An overlong survey that may interest business students as a case study.

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LIGHTS OUT

PRIDE, DELUSION, AND THE FALL OF GENERAL ELECTRIC

Two Wall Street Journal reporters expand years of their newspaper coverage into a detailed book about the decline of General Electric due in large part to management incompetence, greed, and dishonesty.

Founded in Schenectady, New York, in 1892, General Electric eventually grew into one of the world’s largest corporations, selling products and services with sterling reputations, developing a loyal workforce, training managers who earned renown (especially Jack Welch), and providing reliable investments for stockholders. Examining what went wrong during the past two decades, Gryta and Mann focus mostly on CEO Jeff Immelt and his successor, John Flannery. During their stewardships, GE stock prices and number of employees dropped significantly. At times, financial disaster seemed imminent, as the corporation sold many of its electricity-related assets to raise cash. When Flannery arrived in 2017, the company was fighting “dysfunction tending toward chaos and a confrontation with the past that was mere weeks from spilling into public view. Beneath the placid surface, GE was in total disarray.” The authors attempt to place the demise in a larger context by noting that for many decades, GE served as a model of excellent management for countless other corporations. This leads the authors to wonder about the viability of many other seemingly healthy corporations. Often, the authors’ exploration of the bigger picture falls victim to the excruciatingly detailed saga of GE. Readers without a direct connection to the corporation—e.g., current or former employees, outside corporate analysts, and investors—will be tempted to skim the parts of the narrative about the dizzying maneuvering inside the corporate suites. The authors’ knowledgeable reporting is mostly top-down, as they rarely focus on lower-level employees. They analyze Immelt from a variety of angles, and while he certainly emerges as a complex figure, the authors struggle to make him compelling as a protagonist. The book would have been more engaging if shortened by nearly 100 pages.

An overlong survey that may interest business students as a case study.

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-25041-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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