A well-organized and engagingly written book about learning from losses.

ANTICIPATE FAILURE

THE ENTREPRENEUR'S GUIDE TO NAVIGATING UNCERTAINTY, AVOIDING DISASTER, AND BUILDING A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS

A fresh look at how businesses fail and succeed.

In this debut book, Ananth—the CEO of venture firm Next47 who’s worked for such major technology companies as Cisco Systems and Hewlett-Packard—explores the main reasons why business decisions don’t work out. He groups them into seven primary categories: failure to appeal to customers’ needs, technology issues, poor product quality, unsuccessful teams, bad timing, poor business models, and troubled execution. The book looks at a range of real-world examples, such as how cutting-edge gyroscopes and accelerometers weren’t enough to get the Segway transportation device past such hurdles as insufficient infrastructure and an unshakeable perception of nerdiness. Ananth contrasts consumers’ responses to the Apple Newton and PalmPilot, two personal digital devices with similar aims that took different approaches to the marketplace, and he explains how the maker of the Tata Nano automobile identified a substantial gap in India’s transportation options but failed to understand customers’ motivations and perceptions: “No one wanted to tell the world that they had bought a cheap car because that was all they could afford.” Scooter-sharing services illustrate the problem of basing a company on an unsustainable business model, and the music company EMI’s move into CT scanner manufacturing serves as an example of how the first company to develop a technology isn’t always the one that’s commercially successful. Each chapter presents companies that have avoided such obstacles, as well, and presents lessons along with coaching sessions designed to guide readers toward the best decisions.

Overall, this book is full of useful, actionable information while remaining a quick and easy read thanks to Ananth’s no-frills, conversational prose style and a wealth of intriguing subject matter. Readers will appreciate that the author generally stays away from business jargon (with the noteworthy exception of the repeated term go-to-market) and keeps the Silicon Valley name-dropping to a reasonable level, piquing readers’ interest without becoming grating. The book does a good job of treating business failures as learning opportunities rather than existential disasters or moral crises and also shows how leaders’ decisions went wrong without making personal judgments about the decision-makers. At the same time, Ananth makes it clear that successfully implementing his book’s lessons isn’t easy to accomplish, and he highlights several businesspeople who are celebrated for high-profile wins while showing how these same people lost in equally spectacular ways. The thematic organization of these stories is an effective device, as it makes the book’s overall logic clear and easy to follow. Ananth shows a talent for selecting anecdotes that are most likely to capture a reader’s interest while also effectively illustrating a key concept. Overall, he proves himself to be a fine storyteller, always placing the book’s narrative ahead of its didactic qualities. With its attractive presentation and solid information, the work is sure to appeal to avid readers of business literature, and it will particularly attract those in search of high-level and nontechnical analysis delivered concisely and coherently.

A well-organized and engagingly written book about learning from losses.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64687-072-1

Page Count: 185

Publisher: Ideapress Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2021

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

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“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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