A viable tool for business leaders who accept change as part of growth.

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Why Organizations Struggle So Hard to Improve So Little

OVERCOMING ORGANIZATIONAL IMMATURITY

Business professionals present a refreshing approach for organizational change.

Some companies seem to be in a perpetual state of “improvement,” with thousands of dollars spent on consultants and a constant avalanche of new policies. Often, there’s little positive change, but it’s time to stop blaming leadership for an organization’s shortcomings, say Klubeck, Langthorne and Padgett. While that sentiment may be radical at first glance (and it will no doubt catch managers’ attention), the authors’ straightforward, comprehensible presentation is actually based on common sense. Instead of pointing fingers, business leaders are urged to examine the cultural climates of their organizations to determine if they’re indeed prepared for change. As the authors say, organizations often rush to fix problems with broad, companywide directives that are regularly doomed to fail. Instead, small “targeted initiatives”—with input from employees excited by the results—can spread positive attitudes. Therefore, the authors say, one of the most important steps to successful organizational change is understanding the differences between a mature company and an immature one. Part 1 of the book is devoted to this assessment, though the concept is expanded throughout the book with examples that will leave many readers nodding their heads: “You know you’re in an immature organization when one or more senior leaders regularly circumvent processes (and no one challenges them).” A self-assessment maturity quiz and an organizational health survey are included in the book’s appendix, as are other hands-on guides, and readers are urged to use the maturity assessments as tools for discussion before making any change. The authors’ presentation is concept-driven except for a few anecdotes, such as a short chapter “interlude,” which strives for a lighthearted tone but ends up a bit superfluous. Parts 2 through 4 delve into the identification of more mature-business behaviors and a discussion of some familiar terms, like strategic planning and effective communication. Later, a compelling case is made for personality over résumé content when hiring: “Mature organizations care more about talent, attitude, and personality than skill set. Skills and knowledge can be attained and enhanced easily…compared to developing a person’s personality. Personality traits, such as values, morals, a sense of humor, and the ability to relate to and interact with others, are present in youth and refined over a lifetime.” The text also includes charts, graphs and encouraging words, but readers shouldn’t expect motivational directives here; rather, the book’s clear-eyed practicality is its strength.

A viable tool for business leaders who accept change as part of growth.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2010

ISBN: 978-0313380228

Page Count: 222

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2012

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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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