Essential reading for innovators.

THE WIDE LENS

A NEW STRATEGY FOR INNOVATION

Adner (Strategy/Dartmouth Coll.) debuts with a valuable perspective on how to innovate successfully in an interdependent world.

Even the finest new product fails when consumers don’t have a chance to choose it, a situation that occurs when a company’s partners—the distributors, retailers and salespeople who make up a company’s business ecosystem—do not adopt the innovation. The path to market, writes the author, is just as important as the new product itself. Examples abound: In the late 1990s, Michelin’s launch of an innovative run-flat tire failed when the company could not convince enough service stations to adopt its repair system. In the 1980s, Philips Electronics developed a great high-definition television with superior picture quality, but HDTV cameras and transmission standards had not yet arrived, leaving Philips with a $2.5 billion write-down. In each instance, the company’s focus on execution created a “blind spot” hiding key dependencies critical to success. By taking a broader view of their business ecosystem, companies can identify challenges that might undermine success and act to reconfigure the ecosystem in ways that eliminate problematic bottlenecks. In richly detailed stories, Adner shows how this was executed by Hollywood studios in introducing digital cinema and by Amazon in developing the market for e-readers. He also describes ongoing efforts by a fascinating new company named Better Place, which has been considering holistically the ecosystem of obstacles preventing the introduction of electric vehicles into the mainstream consumer market. The author pays close attention to Apple’s successes of the past decade, during which it reconfigured ecosystems to achieve success in three markets: music players, smartphones and digital tablets. Apple’s “hidden point of differentiation has not been in its elegant products but rather in its approach to leverage its advantage from one ecosystem into the next.”

Essential reading for innovators.

Pub Date: March 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59184-460-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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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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