Comfort food for business enthusiasts.



A former pharmacy CEO asks 39 successful business executives to reflect on their careers and recall the defining moment of their careers.

With the exceptions of famed restaurateur Danny Meyer, ESPN founder Bill Rasmussen and game-show host/creator Monty Hall, most of those interviewed here are little known outside business circles. The other participants in Steinbaum’s exercise are all decidedly less glamorous, but all have achieved wealth or eminence directing major enterprises, selling everything from bread to airplanes, vitamins, shoes, dolls, newspapers, commercial furniture, real estate, cars, chemicals and candy. They have run insurance companies, health programs, advertising outfits and architectural firms. All appear delighted to assess their business lives. Steinbaum offers a brief, folksy introduction to each of his interviewees and, then, permits them to speak in their own words. He divides the answers into chapters that correspond roughly to predictable passages in many business lives: the initial choice to enter a particular field, become an entrepreneur, find the right partners and abandon the wrong ones, reshape the corporate culture, change a company’s business model, reposition or renew a business and, finally, decide when to leave. Unsurprisingly, the answers are as varied as the individuals and the specific challenges they’ve confronted. For this reason, apart from an appendix, in which Steinbaum assembles some words of advice and wisdom also gleaned from his subjects, nothing here can be read strictly as a success manual. In fact, many of Steinbaum’s respondents readily acknowledge the degree to which luck, accident or emergency shaped their choices. One person’s decision to stay and transform a business is not inherently smarter than another’s call to strike out on her own. One maxim cautions a man to look before leaping, while another warns that he who hesitates is lost. Which to follow? Well, these judgments are labeled “tough calls” for a reason. Other companies represented include Monsanto, Verizon, Time Inc., Enterprise Rent-A-Car, United Airlines and Chrysler Corporation (both represented by one executive, Gerald Greenwald).

Comfort food for business enthusiasts.

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-180249-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harper Business

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2010

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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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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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