HOW INNOVATION WORKS

AND WHY IT FLOURISHES IN FREEDOM

Opinionated, often counterintuitive, full of delicious stories, always provocative.

An enthusiastic history of human technical innovation.

Innovation is not the same as invention, writes bestselling science writer Ridley. Innovation rarely proceeds from a single genius and takes much longer. It resembles Darwinian evolution, a process of “rearranging the world into forms that are unlikely to arise by chance—and that happen to be useful….And innovation is potentially infinite because even if it runs out of new things to do, it can always find ways to do the same things more quickly or for less energy.” Throughout the book, the author delivers fascinating histories of technology that we take for granted. Many hands contributed to the developments of the steam engine, automobile, and computer. Ridley makes a convincing case that obsessive trial and error works better than inspiration and illustrates with insightful accounts of Edison, the Wright brothers, and Marconi. Some breakthroughs are inexplicable. People hauled luggage for a century, but the wheeled suitcase only appeared in the 1970s. Perhaps one of the greatest underrated innovations is corrugated sheet metal, a mainstay of slum housing around the world. Indoor flush toilets existed throughout history, but they smelled. Carrying a chamber pot outside worked better. The U-trap, a bend to prevent gases from backing up, started a revolution. Ridley’s readership will not be surprised to learn that innovation flourishes where individuals are free to experiment with minimal interference from two large, unimaginative institutions: big business and government. He maintains that they worked together for a generation to suppress cellphones, which were feasible after World War II. In his opinion, the 20th century’s sole innovative source of large-scale energy, nuclear power, is in decline, mostly due to government regulation. He contends that patent laws do more harm than good and has little respect for activist zealots, especially when they ignore scientific evidence, a category in which he includes both opponents of genetically modified food and vaccination.

Opinionated, often counterintuitive, full of delicious stories, always provocative.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-291659-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

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

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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