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Reviews Written by
Joseph Augustine "Frisky Dirt" (Cambridge, UK)

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Blind
Blind
Price: £5.49

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intimately, yummingly and achingly melodic melancholy of these fair isles awaiting rediscovery, 29 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: Blind (Audio CD)
Not sure why this album passed me by first time round as the three Rs totally enthralled so much that it blew out my Sony Walkman.. after which I witnessed the band on their RRR tour supporting Throwing Muses. Harriet's opening rendition of 'Skin and Bones' laced with David's mesmeric guitar work instantly grabbed the attention of the audience - a memory I will never forget.

Moving over to Blind it is not as adventurous or raw as RRR - at first serving up a more polished set of songs some of which have the strings and keyboard treatment patently absent from the first album. The lack of hit singles, the birth of Grunge and a far less well received third album probably meant a premature end, regardless of the noble pursuit of raising a family, and there does not appear to be any signs of reemergence no matter that many bands of a bygone era continue to replenish their pension pots!

As many reviewers have pointed out the indebtedness of the Cocteau Twins, in particular Liz Frazer, and Johnny Marr are apposite .. I might also say the minimalism of Galaxie 500 as contemporaries, particularly on 'God Made Me' is also apparent. The interweaving of guitar styles with the hauntingly prepubescent vocal quality of Harriet whose lyrics fleet by like lost impressions rather than soulful invocations provide a musical canvas to the distanced commentary of post teenage travails. There is also the dabbling in the religious or New Age (depending on your persuasion) such as the jauntingly racing tempo of 'Love' with the self-affirming message of "love yourself".

Technically, this album sees the use of drive effects on a number of tracks which were not so evident on RRR. David Gavarin surely ranks as one of the most unsung guitar heroes of all time, and he has a brilliantly gifted foil in Harriet Wheeler. In short, I will stick my neck out and say RRR and Blind are as crucial as Nick Drake's drastically cut short contributions to British folk-inspired melancholiac drone music of the late 20th century.. The Sundays will continue to influence as a reference band as they most likely did at their zenith; the progressive 'What Do You Think?', for instance, predates the kind of guitar structures strummed out by messieurs Ashcroft and McCabe.

My advice is to buy this album as part of a double, it really is the flip side to RRR and together they will stand as a great body of music for many years to come - it is almost a quarter of a century now!


Shelter
Shelter
Offered by ProMedia GmbH
Price: £13.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not unsurprisingly like Sigur Ros at times... a melodic journey into a guitar rich dreamscape., 3 Feb. 2014
This review is from: Shelter (Audio CD)
Stumbling across this album after trawling through various Best of 2014 review sites it came as a slight surprise to be thrown back into a 1990s Boo Radleyesque time warp with large doses of Slowdive, early M83, and Sigur Ros reverby anthemic and progressive song structures; there are also shades of indie dream scape guitars a la Vini Reilly and Robin Guthrie and so on... and more currently Maps...

If you are hooked by any of the above musical name checks but include a distinctly French soft lilting and moody chanteur, and... enjoy having your ears tuned into a world of catchy, guitar effects-laden drenched lead lines, that alternate as modern Coldplay-like punchy melodies, filled out with emo rock choruses, then, give this album a try; it is a journey into the author's fairy world and great great escapism!

There was a even a point when the quality of song writing belied the relatively unknown status of Neige (Stephane Paut) and would be surely worthy of some mainstream success in the hands of more established acts. My worry, therefore, is that this album will pass into the oblivion of shoe gaze history without recognition similar to Pale Saint's The Comfort of Madness.

Ps. The album was produced by Sigur Ros's Birgir Jon Birgisson, known as "Biggi", at his Sundlaugin Studio in Iceland.


The Shift: The Future of Work is Already Here
The Shift: The Future of Work is Already Here
by Lynda Gratton
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Crafting the future in a series of shifts towards productive experiences and not necessarily money., 20 Jan. 2014
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There are two kinds of Shifts:

The first, which I did not expect, is an inner value based change taking hold in Western society, which is not so explicitly described but more of a running under-commentary. For example the third sector might be already leading the way as candidly revealed in the following quote in the book by a manager at Save The Children: "In organisations where you can't afford to recognise achievement with pay, what reward do you give instead? For me the important [productive] experiences are those of leadership, responsibility and decision making which contribute to my sense of well being at work, and if I think back I would be willing to sacrifice 'stuff' in order to be exposed to those opportunities earlier."

Work has been traditionally defined as a social marker of mainstream aspirational values in terms of providing the wherewithal for consuming a house and a smart car. But a necessary question the author returns to is is this model sustainable, and will our future working lives be so conditioned by economic utility?

Though the answer to this question is not simple, with a widening of the gap between those with and without economic and cultural capital becoming even more pronounced, Gratton sees the traditional contract of a parent-child relationship - once implicitly accepted by pre- and baby boomers - being challenged in making the choices that are not necessarily served through pay. Instead, there is the acceptance of the responsibility of free will of what can be changed and our personal circumstances in what cannot be changed. For example, a recent report about the way a creative off-shoot at Google called Google X works explains that staff get to choose their managers for each project rather than the usual dictation from on high: if you are seen as "Billy no mates" what use are you as a manager to a company?

The second type of shift is very much as one might have expected driven by technological and cultural change. Gratton's research team pick out futuristic working patterns as both negative and positive. The negative trends read like a Sociological critique on postmodern capitalism, but her positive ones are very thought provoking:

1. From shallow generalist to serial mastery with the necessity for morphing one's skills in a series of carillon curves or careers of reinvention, for example a University Lecturer in Art History remorphing to become a Solicitor at the age of 50.

2. From competitive isolator to innovative connector, e.g. the Google and Samsung 10 year cross-licencing patent deal that has been recently announced.

3. From voracious consumer to impassioned producer, e.g. evidence of which can be seen in the exponential rise of micro-entrepreneurships since the 2008 recession broke and the growing interest in maker faire.

These shifts are being reinforced to a greater or lesser degree by inter-connective media which facilitate the sharing of choices such as crowd -ideation, -funding and -sourcing, with no one person overall taking the credit. Switching on the virtual assistant (a technological anthropomorphous tool to help organise the virtual world) and tapping into the web is expected to open up the ability for more involvement in flexible working communities. For example, surgeons will naturally become part of dislocated teams of medics being able to perform remotely in any theatre of the world that has the facility to hook up to a Wi-Fi connection.

If the fundamentals of a caring sharing planet are dealt with then one is left with the overall impression that work is going to be a rather exciting place with continual morphing and the role of regenerative communities providing a balanced ratio of work-to-life and meaningful opportunities to progressively develop skills in making a commitment to one's own lifestyle and self-definition. However, there is the undeniable caveat that the high quality of these opportunities are not going to be accessible for everyone, but will be organised around business community clusters, since non face-to-face contact appears not to be a "complete" solution for satisfying the most human of Maslow's basic needs and wants.


Thinking, Fast and Slow
Thinking, Fast and Slow
by Daniel Kahneman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When is an intuition a simplifying heuristic or an expert solution? That is the cue of recognition, nigh a formula Grasshopper!, 13 Oct. 2013
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Stemming from the author's Nobel prize winning scholarly research on the simplifying short-cuts of intuitive thinking (systematic errors) and then decision making under uncertainty both published in Science Journal, the book is a series of thought experiments that sets out to counter the prevailing rational-agent model of the world (Bernoulli's utility errors) that humans have consistent preferences and know how to maximise them.

Instead, Prospect Theory shows that important choices are prone to the relativity of shifting reference points (context) and formulations of inconsequential features within a situation such that human preferences struggle to become reality-bound. In particular our decisions are susceptible to heuristic (short-cutting) or cognitive illusory biases - an inconsistency that is built in to the design of our minds, for example, the 'duration neglect' of time (less is more effect) in recounting a story by the Remembering Self, as opposed to sequentially by the Experiencing Self. Prospect Theory is based on the well known dominance of threat/escape (negativity) over opportunity/approach (positivity) as a natural tendency or hard wired response towards risk adversity that Kahneman's grandmother would have acknowledged. Today this bias is explored by behavioural economics (psychophysics) and the science of neuroeconomics - in trying to understand what a person's brain does while they make safe or risky decisions.

It would appear that there are two species of homo sapiens: those who think like "Econs" - who can compare broad principles and processes 'across subjects', like spread betters (broad framing) in trades of exchange; and "Humans" who are swayed optimistically or pessimistically in terms of conviction and fairness by having attachments to material usage (narrow framing) and a whole host of cognitive illusions, e.g. to name but a very few: the endowment effect, sunk cost fallacy and entitlement. Kahnmann argues that these two different ways of relating to the world are heavily predicated by a fundamental split in the brain's wet-ware architecture delineated by two complementary but opposing perspectives:

System 1 is described as the Inside View: it is "fast" HARE-like intuitive thought processes that jump to best-case scenario and plausible conclusions based on recent events and current context (priming) using automatic perceptual memory reactions or simple heuristic intuitions or substitutions. These are usually affect-based associations or prototypical intensity matches (trying to compare different categories, e.g. apples or stake?). System 1 is susceptible to emotional framing and prefers the sure choice over the gamble (risk adverse) when the outcomes are good but tends to accept the gamble (risk seeking) when all outcomes are negative. System 1 is 'frame-bound' to descriptions of reality rather than reality itself and can reverse preferences based on how information is presented, i.e. is open to persuasion. Therefore, instead of truly expert intuitions System 1 thrives on correlations of coherence (elegance), certainty (conviction) and causality (fact) rather than evidential truth. System 1 has a tendency to believe, confirm (well known bias), infer or induce the general from the particular (causal stereotype). System 1 does not compute base rates of probability, the influence of random luck or mere statistics as correlation (decorrelation error) or the regression to the mean (causality error). System 1's weakness is the brain's propensity to succumb to over-confidence and hindsight in the resemblance, coherence and plausibility of flimsy evidence of the moment acronymically termed WYSIATI (What You See Is All There Is) at the expense of System 2 probability. To succumb is human as so humbly shown throughout the book which has no bounds to profession, institution, MENSA level or social standing. Maybe Gurdjieff was right when he noticed that the majority of humans are sheep-like.

System 2 on the other hand is the Outside View that attempts to factor in Rumsfeld's "unknown unknowns" by using realistic baselines of reference classes. It makes choices that are 'reality-bound' regardless of presentation of facts or emotional framing and can be regarded as "slow" RAT-like controlled focus and energy sapping intention, the kind used in effort-full integral, statistical and complex reasoning using distributional information based on probability, uncertainty and doubt.

However System 2 is also prone to error especially in the service of System 1 and even though it has the capability with application not to confuse mere correlation with causation and deduce the particular from the general, it can be blocked when otherwise engaged, indolent or full of pride! As Kahneman puts it "...the ease at which we stop thinking is rather troubling" and what may appear to be compelling is not always right especially when the ego - the executive regulator of will power and concentration - is depleted of energy, or conversely when it is in a good mood of cognitive ease (not stress) deriving from situations of 'mere exposure' (repetition and familiarity). Experiments have repeatedly shown that cognitive aptitude and self-control are in direct correlation, and biases of intuition are in constant need of regulation which can be hard work such as uncovering one's outcome bias (part hindsight bias and halo effect) based on the cognitive ease with which one lays claim to causal 'narrative fallacies' (Taleb) rather than "adjusting" to statistical random events born out of luck!

So..

Do not expect a fun and "simples" read if you want clarity in to how impulses become voluntary actions and impressions and feelings and inclinations so readily become beliefs, attitudes and intentions (when endorsed by System 2).

The solution..

Kahneman makes the special plea that our higher-minded intuitive statistician of System 2 take over the art of decision-making and wise judgement in "accurate choice diagnosis" to minimise the "errors in the design of the machinery of cognition." We should learn to recognise situations in which significant mistakes are likely by making the time and putting in the analytical effort to avoid them especially when the stakes are high - usually when a situation is unfamiliar and there is no time to collect more information. 'Thinking Fast and Slow' practically equips the reader with sufficient understanding to approach reasoning situations applying a certain amount of logic in order to balance and counter our intuitive illusions. For example recognising the Texas sharp shooter fallacy (decorrelation error) or de-constructing a representative heuristic (stereotype) in one's day-to-day affairs should be regarded as a reasonable approach to life even by any non-scientific yard stick. In another example, the System 2 objectivity of a risk policy is one remedy against the System 1 biases inherent in the illusion of optimists who think they are prudent, and pessimists who become overly cautious missing out on positive opportunities - however marginal a proposition may appear at first.

One chapter called "Taming Intuitive Predictions" is particularly inspiring when it comes to corrections of faulty thinking. A reasonable procedure for systematic bias in significant decision-making situations where there is only modest validity (validity illusion) especially in-between subjects is explored. For example, when one has to decide between two candidates, be they job interviewees or start up companies as so often happens the evidence is weak but the emotional impression left by System 1 is strong. Kahneman recommends that when WYSIATI to be very wary of System 1's neglect of base rates and insensitivity to the quality of information. The law of small numbers states that there is more chance of an extreme outcome with a small sample of information in that the candidate that performs well at first with least evidence have a tendency not to be able to keep up this up over the longer term (once employed) due to the vagaries of talent and luck, i.e. there is a regression towards the mean. The candidate with the greater referential proof but less persuasive power on the day is the surer bet in the long term. However, how often can it be said that such a scenario presents itself in life, when the short term effect is chosen over the long term bet? Possibly a cheeky pertinant example here is the choice of Moyes over Mourinho as the recently installed Man Utd manager! A good choice of bad choice?

There are many examples shown in low validity environments of statistical algorithms (Meehl pattern) showing up failed real world assumptions revealing in the process the illusion of skill and hunches to make long-term predictions. Many of these are based on clinical predictions of trained professionals, some that serve important selection criteria of interviewing practices which have great significance. Flawed stories from the past that shape our views of the present world and expectations of the future are very seductive especially when combined with the halo effect and making global evaluations rather than specific ratings.

For example one's belief in the latest block busting management tool adopted by a new CEO has been statistically shown to be only a 10% improvement at best over random guess work. Another example of a leadership group challenge to select Israeli army leaders from cadets in order to reveal their "true natures" produced forecasts that were inaccurate after observing only one hour of their behaviour in an artificial situation - this was put down to the illusion of validity via the representation heuristic and non regressive weak evidence. Slightly more worryingly, the same can be said for the illusory skills of selling and buying stock persistently over time. It has shown that there is a narrative being played within the minds of the traders: they think they are making sensible educated guesses when the exposed truth is that their success in long term predictability is based on luck - a fact that is deeply ingrained in the culture of the industry with false credit being "taken" in bonuses!! Kahneman pulls no punches about the masters of the universe and I am inclined to believe in the pedigree of his analysis!!

According to Kahneman so-called experts - and he is slightly derisive in his use of the term - in trying to justify their ability to assess masses of complexity as a host of mini-skills can produce unreliable judgements, especially long term forecasts (e.g planning fallacy) due to the inconsistency of extreme context (low or zero-validity environments with non regular practice) - a System 1 type error. Any final decision should be left to an independent person with the assessment of a simple equally weighted formula which is shown to be more accurate than if the interviewer also makes a final decision who is susceptible to personal impression and "taste"..(see wine vintage predictions). The best an expert can do is anticipate the near future using cues of recognition and then know the limits of their validity rather than make random hits based on subjectively compelling intuitions that are false. "Practice makes perfect" is the well known saying though the heuristics of judgement (coherence, cognitive ease and overconfidence) are invoked in low validity environments by those who do not know what they are doing (the illusion of validity).

Looking at other similar books on sale, "You are Not So Smart" for example by David McRaney is a more accessible introduction to the same subject but clearly rests on Kahneman's giant shoulders who with his erstwhile colleagues would appear to have informed the subject area in every conceivable direction. It is hard not to do justice to such a brilliant book with a rather longish review. This is certainly one of the top ten books I have ever read for the benefits of rational perseverance and real world knowledgeable insights and seems to be part of a trend or rash of human friendly Econ (System 2) research emanating out of the USA at the moment. For example, recently 2013 Nobel winning economics research by R Shiller demonstrates that there are predictable regularities in assets markets over longer time periods, while E Fama makes the observation that there is no predictability in the short run.

In summary, "following our intuitions is more natural, and 'somehow' more pleasant than acting against them" and we usually end up with products of our extreme predictions, i.e. overly optimistic or pessimistic, since they are statistically non-regressive by not taking account of a base rate (probability) or regression towards the mean (self correcting fluctuations in scores over time). The slow steady pace of the TORTOISE might be considered the right pace to take our judgements but we are prone not to give the necessary time and perspective in a busy and obtuse world. The division of labour and conflict between the two Systems of the mind can lead to either cognitive illusion (i.e. prejudice/bias) or if we are lucky wise judgement in a synthesis of intuition and cognition (called TORTOISE thinking by Dobransky in his book Quitting the Rat Race).

Close your eyes and imagine the future ONLY after a disciplined collection of objective information unless of course you happen to have expert recognition, which is referred to in Gladwell's book on subject called Blink, but then your eyes are still open and liable to be deceived. Kahneman's way seems so much wiser but harder nonetheless. The art and science of decision-making just got so much more interesting in the coming world of artificial intelligence!


Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers
Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers
by Alexander Osterwalder
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.31

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An exceptionally imaginative and digestible book for the Dragons' Den, 3 Oct. 2013
Might this book have existed at school then my life may have taken another track, as the teaching layout offered here is almost child's play for right-brainers and idealistic INFPs (see Myers Briggs) being as it is a stimulating lesson in pedagogical osmosis. And as a business book in an emerging customer segment - the business designer - the presentational layout will no doubt appeal to anyone who has picked up a 'For Dummies' book and been attracted by its engaging format.

Such a wonderful introduction to business economics does make one wonder why it is not de rigeur for those pitching on BBC's the Dragon's Den. How many times have we seen prospective business partners - possibly those from the same emerging segment - stumble over the basics of economics?

With this said, a great feature and focus is in re-defining the role of business in the 21st century in developing an AGILE design 'attitude' rather than 'decision' based attitude (Collopy and Bolland). Much of the terminology it seems borrows from the former world with methods that lie along the adaptive end of the continuum to predictive. Adaptive methods focus on changing quickly to upcoming realities and the Business Model Generation positively encourages you to be always looking ahead.

In fact understanding the right-left brain distinction mentioned at the start of this review is very much the key to unlocking the secrets of business success. It is recognised that a successful business designer 'immerses' (Csikszentmihalyi) their thought process and seeks to 'invent' the 'thrill' of a 'value' proposition, but this is not to say that objective 'enquiry', 'killing' ideas and improving 'costs/efficiencies' are not equally important. I found the shift in business speak away from "selling" very effective in broadening the reach of what constitutes a model of capital generation.

The visually addictive business "canvass" with its 9 building blocks is the lynch pin that is described much in detail at the start and then the latter chapters on patterns, strategies and processes become worthy additions borrowed from guru speak elsewhere: an up-to-date business reader may have already come across the Star Model (Galbraith), SWOT analysis (Humphrey), Blue Ocean Strategy (Kim and Mauborgne), the Long Tail (Anderson)and Unbundling (Hagel and Singer) as well as open business practices (Chesborough) to name but a few.

However sometimes the additional material can come across as "bolt-ons" making for a tenuous connection, for example the Star model to my mind appeared too precariously superimposed upon the business canvass like a crude approximation rather than an elegant fit, and I often wondered how much of a good idea had been watered down rather than expanded.

In summary, though this is the kind of book that may date or even eat itself with its own words, its over-riding messages will surely become staple business fare for many years to come. Quite literally unputdownable and unpardonable!


You Are Not So Smart: Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, Why You Have Too Many Friends On Facebook And 46 Other Ways You're Deluding Yourself
You Are Not So Smart: Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, Why You Have Too Many Friends On Facebook And 46 Other Ways You're Deluding Yourself
by David McRaney
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.83

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Born to make mistakes..., 30 Aug. 2013
Having read this priceless and 'very' accessible book a number of times I can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in self-delusion..or maybe those who know they are able to self deceive - because this is an essential step in the right direction which buying this book would suggest you have already taken. 'You Are Not So Smart' lists so many cognitive biases, fallacies, effects, heuristics and errors - 48 in total - it is a small wonder that anything we say or do isn't tinged or laced with "cobbled together narratives" and ill informed opinions out of our human propensity not to recognise the danger of mental stumbling blocks, the power of the adaptative unconscious and our animal brains!!

Without trying to describe any content it is noticeable that many of the more powerful topics are dealt with in clusters such as the priming of expections, confirmation/hindsight biases and self-serving but fulfilling narcissism that can blight and prop up our behaviours. Just for the record the aforementioned mental traps alone might account for a stack of self-development books, and then to add another 44 should give the reader an indication of the amount of condensing that had to be done to keep the book relatively brief and digestible.

However David McRaney presents a copious amount of phenomenonological research from the field of social psychology which would make a great introduction for anyone wanting to study for a psychology course in the subject -- however, has there yet to be a course for this kind of stuff ever invented? (see below).

I dare anyone not to read each chapter without a wry smile of recognition and amusement, especially as the style is deadly witty and irrevrently upbeat with the continual shocking mantra that "you are not so smart". Whether the author's repetitious figurative flagellation can be taken as an exercise in some form of Buddhist humility certainly the time taken to ponder on the truth of each chapter - as opposed to the premise of the delusion - is some form of an egoic release and often the homespun homilies hit the mark more accurately than a Texas Sharp-shooter Fallacy!

I understand that this version has been written for the UK market, mostly lifted from the American original with some editorial changes and a refreshed front cover. There is in the acknowldgements section a rather poignent dedication to the inspiration for 'You Are Not So Smart' with a tribute to Jean Edwards, an influential past tutor, who in ancient Socratic style - though benefitting from sophisticated modern gadgetry - was able to create an air of discovery in the minds of her class to interogate the mystery of human perception.. boy, and what a mystery!! You are entering into the same mystery that the ancient philosopher tried to decipher.

Finally, Jean and her star pupil should be gainfully employed by the world's educational council.


Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness
Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness
by Richard H. Thaler
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This lady is for switching you if she thinks she knows best.., 30 Aug. 2013
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Although the species of "Humans" are not irrational there is a body of behavioural research that makes substantiated claims that they need help to make more accurate judgements and better decisions. Good governance with its far reaching policies contained within institutions are best suited for this role because they have been set up to think more slowly and have the power - democratically invested by society (a collection of Humans) - to impose orderly procedures. However, now in the world of corporate affairs the influence of design management too aims to maximise utility and create outcomes that are in the best interest of its consumers in achieving a resonance in what is meaningful for people and what is profitable.

So it would seem that there is now a wholesale trend to shift attitudes through "nudging" cognitive biases in a preferable direction (e.g. the default bias) via the application of good design rather than for a legacy goal of traditional exploitation. The real challenge in the 21st century is in solving the human problem not the technical one, as Steve Jobs so advocates - people want to be surprised and delighted, and good design is actionable: it just does and you know it when it happens.

Easier said than done of course as the relationship between choice architecture and shaping and shifting attitudes is tenuous and complex; it no longer defines the the form of products, creates a user experience or communicates brand values. Instead it focuses first on positive outcomes that align to our values and beliefs in an ethical framework which have been names as self-reliance, life long learning, timelessness, happiness, citizen engagement, liberty, cross cultural empathy, promoting mastery, social inclusion, dignity, autonomy, universal access, health and well being. The subject of choice architecture described in this book sits very squarely aforedescribed ethical framework.

However this rather beneficent view in improving lives by service design and good governance is clearly an anathema to the more libertarian minded such as a species of "Econs" at the Chicago School of Economics who state that people should be free to choose their own mistakes - unless they harm others - so that the market can purely self-regulate; any tinkering from the outside would so the theory goes reduce the overall efficiency in allocation of scarce resources and effectiveness in feeding back the necessary hard knocks of life, or put rather cynically the world needs suckers to channel wealth.

Nudge attempts to address this dilemma by presenting a solution of helping people make good decisions without curtailing their freedom. It does this by capitalising on our growing understanding of persuasive techniques taken from the emerging sciences of behavioural/neuroeconomics and cognitive psychology. The idea of libertarian paternalism (i.e. compassionate capitalism) is at the heart of the movement and is not viewed as an infringement upon any freedom of choice (neoliberalism). It allows considerate shapers to look out for peoples' best interests. For instance, UK employees of a younger age but earning above a certain threshold are now required by law to opt-in to a pension scheme 'by default'. This is considered to be for 'everyone's' advantage - not the least for those at the opposite end of retirement. By employing choice architecture in the setting up of default opt-outs rather than opt-ins the State is acting like your mum who has your best interests at heart. In order to go against her best wishes requires effort and it is this focus on the power of the default and the effort or positive intention required to force a change from the norm that choice architects use to construct the presentation of their decisions points.

However there is a slippery side to choice architecture in the way information is framed which leaves Humans susceptible to manipulation. Unscrupulous firms can obfuscate the true nature of the choice with complex language and small print. Therefore, possibly consider the polite nudge of the default position of thoughtful administration as the antithesis of running the gauntlet of commercially orientated choices and options - the ones that want to extract your money. These can be sometimes slightly bewildering and in the world of internet marketing are the electronic equivalent of a pushy sales person. When making a booking on a Ryan Air flight for example it might be wondered why certain screens pop up like an annoying bug? Ryan Air with its over-reliance on the default bias, was recently voted the worst brand for customer service. This is partly due to a low cost infrastructure business mode, though it cannot go unnoticed that such a model has become at the expense of customer satisfaction - where quality value resides (rather than cost value).

Ironically then, after the infuriating process of working one's energies against "the system" of corporate companies there is a commonality between the experience of private economics and the bureaucracy of government. In merging these two worlds in a somewhat paradigmatic shift the main thrust of Nudge economics is to move the free line of vested interests towards the citizen's well being and shared ethical framework which in some ways is demonstrated in the freemium model of business economics that is revolutionising internet trade.

However if Nudge economics is to counter the skim, scam and intentionally neglectful "priming" of the tawdry sometimes witnessed in commercialism it will have to not only make inroads into public sector think tanks but also change the way hard nosed business is conducted per se (rather than service economies) which will clearly not suit certain sensibilities promulgated by certain political tribes. Which makes the concept of Nudge a rather special proposition.

'Nudge' IS very grey matter provoking and has no doubt become influential for this reason especially in centre ground politics. It also seems to have a wide political spectrum, and must be congratulated at getting to the heart of the private-public debate which rages amongst and within western democratic market economies.

On this note a couple of closing remarks that suggest my own alternative realities might not go amiss:

a) A question for the most capitalised energy market in Europe: instead of the "uswitch if you want to but this lady is not for switching you model" doled out by energy companies each year, what if our inexorable winter price rise change-over to save money on fuel is actually carried out for the consumer instead? By corollary, in the moral interests of libertarian paternalism, if such a request cannot be acheived for the majority, why not for those who are financially vulnerable?

b) What if the freemium model of a modest free service is the basic model spooned up by local councils and those who want to be "nudged further" pay more?

In these changing times where within the UK the dominant ideology is to shrink the public sector as the traditional bastion of service mindedness, this book does provide an alternative take on the notion of how to address the public good in the world of economics and public administration and for this reason alone is somewhat seminal and a valuable read.


The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism
The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism
by Olivia Fox Cabane
Edition: Hardcover

47 of 53 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.", 10 Feb. 2013
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This book seems to fit a new slant - how charisma isn't so much an innate ability but one that can be turned on almost at will with 'internal skill'; it is a distillation of the author's many years of practical business advice to high-ranking CEOs and leadership teams in Fortune 500 companies demystifying behaviours that project presence, power and warmth. However the science behind the science of charisma is surprisingly like you might have come across before.

As with most self-help books it doesn't seem to matter what aspects of human behaviour you invariably want to change, eventually you arrive at the tendency towards a negativity bias (inaccurate and unhelpful thoughts) and raising awareness of the traps the mind falls into. Conversely the key to such positive fulfilment is the distortion of reality through the power of the imagination when applied with affirmative action.

"The Charisma Myth" at its core then is another book with an NLP type behavioural psychology twist of breaking down a talent into its constituent parts many avid readers of Self improvement might find slightly short changed by. I did find myself absorbing the same rudimentary literature relating to body language and presentational skills that had been doing the rounds ever since psychological explanations were applied to sales. In fact, the four types of charisma style that form the crux of de-constructing charisma in this book can be seen as the four Jungian archetypes, which may or may not have have crossed the author's mind: the warrior = focus charisma, the lover = kindness charisma, the king = authority charisma, and the magician = visionary charisma.

However, not withstanding the over exposing of myth of charisma's nuts and bolts it does not go unnoticed that the author is a very highly skilled and effective communicator as evidenced in her writing style which lifts effortlessly off the page. There are countless insights, personal experiences and tons of practical exercises to fine tune charisma forming habits and lots of anecdotal and academic research to back this up.

I especially found the chapter on being comfortable in handling discomfort a really important tool. This is done in a sequential order by firstly de-dramatising the discomfort, then normalising the experience (destygmatising) detaching from the basis of its validity (neutralising the thought), rewriting our own version of its reality (more poignant if written down) and finally transferring its responsibility to a greater power.. God anyone? This last point, again reminded me how such Ninja moves of the internal variety have always been "out there" - possibly for those lucky enough to be coached by supportive mentor/peer groups with or without formal belief systems.

Further chapters on establishing warmth and rapport are also particularly good, especially in understanding the natural escalation from gratitude and good will, through to empathy and compassion (I had thought empathy and compassion were the same, but apparently not). Another very well explained technique for giving people a sense of ownership for their success and therefore warding off envy and resentment (a negative side effect of those exhibiting charisma) is explained called the JALIR sequence: 'J'ustify your reason to contact someone first, 'A'ppreciate them by 'L'aying it all out and tell them the 'I'mpact they have on you by crediting them with 'R'esponsibility.

In rapidly summing up this book it brings to mind that many successful people have a resource of creative visualisation in their tool-kit as well as a seeming natural presence - two incredibly important sustainers and nourishers of personal success. But very much in the same vein as Napoleon Hill and Andrew Carnegie, Olivia Fox Cabane has discovered the same precious secrets of charisma and converted them into the style of a training manual so that maybe others can learn to mirror the key components of influence too.

Whether this book will have the same impact as the aforementioned classics remains to be seen though one suspects that the true craft is as always in the application and no amount of reading will replace constant practice and coaching. More importantly we are told a lack of imagination and personal projection can be overcome.


Iron John: A Book About Men
Iron John: A Book About Men
by Robert Bly
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As poets are wont to do... leaving it to lesser mortals to figure out, 22 Jan. 2013
Robert Bly is a poet first and foremost, a Jungian mythopoet - and lest not we forget it. Reading this book made me realise I was "being let in" to the personal reflective meanderings of a bard who has hinged his self renderings on a Bros Grimm fairy tale and his emanated musings on loosely ascribed citations from ancient literal sources. For, as mythopoetic poets are wont to do, they therapeutically uncover the many multi-textured and layered meanings of their's and our unconscious forces, and in the case of 'Iron John' such meanings are marinated and pondered in a tone that can sometimes appear seminary, never preachy but intensely fascinating.

Like the lake that prefigures the story this book is one giant metaphorical mirror into the author's soul washed with a dose of late 1980s self-help and 1960s/70s men's movement brotherhood. At times it is deeply poignant, thought provoking and incredibly connective in charting the developmental blocks of male ancestral lineage. At other times, depending on one's mood - and light hearted playfulness is sometimes bereft - the constant waves of interpretation at various junctures, that hold onto micro points of the story line can be over load. It left me wanting to switch the remote.. though this may be symptomatic of my 'Google-itis' rather than always having the patience to totally plummet to the bottom of this guy's loch. By the time, though, I had fully comprehended the full extent of the magical lore of understanding this book contains - the breadth and comprehensiveness of Bly's personal assault on 'Iron John' with every ounce of meaning he manages to tease out - it made me wonder at the depth of Bly's learning and capacity for poetic evocation of memories, emotions and images from our mythic past.

For me his treatment of the warrior spirit, which is at the heart of the story line, was particularly insightful: "Warriorship inside, then amounts to a soul alertness that helps protect a human being from being turned into copper wire, and protects us from shamers, unconscious swordsmen, hostile people, and greedy interior beings."

Taking aside any reservations and the wiki-like application of anthropological and cultural data there are a number of engaging aspects to this work that are possibly the reasons why it has become an enduring classic. None-the-least is Bly's emotional honesty about his psychological and mythic construction of a man in post-modern times and his uniquely penetrating interpretation of the Shadow (in Jungian terms). There is also the broadcasting of a unifying message for fatherhood - a call to our lost elders as mentors that are often missing in a 21st century boy's maturation. Also there is the most enticing message of all: the call to action (not passivity, numbness and naivety) of the wild man within.

I would surmise that each man carries in them their our own book in the respect of these points but the richness and interweaving of Bly's telling is what marks 'Iron John' out as proto-typical and most deserving to be read. A deluge of mythological material for inner world dot joiners (and JR Tolkien devotees!). Maybe scientific realists might find the subject matter a long day dream.


Rip It Up: The radically new approach to changing your life
Rip It Up: The radically new approach to changing your life
by Richard Wiseman
Edition: Paperback

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Congruency Ripped Large For Freedom Seekers, 14 Jan. 2013
Richard Wiseman's book 'Rip It Up' is essentially psychological backwards engineering: rather than our thoughts guiding our actions, our actions define our thoughts, though one suspects they coexist (the philosophical ramifications of which are no doubt explored elsewhere). Radically such a theory was propounded by a Victorian gentleman called William James (1842 - 1910) - brother to Novelist Henry James - who instigated an autonomous model of the psyche in an era when Freud's model of suppression and subconscious motivation was yet to properly gain ground and cast its shadow on 20th century thought.

This is an intriguing book that labours James's point a million times, but the point is so good and the applications of the point so varied the book can be considered a short introduction to changing your life. Essentially you are reading a catalogue of experiments around the subject of the 'As if' principle (first tested by psychologist John Laird) subdivided into different chapters and topics leaving the reader in little doubt that the author is very widely read in his field - though an index of research might have proved useful for future reference.

The 'As if' principle also more colloquially known as "You have to fake it to make it" moves the nature-nurture debate to the edge of the continuum line with an angle that auto-conscious motivated action rather than personality determines behaviour; and whereas behaviourism clearly assumed that humans could be programmed like dogs and pidgeons, 'Ripitupism' or "just-do-it-ism" has the power to transform with the full involvement of a waking mind that is positively encouraged. At the same time one can clearly see the NLP principle of congruence in Wiseman's approach and how the mind has a tendency to justify its actions to its self - as in the meaning of Aesop's fable of sour grapes.

A major application of Ripitupism is the rapid effect it can have on esteem and confidence (defined in the book as the propensity to enjoy challenges, trust one's own judgement and not worry unduly about past mistakes). The conclusion is quickly made that a poor sense of identity is often learnt after having being forced to endure an unpleasant event that then feeds on itself leading to more negative events and personal reinforcements and so on. Antidotedly, a much more startling finding is that actually posing in a dominant manner by adopting power gestures has been shown to changes the chemical make-up of our bodies so that they contain greater levels of testosterone and less cortisol.

If the intention is to get the reader to change their life in even a minor way, then this surely must be the book of all books to do it, and therefore an absolute must for any self development nut. There is so much stimulus material inside to warrant a significant time out of your comfort zone to put your usual assumptions aside and take up the offer to Rip it Up and start again.

Phenomenally simply brilliant and definitely not for storing away on the book shelf, 'Rip it Up' would be even more useful if broken down into bite size 'action' points, possibly as an app or tiny book that could be used as an aide memoire for assistance in a daily self motivation ritual. Then, praying to my angel cards would have some very serious stiff competition!
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