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INVENT AND WANDER

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF JEFF BEZOS

Business students will find plenty of case studies to put to use.

Business writings from the richest man in the world.

In an admiring introduction, Walter Isaacson praises Bezos for his “insatiable, childlike, and joyful curiosity about almost everything.” A “voracious reader” who devoured science fiction—taking lessons, it seems, from Robert Heinlein in particular—Bezos has since become one of the leading private investors in space exploration. To get there, however, he had to forge a business empire that grew from 10 employees to 750,000 over the last quarter-century. In this collection of shareholder letters and occasional writings, Bezos immediately emerges as the kind of businessperson who clearly believes the maxim that if it can’t be measured, it can’t be managed. He’s a demon for quantification, noting, for instance, that over a seven-year period, Amazon’s “Frustration-Free Packaging Program” grew from 19 products to more than 400,000 and by 2015 had “eliminated tens of millions of pounds of excess packaging.” Corporate cheerleading is minimal compared to that sort of quantification, although a mantra is that investors should prefer “missionaries” over “mercenaries,” the latter of whom “are trying to flip their stock” while the former are “trying to build a great service.” Those with an interest in business history will find that charting the evolution of Amazon from annual letter to annual letter is a fascinating exercise in constant self-invention: The company began as a bookstore but always with an eye, as Bezos wrote in 1999, of becoming “a place where customers can come to find and discover anything and everything they might want to buy online.” Of ancillary interest are Bezos’ account of how he came to buy the Washington Post and his commitment, clearly inspired by that love of science fiction, to use some of his fortune to set the stage for building space colonies “that would be really pleasant places to live.”

Business students will find plenty of case studies to put to use.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64782-071-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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POVERTY, BY AMERICA

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

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A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.

“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593239919

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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THE CULTURE MAP

BREAKING THROUGH THE INVISIBLE BOUNDARIES OF GLOBAL BUSINESS

These are not hard and fast rules, but Meyer delivers important reading for those engaged in international business.

A helpful guide to working effectively with people from other cultures.

“The sad truth is that the vast majority of managers who conduct business internationally have little understanding about how culture is impacting their work,” writes Meyer, a professor at INSEAD, an international business school. Yet they face a wider array of work styles than ever before in dealing with clients, suppliers and colleagues from around the world. When is it best to speak or stay quiet? What is the role of the leader in the room? When working with foreign business people, failing to take cultural differences into account can lead to frustration, misunderstanding or worse. Based on research and her experiences teaching cross-cultural behaviors to executive students, the author examines a handful of key areas. Among others, they include communicating (Anglo-Saxons are explicit; Asians communicate implicitly, requiring listeners to read between the lines), developing a sense of trust (Brazilians do it over long lunches), and decision-making (Germans rely on consensus, Americans on one decider). In each area, the author provides a “culture map scale” that positions behaviors in more than 20 countries along a continuum, allowing readers to anticipate the preferences of individuals from a particular country: Do they like direct or indirect negative feedback? Are they rigid or flexible regarding deadlines? Do they favor verbal or written commitments? And so on. Meyer discusses managers who have faced perplexing situations, such as knowledgeable team members who fail to speak up in meetings or Indians who offer a puzzling half-shake, half-nod of the head. Cultural differences—not personality quirks—are the motivating factors behind many behavioral styles. Depending on our cultures, we understand the world in a particular way, find certain arguments persuasive or lacking merit, and consider some ways of making decisions or measuring time natural and others quite strange.

These are not hard and fast rules, but Meyer delivers important reading for those engaged in international business.

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61039-250-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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