A self-congratulatory but fascinating story of a counterintuitive approach that apparently works—at least for Netflix.

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NO RULES RULES

NETFLIX AND THE CULTURE OF REINVENTION

Netflix co-founder Hastings and business guru Meyer hold forth on the unusual workplace culture—high performance, top pay, no rules, and constant candor—behind the entertainment company’s streaming success.

Founded in 1997 as a DVD-by-mail business, Netflix now has 7,000 employees, creates its own award-winning TV shows, and reaches 150 million streaming customers in 190 countries. In a 2018 Wall Street Journal profile, the firm was criticized for its sometimes “ruthless” approach, including the harsh firing of underperforming employees. In this debut, Hastings offers a different view. He celebrates his firm’s culture, arguing that its emphasis on keeping only the most highly effective people is essential to innovation and creative success. In alternating sections with Meyer, who provides elaboration based on more than 200 Netflix interviews, Hastings details the making of the Netflix way, from hiring the best creative talent at high pay to increasing candor through frequent feedback and gradually removing controls that stifle innovation. The latter begins with removing vacation policies and travel/expense controls and culminates in sharing “unprecedented” amounts of company information so that employees can make good decisions on their own. No approvals from higher-ups are needed: “Don’t seek to please your boss,” only to advance the company. All of this is possible only after you have formed a team (not a family) of “self-motivated, self-aware, and self-disciplined” staff. A critical element, the “keeper test,” suggests a staffer ask a boss, “If I were thinking of leaving, how hard would you work to change my mind?” Fired employees receive generous severance. The book is conversational, packed with sidebars, asides, graphs, and charts, and illuminating, sometimes self-satisfied anecdotes. Netflix-like cultures of “freedom and responsibility” are most effective in “creative” companies that depend on “innovation, speed, and flexibility.” Firms focused on error prevention generally opt for stricter policies.

A self-congratulatory but fascinating story of a counterintuitive approach that apparently works—at least for Netflix.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7786-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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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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A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY

A massive investigation of economic history in the service of proposing a political order to overcome inequality.

Readers who like their political manifestoes in manageable sizes, à la Common Sense or The Communist Manifesto, may be overwhelmed by the latest from famed French economist Piketty (Top Incomes in France in the Twentieth Century: Inequality and Redistribution, 1901-1998, 2014, etc.), but it’s a significant work. The author interrogates the principal forms of economic organization over time, from slavery to “non-European trifunctional societies,” Chinese-style communism, and “hypercapitalist” orders, in order to examine relative levels of inequality and its evolution. Each system is founded on an ideology, and “every ideology, no matter how extreme it may seem in its defense of inequality, expresses a certain idea of social justice.” In the present era, at least in the U.S., that idea of social justice would seem to be only that the big ones eat the little ones, the principal justification being that the wealthiest people became rich because they are “the most enterprising, deserving, and useful.” In fact, as Piketty demonstrates, there’s more to inequality than the mere “size of the income gap.” Contrary to hypercapitalist ideology and its defenders, the playing field is not level, the market is not self-regulating, and access is not evenly distributed. Against this, Piketty arrives at a proposed system that, among other things, would redistribute wealth across societies by heavy taxation, especially of inheritances, to create a “participatory socialism” in which power is widely shared and trade across nations is truly free. The word “socialism,” he allows, is a kind of Pandora’s box that can scare people off—and, he further acknowledges, “the Russian and Czech oligarchs who buy athletic teams and newspapers may not be the most savory characters, but the Soviet system was a nightmare and had to go.” Yet so, too, writes the author, is a capitalism that rewards so few at the expense of so many.

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98082-2

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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