A thorough, highly engaging, and superbly written exploration of organizational culture.

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THE CULTURE PUZZLE

HARNESSING THE FORCES THAT DRIVE YOUR ORGANIZATION'S SUCCESS

A business book offers an example-filled deep dive into organizational culture.

Culture is arguably one of the most puzzling areas in today’s business organizations. In this impressive and vibrant treatment of the subject, academicians/consultants Moussa, Newberry, and Urban seek to demystify organizational culture by analyzing its “four forces” (“vision, interests, habits, and innovation”) and showing how they fit together, as do the pieces of a puzzle. The pragmatic approach of the authors is revealed in a careful, methodical way. They first introduce the puzzle pieces in a broad brush stroke, then discuss the four forces in depth, and finally demonstrate how to sustain a healthy organizational culture. Along the way, the book features countless case studies and anecdotes that perfectly illustrate the typical cultural challenges faced and the opportunities available to take organizational culture to the next level. In Part 1, the authors employ memorable metaphors to highlight the importance of corporate culture. They liken those CEOs who may be tone deaf about culture to Akhenaten, an Egyptian pharaoh who was an innovative genius but could not convince the populace to follow his lead: “This tale of a prideful pharaoh who fails to change long-standing cultural beliefs remains keenly relevant today.” Just as effective is the metaphorical gardener who is responsible for “thoughtfully and carefully tending the culture garden.” An example employed by the authors is the decidedly nonmilitary leadership style of American Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal in Iraq. McChrystal recalled his mother’s penchant for vegetable gardening and applied three lessons he learned from her to managing his troops: adapting to changing conditions, being “the protector in chief,” and creating the right environment.

Part 2 addresses the four forces in precise detail; chapters devoted to each one are brimming with relevant examples, all of which are accompanied by authoritative commentary and keen insights. In discussing vision, the authors demonstrate how storytelling helps build strong cultures. The chapter regarding interests covers several vital issues, such as how to keep organizational tribes from fragmenting and how to become a “culture virtuoso.” An outstanding vignette in this chapter is an anecdote about retired Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who returned during the 2008 financial crisis to transform a “loose collection” of 10,000 store managers “into a tribe of tribes.” In the chapter about habits, the authors explain “four principles for creating moments that usher in new habits.” Concerning innovation, the authors identify three characteristics associated with “the true nature of innovation and the sort of environment that fosters it.” In Part 3, Moussa, Newberry, and Urban reprise the gardener metaphor, aptly describing how a culture leader takes responsibility for “Pulling Weeds and Cultivating Wildflowers.” The authors close the book on a hopeful note, observing that during the Covid-19 pandemic, they were encouraged to see many organizations “thinking village rather than self.” Crammed with stories across a broad spectrum of industries and organizational sizes, this book delivers much of value that any manager should be able to glean.

A thorough, highly engaging, and superbly written exploration of organizational culture.

Pub Date: June 22, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-52-309182-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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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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