Educator and writer Amy Whitaker combine her talents in art and business to explain how they serve one another. She proposes using a mind-set she calls “art thinking” to harness the joy and creative thought of making art in tandem with the structure and organization of the business. Each chapter addresses one aspect of the creative process, from development to making financial decisions to producing your project. Whitaker offers activities to spur creative thinking and provides a step-by-step guide for allocating project resources. Her grounded business approach provides a path to creative work that won’t break the bank. Creative people will benefit from her manual, which we also suggest to managers who lead creative people but must maintain productive constraints.
Nobel laureate George A. Akerlof and prescient Yale economics professor Robert J. Shiller explain the role of human psychology in markets. They say conventional economic theory assigns too much weight to the role of reason in economic decision making, and too little to the role of irrational emotional and psychological factors. That insight would have been novel a few years back, but numerous other authors have made the same point, though few with such sterling credentials. Having asserted their beliefs and offered evidence about the power of emotions, or “animal spirits,” the authors prescribe curative policies, though they don’t always illuminate their proposals’ full real-world impact. Akerlof’s and Shiller’s distinguished reputations command attention, and we confirm that their book is worthwhile reading. Yet, those who know the authors’ bodies of work may wish for even more insight.
Ed Whitacre, the former CEO of AT&T and GM, teams up with writer Leslie Cauley on this entertaining, informative autobiography. Under Whitacre’s management, Southwestern Bell became AT&T, and GM traveled from bankruptcy to profitability within 16 months. Filled with anecdotes and asides, this is no ordinary business book. Pithy phrases defining his basic management principles pepper Whitacre’s self-effacing voice and his easy-to-read style as he outlines relevant lessons for managers. Whitacre insists that companies succeed more often due to employees’ energy and collaboration than to managers’ decisions. We recommend his stories and insights to all managers and those who want to manage. Everyone can learn from the man who saved GM.
Calling Alibaba “the Amazon of China” understates its influence. Chinese shoppers visit Alibaba’s Tmall and Taobao sites for everything from groceries to SUVs to fake girlfriends. Alibaba has more customers than the US has citizens. The heart of the Alibaba story is founder and CEO Jack Ma. Author Duncan Clark, an American working in China, notes that he foolishly decided not to invest in Alibaba, a move he figures has cost him some $30 million. Clark also offers useful commentary, particularly about Alibaba repelling eBay’s incursion into China. From his not-quite-insider’s perch, he engagingly conveys Alibaba’s rise. We recommend the Alibaba story to investors and managers seeking insight into China’s economy.
Contrarian political philosopher Jason Brennan frets about democracy and the intellectual fitness of voters. The controversial Georgetown University professor argues for giving voting rights only to those who can pass a test or prove that they’re capable and competent. Brennan’s “epistocratic” vision is sacrilege to the world’s democracies and, despite his counterarguments, elitist, or at least exclusionary. Yet, to his credit, he manages to make a calm, logical case. Brennan’s analysis of how and why democracies go astray is worth reading. While always politically neutral, we recommend his treatise to those policymakers, leaders, and citizens who’d be intrigued by an out of- the mainstream analysis of modern politics.
“We know everything about how Africans die, but we know little about how Africans live,” said Swedish author and self-proclaimed African-at-heart, Henning Mankell. This is a book about Africa, but its protagonists are not disease-ridden men and women, starving children or raging warlords. Vijay Mahajan paints a picture of a continent overflowing with an entrepreneurial spirit and economic opportunity. He excitedly strings together story after story of entrepreneurial gardens planted in what looked like deserts. At the same time, he makes it quite clear that if you expect to make money in Africa simply by copying business models from elsewhere, you might as well forget about it. To succeed, you must take the time to understand how Africans live and, especially, to learn what their daily challenges are, be they economic, political, institutional, or existential. Opening the door of opportunity in Africa requires just a little extra portion of creativity. Mahajan covers a lot of ground in this book. His inspiring case studies will teach you lessons about innovation and entrepreneurship that you can apply anywhere in the world. However, while this book might encourage you to plunge into business in Africa, you will have to turn to another source for hands-on advice. For that reason, we recommend this work to entrepreneurs and strategists who have not yet considered the African market – not those who are ready to go.