Fans of Malcolm Gladwell (especially “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference,” 2000 and “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking,” 2005) will appreciate Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman’s “Sway: The Irresistible Power of Irrational Behavior” I have all of Gladwell’s books. In hardback. And I really liked “Sway”. Actually, “Sway” was an easier read/listen. “Sway” has a lot more anecdotal stories to illustrate the points the Brothers Brafman are making.
My favorite chapter was Eight, “Dissenting Justice.” The Brafmans have the most thorough and easy to understand discussion of how the US Supreme Court reviews cases it decides to hear. The purpose of Supreme Courts conferences is to determine how the Court will rule, and the process – honed over hundreds of years – is to make rational decisions, and to respect the voices of dissent. Very few organizations, business or government, would have the time or discipline to engage in the same process – but a modified procedure, encouraging similar careful consideration of the facts, would be well applied used in corporate decision making processes.
Chapter Seven, “Cocaine and Compassion” was a close second to Chapter Eight. In “Cocaine and Compassion”, the Brafmans discuss the difference between pleasure center motivation (money, cocaine) and altruistic motivation. The bottom line is that people are more likely to cooperate and perform well for altruistic reasons – and, for biological reasons, the motivation is going to be either pleasure or altruism, but not both at the same time.
Altruism is discussed extensively in Adam Grant’s 2013 “Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success.” “Sway” was easier to understand, and I think I would have had an easier time with “Give and Take” if I’d read/listened to “Sway” first.
I liked parts of “Sway” so much, I listened to parts of it more than once.
The narration was good, but I could have done without the random music – I wasn’t sure what sections it was setting apart.
Margaret Heffernan's "Willful Blindness: Why we Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril" (2011) is in Audible's Nonfiction:Science & Technology:Social Science, along with Malcolm Gladwell's books, including "Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking" (2005) and "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference" (2007). Jefferson's "Willful Blindness" is definitely on par with Gladwell's work, but without the publicity Gladwell has, I'm worried that not enough people will find out just how great this book is for people who want to understand what individual and organizational psychological problems can cause monumental failures.
Heffernan begins with a dramatic description of a tragic British Petroleum disaster - but not the 2010 Deep Water Horizon blow out that killed 11 workers and badly harmed a great deal of the coast of the United Stated. She describes the 2005 Texas City Refinery explosion that killed 15 workers and wreaked havoc on a vital part of the economy. Some of the factors that made the workers blind to the problem that caused the explosion were lack of sleep caused by long shifts with not enough time off; not enough workers; and poor design of equipment. Management at the local level didn't have the power to change the situation, and executives determined to cut costs refused to hear them. What's surprising to Heffernan is that when BP's Deep Water Horizon blew, people were astounded. The management and the corporate culture hadn't changed. Why wouldn't it happen again?
Heffernan's book is full of similar case studies, some well known - like the federal government's disastrous handling of Hurricane Katrina. Some are not well known - like the installation of pumps that will not work in New Orleans after Katrina.
Once again, I do wish Audible had a true table of contents. Since it doesn't, here it is (with thanks to Google Books): Introduction; 1. Affinity and Beyond; 2. Love is Blind; 3. Dangerous Convictions; 4 The Limits of Your Mind; 5. The Ostrich Instruction; 6. Just Following Orders; 7. The Cult of Cultures; 8. Bystander; 9. Out of Sight Out of Mind; 10. De-Moralizing Work; 11. Cassandra; 12. See Better. Chapter 11, which starts with the myth of Cassandra, who was gifted with knowing the truth and the future but cursed not to be believed, is a powerful discussion about encouraging those in an organization who know the truth to speak up.
Heffernan narrates the book herself, and it was hard to get used to her unusual accent. I checked her bio, and she was born in Texas, raised in the Netherlands, and attended college in England. No wonder I couldn't place it.
I definitely recommend this book for managers and executives who want to strengthen their teams.
[If you found this review helpful, please let me know by clicking the helpful button. And Audible, how about adding this one to the Business section also???]
It seems important to mention one's "creds" in writing reviews of Stephen King's "Guns" so I will start with mine: I served in the US Army, and was honorably discharged as a SGT/E-5. I qualified Expert with an M16 (the civilian equivalent is an AR15), and I'm still proud of that.
I also have a copy of "Rage", in the compilation of "The Bachman Books" that I purchased the year it was published, 1985. I remember reading "The Bachan Books" the same week I purchased it. I loved "The Running Man" and liked "Roadwork", and while the plot of "Rage" was intriguing, the writing was so sophomoric, it was painful. I found out later King wrote "Rage" while he was in high school, so there was an explanation. I read "Rage" once again, in 1996, when I heard Michael Carneal shot classmates in West Paducah, Kentucky. It sounded so much like the story I'd read 11 years earlier, I wanted to make sure I wasn't imagining the similarity. I wasn't.
King's essay "Guns" starts with a scathing social commentary, "That's How it Shakes Out." It doesn't matter if the first station you've got programmed into your remote is FoxNEWS and Ann Coulter is your dream date, or if you are so far left you contribute frequently to KPFK: the media cycle for mass shootings is the same.
King argues forcefully - and sometimes vulgarly - for gun control. King is a gun owner himself, and does not want to disarm the country - but he does want assault weapons banned, and large magazines banned; and he wants background checks.
What King argues isn't new or innovative, but the writing is vintage King. There are phrases I remember from "The Shawshank Redemption" (the movie adaptation, not the original novella "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption") and the unabridged edition of "The Stand." There's also a theme in the first and last section of "Guns" that runs through "The Library Policeman" and "The Ten O'Clock People." The theme was chilling in the stories, and the probability it's a reality is startling.
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