MICROSOFT SECRETS

HOW THE WORLD'S MOST POWERFUL SOFTWARE COMPANY CREATES TECHNOLOGY, SHAPES MARKETS, AND MANAGES PEOPLE

Microsoft Corp. bestrides the widening world of PC software like a colossus, and here two technology-oriented academics show how the multinational company's success can provide noteworthy lessons for other commercial concerns jockeying for position in volatile high-tech markets. Drawing on apparently unrestricted access to an organization at work over an eventful two-year span (199395), Cusumano (MIT) and Selby (Univ. of California, Irvine) offer a by-the-numbers briefing on what makes Microsoft paradigmatic. They identify seven key strategies CEO William Gates and his top lieutenants employ to keep their enviably profitable and resolutely anti-bureaucratic enterprise well ahead of the pack. Devoting a lengthy anecdotal chapter to each of these operating precepts, Cusumano and Selby start with a detailed account of how the fast-growing firm screens and selects programming personnel. They go on to evaluate the company's effective management of technical talent and the ways it has dominated major sectors of the computer industry, e.g., by obsoleting mainstay products long before rivals are able to do so. Covered as well are the means used by Microsoft to focus the creativity of software developers (mainly by breaking large projects into wieldy tasks for which benchmark priorities have been established) and to meet shipment deadlines for bug-free productsmost of the time at any rate; the loudly promoted introduction of an upgraded and features-laden operating system dubbed Windows 95 this summer affords a case in point. The authors also assess the extent to which the company learns from itself and customers. In a rousing windup, they comment approvingly on how Microsoft (despite constant run-ins with the Global Village's tougher antitrust agencies) continue to ``attack the future,'' based on contemporary calculations of demand, supply, and technology trends. A structured but illuminating overview of a decidedly free- form corporation that may well serve as a textbook exemplar of excellence in ongoing innovation. (10 line drawings) (Author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 1995

ISBN: 0-02-874048-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1995

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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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