Despite some boggy, unspecific acronym-speak, the authors offer useful examples and takeaway advice.

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TEAM OF TEAMS

NEW RULES OF ENGAGEMENT FOR A COMPLEX WORLD

Former leader of the Joint Special Operations Task Force in Iraq lends his gutsy insight to the management breakdown of that effort, which ushered in huge changes from the top down.

Replaced in 2010 as head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan for his outspokenness, now retired from the Army and teaching leadership at Yale, McChrystal, along with three co-writers, fashions an engaging narrative on how the traditional centralized management style of the American forces no longer worked against the fluid, agile enemy of jihadi terrorist networks. His work is essentially a chronicle of his ability to lead a sea change in military management style between 2003, when he joined the Task Force, and the triumphant assassination of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born head of al-Qaida in Iraq, in 2006. Frustrated by the protean nature of the enemy, which constantly undermined the rigid discipline and superior force of the U.S., McChrystal and his cohorts had to step back and take stock of some leadership models in history—e.g., British Adm. Horatio Nelson engineered a stunning victory over a superior Franco-Spanish fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 by creating chaos and uncertainty in the enemy command. The authors also examine the ideas of Frederick Winslow Taylor, who initially established the supremacy of the centralized business structure. In a showcase at the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle, Taylor introduced the art of “scientific management,” by which factory conditions moved like clockwork, where there was “the one best way” for production and all causes and effects were predictable. However, by the first Iraq War, the military had boxed itself into an outmoded Maginot Line rather than rewarding fluidity, agility, resiliency, and adaptive thinking. Creating teams and lateral trust altered an entire military culture.

Despite some boggy, unspecific acronym-speak, the authors offer useful examples and takeaway advice.

Pub Date: May 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59184-748-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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

REIMAGINING CAPITALISM IN A WORLD ON FIRE

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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