A smart, comprehensive guidebook steeped in the rough-and-tumble realities of business.

Driving to Perfection

ACHIEVING BUSINESS EXCELLENCE BY CREATING A VIBRANT CULTURE

Entrepreneur Fielkow urges fellow business leaders to harness the ultimate competitive weapon: company culture.

For Fielkow, building a company culture isn’t a touchy-feely exercise but a “hardcore business proposition.” A lawyer-turned–corporate executive, Fielkow bought the trucking firm Jetco Delivery in 2006 and set out to transform it into a world-class company. In his view, Jetco’s competitive advantage isn’t superior technology or having more trucks on the road. What sets Jetco apart is a culture based on well-defined values, employee empowerment and a commitment to excellence. “An excellent culture occurs when people and process are in harmony with the company’s vision and values,” he writes. Fielkow argues that too many leaders think culture is an undefinable entity or, worse, a waste of time. In fact, he says, culture is a “strategic choice” that yields a measurable return on investment. To make his case, Fielkow shares his successes and failures in establishing Jetco’s culture, cleverly summarized by the mantra “Driving to Perfection.” Written in a succinct, amiable style, the book is a treasure trove of ideas on how to build a culture without spending a lot of money. Far from the superficial notions of culture often found in company brochures, Fielkow advances a sophisticated view of culture that permeates every aspect of business, from employee compensation to mergers and acquisitions. He spotlights a broad range of topics—leadership, communication, hiring, teamwork, accountability, etc.—and challenges many conventional business practices. For example, Jetco chooses to focus on its employees rather than blindly following a “customer-first at any price” policy. Jetco’s culture ensures workers are well-trained and empowered to take care of customers, which keeps them coming back with repeat business. Fielkow makes clear his distaste for lengthy employee handbooks, so he keeps his chapters brief and equipped with easy-to-skim lists. While culture-building may be inexpensive, Fielkow doesn’t promise quick fixes. Developing a vibrant culture demands effort, and once achieved, it must be relentlessly guarded against complacency.

A smart, comprehensive guidebook steeped in the rough-and-tumble realities of business.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1626525078

Page Count: 252

Publisher: Two Harbors Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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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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