable is the author’s discussion of problems faced by multidivisional companies whose expertise is dispersed in independent silos that prevent them from bringing ideas together to exploit opportunities. Sony, for example, was a consumer electronics leader but lacked capacity for integrating its existing knowledge; Apple beat it in developing portable electronic devices. Pisano also examines DuPont’s invention of Kevlar, intended as a solution to a tire problem but most effective in stopping a bullet. “Kevlar, it turns out, is a great solution to many problems, just not the particular problem DuPont was focused on solving,” he writes.

A useful manual for fostering a sustainable culture of change.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-877-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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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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A readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.

REIMAGINING CAPITALISM IN A WORLD ON FIRE

A well-constructed critique of an economic system that, by the author’s account, is a driver of the world’s destruction.

Harvard Business School professor Henderson vigorously questions the bromide that “management’s only duty is to maximize shareholder value,” a notion advanced by Milton Friedman and accepted uncritically in business schools ever since. By that logic, writes the author, there is no reason why corporations should not fish out the oceans, raise drug prices, militate against public education (since it costs tax money), and otherwise behave ruinously and anti-socially. Many do, even though an alternative theory of business organization argues that corporations and society should enjoy a symbiotic relationship of mutual benefit, which includes corporate investment in what economists call public goods. Given that the history of humankind is “the story of our increasing ability to cooperate at larger and larger scales,” one would hope that in the face of environmental degradation and other threats, we might adopt the symbiotic model rather than the winner-take-all one. Problems abound, of course, including that of the “free rider,” the corporation that takes the benefits from collaborative agreements but does none of the work. Henderson examines case studies such as a large food company that emphasized environmentally responsible production and in turn built “purpose-led, sustainable living brands” and otherwise led the way in increasing shareholder value by reducing risk while building demand. The author argues that the “short-termism” that dominates corporate thinking needs to be adjusted to a longer view even though the larger problem might be better characterized as “failure of information.” Henderson closes with a set of prescriptions for bringing a more equitable economics to the personal level, one that, among other things, asks us to step outside routine—eat less meat, drive less—and become active in forcing corporations (and politicians) to be better citizens.

A readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5417-3015-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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