This realistic and hopeful manual shows how accomplished individuals can tackle problems whose victims often lack resources...



How experienced leaders in business and other professions can act on their “youthful idealism” and make a difference in addressing complex societal problems.

Harvard Business School professor Kanter (Move: Putting America's Infrastructure Back in the Lead, 2015, etc.) directs Harvard’s Advanced Leadership Institute, which, since 2008, has helped some 500 retired CEOs and others gain the “outside-the-building, silo-busting” skills needed to take on “messy, complex systems problems” ranging from income inequality to human trafficking. In this striking book, the author distills the lessons learned in the program, in which successful men and women, eager to do good measured in lives improved rather than income earned, explore societal issues of interest, take classes on relevant topics outside their own area of expertise, and use their “capabilities, connections, and cash” (the latter not necessarily their own) to create cross-sector coalitions in pursuit of social change. Drawing on 50 case studies and hundreds of interviews, Kanter tells riveting stories of “bold, imaginative” leadership: A Trader Joe’s CEO fights hunger, an Anheuser-Busch CEO confronts educational disparities in St. Louis, a European banker creates partnerships to finance improved ocean health, and a Hong Kong investment banker helps women work in Southeast Asia. In each case, the societal issue is rife with ambiguity and conflict, with no single organization in charge, and the challenge is to find fresh, convention-defying approaches engaging many stakeholders. The author stresses the care with which participants must approach an issue, how they develop the ability to conduct “multiple efforts on multiple fronts,” and the challenges of working “across disciplines and institutional silos.” She is sometimes repetitious, but mainly to emphasize the powerful potential of her approach. Time alone will reveal the outcomes of these projects, she writes, but they hold much promise and could well serve as models for others.

This realistic and hopeful manual shows how accomplished individuals can tackle problems whose victims often lack resources to take action.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5417-4271-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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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 declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.


Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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