A business fable uses transition in a family-run company as a catalyst for analysis and insight.

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Cycles of Intuition

A father and son evaluate the operations of their family business.

In this business book, Kostika (Flow Management Technology, 1989) uses a fictional format in the tradition of Who Moved My Cheese? (1998) to explore the challenges inherent in the customer-facing aspects of a small business. When Dad informs Steve that he plans to retire and leave him in charge of the family’s tool repair business, Steve has a sleepless night as he analyzes the customer service challenges the firm has been facing. He reflects on his own experiences as a customer—an earlier frustration with a furniture restorer; a search for a midnight snack hampered by an ineffective cashier—in order to understand the expectations the company must meet, and he develops an understanding of several key metrics. In the morning, he shares his insights with Dad, and the two incorporate the observations of a hair salon owner and restaurateur as they develop a strategy for dealing with cyclical challenges. The book’s earnest tone (“Steve was not an artist. Yet, in his mind he pictured a humorous sketch of Dad’s idea”; “For a moment Steve felt that he was stuck, but his college education seemed to pay off once more. ‘I can use the 80/20 rule in order to expedite things,’ he thought”) reinforces its fablelike structure and informational purpose. At times the emphasis on the inherent nobility of Steve’s and Dad’s “Midwestern” attitudes and manners can be excessive (“One can only imagine what would have happened had Amos worked in New York City and faced an upset customer after such a delay”). The book does not attempt to guide readers to specific solutions to business problems but focuses on providing a framework for evaluating business cycles, customer relationships, and other fundamental concepts. While not a replacement for traditional business texts, Steve and Dad’s story may prove useful to readers looking for a new perspective on their own business challenges.

A business fable uses transition in a family-run company as a catalyst for analysis and insight.

Pub Date: June 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4991-7945-3

Page Count: 278

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2015

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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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Essential reading for citizens of the here and now. Other economists should marvel at how that plain language can be put to...

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CAPITAL IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

A French academic serves up a long, rigorous critique, dense with historical data, of American-style predatory capitalism—and offers remedies that Karl Marx might applaud.

Economist Piketty considers capital, in the monetary sense, from the vantage of what he considers the capital of the world, namely Paris; at times, his discussions of how capital works, and especially public capital, befit Locke-ian France and not Hobbesian America, a source of some controversy in the wide discussion surrounding his book. At heart, though, his argument turns on well-founded economic principles, notably r > g, meaning that the “rate of return on capital significantly exceeds the growth rate of the economy,” in Piketty’s gloss. It logically follows that when such conditions prevail, then wealth will accumulate in a few hands faster than it can be broadly distributed. By the author’s reckoning, the United States is one of the leading nations in the “high inequality” camp, though it was not always so. In the colonial era, Piketty likens the inequality quotient in New England to be about that of Scandinavia today, with few abject poor and few mega-rich. The difference is that the rich now—who are mostly the “supermanagers” of business rather than the “superstars” of sports and entertainment—have surrounded themselves with political shields that keep them safe from the specter of paying more in taxes and adding to the fund of public wealth. The author’s data is unassailable. His policy recommendations are considerably more controversial, including his call for a global tax on wealth. From start to finish, the discussion is written in plainspoken prose that, though punctuated by formulas, also draws on a wide range of cultural references.

Essential reading for citizens of the here and now. Other economists should marvel at how that plain language can be put to work explaining the most complex of ideas, foremost among them the fact that economic inequality is at an all-time high—and is only bound to grow worse.

Pub Date: March 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-674-43000-6

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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