A largely involving story-oriented breakdown of how to chart a steady managerial course in uncharted territory.

The Journey of Not Knowing

HOW 21ST CENTURY LEADERS CAN CHART A COURSE WHERE THERE IS NONE

Benezet offers a management handbook geared toward the unconventional in the modern business world.

In her nonfiction debut, Benezet, a consultant and executive coach, takes an unusual approach to laying out a broad selection of business-manual maxims about flexible thinking, team building, and workplace productivity. A great portion of her book takes the form of stories about a fictional company called “Arrow, Inc.,” its bosses, and its employees. Her main topic is mapping the ways that individual behaviors and complex interactions can create blind spots and unanticipated “box canyons.” After an opening section, in which Benezet very amusingly tells some anecdotes from her years as a manager at Amazon.com, she addresses the problems that Arrow employees face in dealing with a particularly important client. It’s a risky tactic, as it shifts much of the book’s performance from the author’s skill at distilling business-world lessons from her own extensive experience to her talent for writing fiction. But it’s a choice that largely works, and readers will likely be interested in the Arrow workplace adventures. However, business students, who likely make up a significant part of the book’s target audience, may find the concluding sections more to their liking, as they revert to more standard management-handbook exposition. In those parts, Benezet makes crystalline sense; for example, she writes relatively early on that it’s more important than ever for managers to know themselves—to know, as she puts it, “who you are and for what you stand” in a world of shifting expectations and constantly looming unknowns. This idea is related to the “core drivers” of her book, concentrated in the “Core Four” components (“Bigger Bets,” “The Risks of the Unknown,” “Hooks,” and “Drivers”) that deal with “the relationship between leadership and the unknown,” which she explains in a later section. In her explorations of these components, Benezet is at her most authoritative.

A largely involving story-oriented breakdown of how to chart a steady managerial course in uncharted territory.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9978139-0-6

Page Count: 266

Publisher: Morton Hill Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2016

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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 declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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