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A footnote to Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs, but not a minor one.

Pixar’s former chief financial officer turns in an insider’s account of one of the world’s most influential digital media companies.

Steve Jobs had made and lost a fortune by the time Levy showed up, having founded and then been ejected from Apple and gone to NeXT. In 1994, his new Pixar digital film company had chewed its way through $50 million of Jobs’ money “with little to show for it.” In part thanks to Levy’s legal skills and analytical powers, Jobs turned that around to become one of the wealthiest people in the world, controlling billions of dollars. The author’s account of his dozen years with Jobs follows an unsurprising, almost by-the-numbers trajectory: new guy comes to embattled company, helps company face and then overcome challenges, and finds himself wealthy and powerful but unfulfilled—with the twist that, instead of becoming a celebrity chef or an around-the-world adventurer, Levy winds up a student and then teacher of Tibetan Buddhism. In between the cut-to-standard scaffolding, though, Levy’s account offers some pleasant moments and insights, including anecdotes on how Toy Story came into being pixel by pixel, a process that helped lure Levy into the company to begin with. (“How do I know I’m not simply falling for the allure of a high-tech company making a film?” he asked a mentor, to which the response, in so many words, was, “Don’t be a schmuck and go for it.”) No mere technocrat, Levy is also good on the details of digital filmmaking, as when he writes of the considerable difficulties involved in rendering skin so that it doesn’t look like painted rubber: “These are nuances we never think about,” he observes, “but they are glaringly obvious when they are missing.” That’s just so, and there’s not much missing here—although there isn’t much in the way of news about Jobs himself, the star of the show.

A footnote to Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs, but not a minor one.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-73414-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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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. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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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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