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

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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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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