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Alan's Bookshelf

Tuesday
Dec162014

Thinking, Fast & Slow

Thinking, Fast & Slow :: Alan Hargreaves book review


3.5 out of 5 stars.

Daniel Kahneman
Penguin, UK, 2011, RRP: $22.95

I was meant to review this book some time ago but there was so much in it I put it aside for a second read.

It’s a relatively easy read but the implications of Kahneman’s research can be quite confronting. The book is intellectually stimulating, but there’s a lot of it.

The author can draw on more than four decades of research. One of the papers that led to him winning the Nobel Prize for Economics was first published in 1974. He’s done plenty since then.

Kahneman’s core thesis is now pretty much a part of many mainstream ideas of how the brain works. He sees us as driven by two separate but occasionally engaged entities which he calls, unpretentiously, System One (S1) and, yes, System Two (S2).

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Tuesday
Nov262013

I’m Sorry I Broke Your Company: why management consultants are the problem, not the solution


3 out of 5 stars.

by Karen Phelan
Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco, 2013, RRP $24.95

“Steve Jobs would have failed all my leadership competency assessments.” So much has now been written about Steve Jobs that possibly his greatest legacy is statements like this. It comes from an excellent book by former management consultant, Karen Phelan.

It has become a throwaway line that some of the most successful and innovative entrepreneurs don’t always fit the mould. What Steve Jobs did was drive that home emphatically by building what was, at the time of his death, the most valuable company in the world.

The point Phelan makes is that if you applied any of the current fads for talent management, performance assessment or leadership selection models, you would not have picked Steve Jobs as your next CEO.

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Friday
Jun142013

Resilience: Why things bounce back


3 out of 5 stars.

by Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy
Headline, London, 2012, 324pp, RRP$29.95

You are well into this book when the authors raise a question that many of us wonder about: why do some people easily recover from trauma while others can plunge into deep depression or dangerous behavior.

Studies quoted here suggest almost half the people facing emotional difficulties, like severe personal loss or major traumatic events such as September 11, recover by their own resources.

The book offers a number of reasons, some of them basic. Some people just have a genetic predisposition to optimism, largely a result of higher levels of telomerase in their immune cells. That’s an enzyme that ultimately enhances a sense of wellbeing.

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Tuesday
Feb262013

Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking


4.5 out of 5 stars.

by Susan Cain, Viking, London, 2012, RRP$29.95

“If we assume quiet and loud people have roughly the same number of good (and bad) ideas, then we should worry if the louder and more forceful people always carry the day.”

That statement comes fairly early in this book and it’s a theme which sits ominously in the background of every chapter. Research shows neither introverts nor extroverts to have any advantage in intelligence. Both types share a similar IQ profile.

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Saturday
Nov102012

Luck


4 out of 5 stars.

by Ed Smith, Bloomsbury, London, 2012, RRP$35.00

It’s fashionable to talk about the connection between sport and business at the moment. Luck, however, doesn’t hold such pretensions. It’s basically about, well, luck.

Luck does not present any groundbreaking research in the fields of chance or risk. In some ways it is more an armchair survey of recent literature on the subject.

But despite the compendium nature of the work, it raises serious questions about the notion of luck and it’s changing role in business and society. Not all of it for the best.

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