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ISBN 9780061353246 Published May 2010
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Posted June 14, 2012 4:04 a.m. by 800-ceo-read
If Dan Ariely’s new book is anything like his last two, it will sell like gangbusters and enlighten a lot of people on a matter of the mind we take for granted, or don’t even stop to consider. And the book, The Honest Truth about Dishonesty, comes at a time when we can use some pause and reflection.
The seemingly never ending series of corporate scandals and financial chicanery (Ariely begins the book by considering Enron) and the complete inability to clean it up or stop them from occurring, makes the question at the heart of the book, “is dishonesty largely restricted to a few bad apples, or is it a more common problem?” a very important one for both the business community.
Ariely, through both reasoning and research, rejects the long-accepted Simple Model of Rational Crime (SMORC), that “in weighing the costs versus the benefits, there was no place for considerations of right or wrong; it was simply about the comparison of possible positive and negative outcomes,” and the book’s central thesis replaces it with a more nuanced and human explanation of dishonesty:
[M]uch of our behavior is driven by two opposing motivations. On one hand, we want to view ourselves as honest, honorable people … (psychologists call this ego motivation). On the other hand, we want to benefit from cheating and get as much money as possible (this is the standard financial motivation). Clearly these two motivations are in conflict.
The Honest Truth about Dishonesty explores different territory than his previous books, Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality, but if you’ve read those previous works you’ll be pleased to know that it continues and moves forward the general arc of those studies.
Beyond exploring the topic of dishonesty, this book is fundamentally about rationality and irrationality. And although dishonesty is fascinating and important in its own right, it is also important to keep in mind that it is but a single component of our interesting and intricate human nature.
And he believes we can create an environment that fosters optimal behavior:
Once we more clearly understand the forces that really drive us, we discover that we are not helpless in the face of our human follies (dishonesty included), that we can restructure our environment, and that by doing so we can achieve better behaviors and outcomes.
To understand what keeps businesses honest and profitable, it is important to understand what keeps the people within them honest, and to put appropriate systems in place. It is not about becoming a nanny or absolving individuals of responsibility, but of simply understanding human nature, and putting the better angels of our nature to work within our organizations and societies.
Jack Covert Selects – Ten Steps Ahead
Posted March 10, 2011 11:57 p.m. by 800-ceo-read
Ten Steps Ahead: What Separates Successful Business Visionaries From the Rest of Us by Erik Calonius, Portfolio, 256 pages, $25.95, Hardcover, March 2011, ISBN 9781591843764
There’s a lot of press being given to The Social Animal right now, a wonderfully written new book by David Brooks built around the latest research from numerous fields—most notably brain science and the unconscious mind. But there is another book coming out soon that also delves heavily into the latest research on brain science that we hope grabs your attention, Erik Calonius’s Ten Steps Ahead.
Being released this month by Portfolio, Calonius’s book focuses on the brain science of visionaries. Why visionaries? As the author writes:
Visionaries are not only the stuff of legend. When we string them sequentially, one visionary following another, we have described the arc of history.
A former writer and editor for the Wall Street Journal and Fortune who collaborated with Dan Ariely on the best-selling Predictably Irrational, Calonius writes engagingly, spinning brain exercises and visualizations wistfully in with the science and stories of visionaries. And what stories! One of my favorites is of Jeff Hawkins. It tells the story of him cutting down a block of wood until it fit comfortably in his shirt pocket, and then attaching a paper face on it with some simple function keys.
Hawkins walked around with his wooden prototype for several weeks. If you had spied him on the street, you might have seen him stop suddenly, as if struck with an idea, pull out a piece of wood, perhaps punch a few buttons, then slip it back into his pocket. He had a “pen” to write on the screen as well—actually, it was a chopstick that he had whittled down to size. […] The PalmPilot, as it was called, debuted in the spring of 1996 and changed not only pen computing but the entire personal computer industry.
One of the strengths of Calonius’s stories is that he’s spent time with almost everyone (other than Walt Disney) he profiles in this book. He’s hung out in the garage where Steve Jobs built Apple computers and listened to his stories of how it all began. He wined and dined with Richard Branson on his houseboat, Duende, where he launched his business empire. Hearing their stories second-hand through the author makes them come alive a little bit more than they would otherwise, brings them a little bit closer and makes their vision seem more accessible and attainable.
The book also teaches us that visualization is a skill we can learn. We just have to have the courage and conviction to put in the effort and give it a go. And picking up a copy of Ten Steps Ahead isn’t a bad place to start.