Bezonomics, Netflix's Strategy, Machine Learning, Trade Wars, & More | Business, Economic, Leadership

New business books for those with an interest in the role of artificial intelligence and machine learning, the effects of climate change on industries, and for public and academic libraries' business and psychology collections.

redstarDumaine, Brian. Bezonomics: How Amazon Is Changing Our Lives and What the World’s Best Companies Are Learning from It. Scribner. May 2020. 336p. ISBN 9781982113636. $28. BUS

This is a wide-ranging, smoothly written consideration of the company Amazon and its basic principles, which, according to Dumaine (Go Long) include an intense focus on customer satisfaction (especially low prices and speedy delivery), long-term management (giving investments time to mature rather than cutting them off if there is little or no immediate returns), and product and service innovation. Amazon is able to do much of this by collecting data on their customers and then using artificial intelligence (i.e., smart machines) to analyze the data. This leads to machines learning more about customers and improving on their recommendations. What distinguishes Amazon is its consistency in following this three-part strategy. The book discusses Amazon’s major innovations as well as some failures. Dumaine clearly admires Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and the way he has guided the company since its inception, and thus thinks Amazon points the way to the future of business. Yet Dumaine is not uncritical. He even has a chapter on how companies can survive and thrive in a business environment dominated by Amazon and its principles. VERDICT This will appeal to those with an interest in the role of artificial intelligence and machine learning in business.—Shmuel Ben-Gad, Gelman Lib., George Washington Univ., Washington, DC

Ellman, James. Hot Stocks: Investing for Impact and Profit in a Warming World. Rowman & Littlefield. Jul. 2020. 224p. ISBN 9781538137468. $32. ECON

This book is strictly for prospective and professional investors. This go-to title advises investors on the strengths and weaknesses of companies in light of climate change. It covers key industries so that an investor can determine which industry is best to invest in. Although the author focuses more on U.S. stock there are also some recommendations on the international scale. The intent of this work is to not only show how companies fear global warming with traditional industries feeling the brunt, but to also explain how new markets can prosper in a warming world. This is also supported by various statistics that an investor can apply in the decision-making process. VERDICT This investor’s handbook can also be used by business students looking at the effects of climate change on industries. However, the work could have benefited from more research on the international level and a broader view on the impact of climate change on global industries. For fans of Timothy Vick’s How To Pick Stocks Like Warren Buffett: Profiting from the Bargain Hunting Strategies of the World’s Greatest Value Investor.—Adesh Rampat, Miami

Hamel, Gary & Michele Zanini. Humanocracy: Creating Organizations as Amazing as the People Inside Them. Harvard Business Review. Jun. 2020. 368p. ISBN 9781633696020. $32. ECON

Hamel (London Business Sch., cofounder, Management Lab; What Matters Now, The Future of Management) and Zanini (managing director, Management Lab; both, Harvard Business Review), present a concentrated emphasis on the dehumanizing impact of bureaucracy. A bureaucratic structure typically results in only 13 percent of employees feeling engaged in their work, and an estimated $9 trillion in lost economic output each year. The authors present a fascinating new blueprint for organizational design that captures the few necessary benefits of bureaucracy, while avoiding the penalties. They also take readers inside exemplary businesses that have managed to upend the traditional bureaucratic model. This well-reasoned concept is fully developed around the authors’ principles of humanocracy, and includes practical details on how to achieve revolutionary goals with evolutionary means. Also included is their step-by-step guide for getting started, and an explanation of how to scale up this new approach to internal operational design. VERDICT For readers interested in this relatively new idea about organizational dynamics. Highly recommended for all university libraries supporting business and psychology curriculum.—Dale Farris, Groves, TX

redstarHastings, Reed & Erin Meyer. No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention. Penguin. Sept. 2020. 320p. ISBN 9781984877864. $28. BUS

Hastings (Cofounder, chair, and CEO of Netflix) and Meyer (European Institute of Business Administration; The Culture Map) present a fascinating analysis of Netflix. Hastings begins with the rocky start of Netflix in ‘97 and takes readers to its current model of streaming combined with original films that have transformed the company into the powerhouse it is today. Hastings attributes this success to the distinctive company culture that values people over process, emphasizes innovation over efficiency, and has very few controls. Some of the Hastings principles include requiring employees to give candid feedback, not forcing employees to obtain approval for business expenses or decisions, deeming hard work as irrelevant while providing generous severance for adequate performance, and always paying top salaries in order to acquire and retain top star talent. Hastings explains how to build up talent density, increase candor, and begin removing controls. However, Hastings’s work misses the importance of luck in his success, something he would consider the result of his continuous preparation for upcoming opportunities others miss. VERDICT Highly recommended for leaders eager to build innovative, fast, and flexible teams, and all university libraries supporting business and human resource development curriculum.—Dale Farris, Groves, TX

Klein, Matthew C. & Michael Pettis. Trade Wars Are Class Wars: How Rising Inequality Distorts the Global Economy and Threatens International Peace. Yale. May 2020. 288p. ISBN 9780300244175. $28. BUS
Klein (economics commentator, Barron’s) and Pettis (finance, Peking Univ.) demonstrate worldwide effects of the ever-growing wealth inequality within nations and between trading partners. In China, Europe, and many other places workers are extremely productive and very badly paid. Low wage workers cannot afford to buy the products and services they create. Nations deliberately keep wages low, promote rapid and uncontrolled movement of capital, and desperately seek new markets abroad for products unconsumed at home. Klein and Pettis argue that restoration of the post-war social compact tying productivity to rising incomes, relaxation of the toxic fear of government deficits, and Keynesian stimulation of national and international economies will reduce income disparities, raise living standards, and produce peaceful trade. In short, globalist policies have failed. This work explains the self-destructive nature of neo-liberal economic theory which produces regular economic crises both within countries and globally. VERDICT Readers interested in current events, students unaware of ideas that challenge capitalist orthodoxy, and scholars searching for the causes of planetary inequality will all benefit from this book.—Duncan Stewart, Univ. of Iowa Libs., Iowa City

Perakis, Christine. The Resilient Leader: Life Changing Strategies To Overcome Today’s Turmoil and Tomorrow’s Uncertainty. Simple Truths. Jun. 2020. 168p. ISBN 9781728210681. $16.99. BUS

Attorney and business consultant Perakis (The Entrepreneur’s Essential Roadmap) draws on her experience living through Hurricane Irma, followed only two weeks later by Hurricane Maria. During this disaster, Perakis had no electrical power, communications, freshwater, food, or contact with anyone outside. Ironically, before her brush with death, the author’s professional life revolved around consulting with business executives who were experiencing crises that metaphorically equaled category five storm-level seriousness. The traumatic experience helped her formulate key indicators of resilience, including preparing a plan for both success and failure, developing self- and situational awareness, creating systems to keep oneself and others motivated, choosing the role that best strengthens the long-term vision of a business, surrounding oneself with others and developing comfort zones for all, boosting communication skills with the team, and developing good judgment. Perakis also reminds readers to break down barriers caused by isolation, find others who share life or business circumstances, 
and offer support to others. VERDICT While these principles are not new to 
anyone already vested in the overabundant leadership genre, what helps set this work apart is the author’s own gripping experience surviving major hurricanes.—Dale ­Farris, Groves, TX

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