Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cool Book Review

That's how a book review should be (a review of Good to Great, review title "Why GtG is a brain-dead book"):
Books like Good to Great prey on the fact that you napped through statistics--if you'd been caffeined up during those dull lectures, you'd have remembered the fallacy of composition (the coin flipper's exercise), the distinction between random outcomes and relevant ones, and the enormous difference between what's causal and what's coincidental.

Look, there's nothing new in business: there are only a few basic strategies, and only a few macro and microeconomic truths. Ever notice how fads like supply side economics, the Japanization of America, the endless bull market, the end of history, The New Economy and the Macarena all seemed to collapse under the weight of basic market concepts you already knew?

So SNAP OUT OF IT, gulp down that double espresso, go back to your old and boring (but still accurate and useful) Michael Porter, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Benjamim Graham, and Burton Malkiel, and stop chasing misallocated or downright blockheaded metaphors from Who Moved My Cheese, The Art of War and poor, misunderstood Charles Darwin, and for God's sake, please take a pass on this Three Card Monte of a book.
Lesson: Most reviewers are plain dumb. Always make sure you read the one star (i.e. poor) reviews of popular books. You can also look at the other reviews of the same person to get an idea of what he likes. I myself once felt into the trap of buying a business book by looking at positive reviews. Later, I wrote the following review for Creating Contagious Commitment:
You could sum all of this book's content in just one page, even one paragraph: Design processes on the basis of usability. Include in process design activities people who will use the process. If you don't convince people about the merits of a new process, they won't use it, worse they will sabotage it. Once the process catches momentum, it will spread quickly.

Now, if you repeat this a thousand times with slightly different sentences, add a thousand "tipping point" phrases, a lot of tables and graphs of questionable use, voila, you have a book.

It is a wonder to me how it got such a high rating.
You can apply this lesson to everything you buy, like hotel bookings. Negative reviews usually yield deeper insight.

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