A bright, useful entry in the small-is-beautiful genre.




How to stay small and succeed in business.

“Blind growth is the main cause of business problems,” writes online-tech veteran Jarvis (Everything I Know, 2013, etc.), whose corporate clients include Microsoft and Mercedes Benz. “What if you worked instead toward growing smaller, smarter, more efficient, and more resilient?” In this upbeat, anecdote-laden how-to book, he draws on some 20 years of experience (and steadily increasing income) to describe the advantages of running a “company of one,” whether as an independent business person or an autonomous, innovative corporate employee who deliberately questions growth and stays “lean and agile” on purpose. The payoffs are many: A marketing vice president becomes a cartoonist (his lifelong hobby) and earns three times as much income; the owner of Milkwood Designs makes regular retreats to a Sierra Nevada yurt. It all takes hard, focused work characterized by resilience, autonomy, speed, and simplicity. “There’s a silent movement to approaching business in this way,” writes Jarvis, emphasizing the importance of staying small, with set yearly profit goals. Many of his examples are modern, often dot-com businesses run by individuals unafraid of celebrating their quirkiness as a way to build trust and relationships with customers. They eschew obsessive growth (occasioned by inflation, investors, churn, and ego) and instead work to keep existing customers by getting better (rather than bigger) and offering “a real relationship” based on “trust, humanity, and empathy.” “Companies of one can be led and run by quiet, thoughtful, introspective folks” who are bad at managing others, writes the author, a self-confessed “awkward geek.” He notes federal records show that in 2015, more than 38,000 “companies (of one) were bringing in seven-figure revenues, doing everything from the usual high-tech and scientific fields to equipment repair and laundry services.” Many such firms “share and give away their ideas freely,” becoming trusted advisers to their customers through teaching, podcasts, and other means.

A bright, useful entry in the small-is-beautiful genre.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-97235-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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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. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.


A well-constructed critique of an economic system that, by the author’s account, is a driver of the world’s destruction.

Harvard Business School professor Henderson vigorously questions the bromide that “management’s only duty is to maximize shareholder value,” a notion advanced by Milton Friedman and accepted uncritically in business schools ever since. By that logic, writes the author, there is no reason why corporations should not fish out the oceans, raise drug prices, militate against public education (since it costs tax money), and otherwise behave ruinously and anti-socially. Many do, even though an alternative theory of business organization argues that corporations and society should enjoy a symbiotic relationship of mutual benefit, which includes corporate investment in what economists call public goods. Given that the history of humankind is “the story of our increasing ability to cooperate at larger and larger scales,” one would hope that in the face of environmental degradation and other threats, we might adopt the symbiotic model rather than the winner-take-all one. Problems abound, of course, including that of the “free rider,” the corporation that takes the benefits from collaborative agreements but does none of the work. Henderson examines case studies such as a large food company that emphasized environmentally responsible production and in turn built “purpose-led, sustainable living brands” and otherwise led the way in increasing shareholder value by reducing risk while building demand. The author argues that the “short-termism” that dominates corporate thinking needs to be adjusted to a longer view even though the larger problem might be better characterized as “failure of information.” Henderson closes with a set of prescriptions for bringing a more equitable economics to the personal level, one that, among other things, asks us to step outside routine—eat less meat, drive less—and become active in forcing corporations (and politicians) to be better citizens.

A readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5417-3015-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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