Deftly written, thought-provoking, and pointed; a refreshing challenge to conventional business thinking.

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AN UNCONVENTIONAL LEADER

Applying his experience in business as an “unconventional leader,” debut author Wallace offers his insightful personal perspective in a book that is as much about a life philosophy as leadership.

Wallace begins with a discussion of typical business leadership, suggesting that leaders tend to follow convention largely because things have always been done the same way: “Today many of us just accept that the leadership pathway is not only unchallengeable but also unchangeable.” Wallace’s view is that great leaders need to challenge convention. As examples, he uses two polar explorers, Roald Amundsen and Ernest Shackleton, who “were both, in their own ways, rebels with a strategic cause.” Wallace explains how these explorers exhibited unconventional leadership and succeeded as a result, contrasting them with a more traditional explorer, Robert Scott, whose conventional thinking spelled doom for his polar expedition. “Like the Antarctic,” Wallace writes, “the business environment has its freakish weather, uncertain conditions and hidden dangers.” Just the fact that Wallace references polar explorers in a business leadership book demonstrates his own lack of convention—and it’s a welcome breath of fresh air. In short, easily readable chapters, Wallace informally lays out a strategy for breaking convention, acknowledging that fear of something new and unfamiliar may be the biggest barrier to success. He urges readers to follow their inspirations and embrace change. He also offers some specific advice for being a more effective leader, including tips for keeping employees engaged, acting fairly, being a real team player when the going gets tough, listening to what team members have to say, caring for people’s health, and instilling a sense of personal belief in your colleagues. Wallace closes with a “Revolution Plan” that is also unconventional. Though it lists action items in bullet form, “there are no action-completed boxes because outside of completing perhaps the self-assessment, none of these actions really will be completed.” After all, challenging convention is a continuous process.

Deftly written, thought-provoking, and pointed; a refreshing challenge to conventional business thinking.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1480810228

Page Count: 124

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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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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Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

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EDISON

One of history’s most prolific inventors receives his due from one of the world’s greatest biographers.

Pulitzer and National Book Award winner Morris (This Living Hand and Other Essays, 2012, etc.), who died this year, agrees that Thomas Edison (1847-1931) almost certainly said, “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration,” and few readers of this outstanding biography will doubt that he was the quintessential workaholic. Raised in a middle-class Michigan family, Edison displayed an obsessive entrepreneurial spirit from childhood. As an adolescent, he ran a thriving business selling food and newspapers on a local railroad. Learning Morse code, he spent the Civil War as a telegrapher, impressing colleagues with his speed and superiors with his ability to improve the equipment. In 1870, he opened his own shop to produce inventions to order. By 1876, he had money to build a large laboratory in New Jersey, possibly the world’s first industrial research facility. Never a loner, Edison hired talented people to assist him. The dazzling results included the first commercially successful light bulb for which, Morris reminds readers, he invented the entire system: dynamo, wires, transformers, connections, and switches. Critics proclaim that Edison’s innovations (motion pictures, fluoroscope, rechargeable batteries, mimeograph, etc.) were merely improvements on others’ work, but this is mostly a matter of sour grapes. Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone was a clunky, short-range device until it added Edison’s carbon microphone. And his phonograph flabbergasted everyone. Humans had been making images long before Daguerre, but no one had ever reproduced sound. Morris rivetingly describes the personalities, business details, and practical uses of Edison’s inventions as well as the massive technical details of years of research and trial and error for both his triumphs and his failures. For no obvious reason, the author writes in reverse chronological order, beginning in 1920, with each of the seven following chapters backtracking a decade. It may not satisfy all readers, but it works.

Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9311-0

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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