Business

Case in Point

Case in Point.jpg

Summary:

Cosentino demystifies the consulting case interview. He takes you inside a typical interview by exploring the various types of case questions and he shares with you a system that will help you answer today's most sophisticated case questions. (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

For being one of the most popular case books, I found this book less useful than expected.  The one thing that I will say it does have going for it is that it’s a quick read.  If you are completely unfamiliar with what a case interview is, it may be a good introduction and overview to general approaches that can be taken to address cases.  That being said, if you’re looking for true case preparation, I’d recommend “Case Interview Secrets” by Victor Cheng as I think it gives a structure that is easier to apply to multiple scenarios (rather than trying to memorize 12 different frameworks).

The reason this book still got 3-stars is because I found it a decent point of reference and something that I used to prompt my memory through the preparation process.  I’d still recommend the book, but only if you’re going to also read other books.  If you’re only going to take the time to read one case book – give this one a skip.

Rating: 3 stars!

Who should read it? Folks completely unfamiliar with case interviews and are looking for an introduction to the concept.

Our Iceberg is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions

Our Iceburg is Melting

Summary:

This charming story about a penguin colony in Antarctica illustrates key truths about how deal with the issue of change: handle the challenge well and you can prosper greatly; handle it poorly and you put yourself at risk. The penguins are living happily on their iceberg as they have done for many years. Then one curious penguin discovers a potentially devastating problem threatening their home - and pretty much no one listens to him. The characters in this fable are like people we recognise, even ourselves. Their story is one of resistance to change and heroic action, confusion and insight, seemingly intractable obstacles and the most clever tactics for dealing with those obstacles. It is a story that is occuring in different forms around us today - but the penguins handle change a great deal better than most of us.

Based on John Kotter's pioneering work on how to make smart change happen faster and better, the lessons you can learn from this short and easy-to-read book will serve you well in your job, in your family, and in your community. And these lessons are becoming ever more important as the world around us changes faster and faster.  (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

For being a short read, I found this book tedious and felt like I was taking some idiot-proof training.  Frankly, while I understand the principles and good-intentions, the information presented in the fable is self-evident to anyone who has worked in the corporate world already.  Since it was highly recommended to me by a colleague I was a bit surprised.

Though there may be some pragmatic recommendations in the book, I’ll be shocked if I see anyone who uses them as a practical skill.  All that being said, if this book helps folks break down how to work with their colleagues during transformational change: power to them.

Rating: 2 stars!

Who should read it? Folks new to business who are looking for some background on corporate change, but otherwise I’d give it a skip

Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power Prosperity and Poverty

Why Nations Fail

Summary:

Is it culture, the weather, geography? Perhaps ignorance of what the right policies are? 

Simply, no. None of these factors is either definitive or destiny. Otherwise, how to explain why Botswana has become one of the fastest growing countries in the world, while other African nations, such as Zimbabwe, the Congo, and Sierra Leone, are mired in poverty and violence? 

Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson conclusively show that it is man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success (or lack of it). Korea, to take just one of their fascinating examples, is a remarkably homogeneous nation, yet the people of North Korea are among the poorest on earth while their brothers and sisters in South Korea are among the richest. The south forged a society that created incentives, rewarded innovation, and allowed everyone to participate in economic opportunities. The economic success thus spurred was sustained because the government became accountable and responsive to citizens and the great mass of people. Sadly, the people of the north have endured decades of famine, political repression, and very different economic institutions—with no end in sight. The differences between the Koreas is due to the politics that created these completely different institutional trajectories. 

Based on fifteen years of original research Acemoglu and Robinson Marshall extraordinary historical evidence from the Roman Empire, the Mayan city-states, medieval Venice, the Soviet Union, Latin America, England, Europe, the United States, and Africa to build a new theory of political economy with great relevance for the big questions of today, including: 

China has built an authoritarian growth machine. Will it continue to grow at such high speed and overwhelm the West? 

Are America’s best days behind it? Are we moving from a virtuous circle in which efforts by elites to aggrandize power are resisted to a vicious one that enriches and empowers a small minority? 

What is the most effective way to help move billions of people from the rut of poverty to prosperity? More philanthropy from the wealthy nations of the West? Or learning the hard-won lessons of Acemoglu and Robinson’s breakthrough ideas on the interplay between inclusive political and economic institutions? 

“Why Nations Fail” will change the way you look at—and understand—the world. (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

This was a extremely interesting book that I think should have been about a hundred pages shorter.  It was one I picked up and put down, but was at least still able to get back into it.  One of the things I really liked was the historical context that is given when explaining the background of how a nation became what it is.  In that sense, it’s almost a crash course in world history for the past couple hundred years.  Additionally, since I haven’t studied world history from an economic perspective, there are a lot of subtleties that they demonstrated as turning points for that nation’s future.

My big pet peeve with the book was the constant use of the word “institutions” and other repeated phrases.  I understand why the word was used, but a little variety would have been appreciated.  I’d still recommend this book, but it would probably be more appealing to a general audience as an audiobook (as I did) where you can learn and multitask at the same time.

Rating: 4 stars!

Who should read it? Anyone interested in understanding how nations develop to be what they are today.

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

Freakanomics

Summary:

Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? Why do drug dealers still live with their moms? How much do parents really matter? How did the legalization of abortion affect the rate of violent crime?

These may not sound like typical questions for an economist to ask. But Steven D. Levitt is not a typical economist. He is a much-heralded scholar who studies the riddles of everyday life—from cheating and crime to sports and child-rearing—and whose conclusions turn conventional wisdom on its head.

Freakonomics is a groundbreaking collaboration between Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, an award-winning author and journalist. They usually begin with a mountain of data and a simple question. Some of these questions concern life-and-death issues; others have an admittedly freakish quality. Thus the new field of study contained in this book: freakonomics.

Through forceful storytelling and wry insight, Levitt and Dubner show that economics is, at root, the study of incentives—how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing. In Freakonomics, they explore the hidden side of . . . well, everything. The inner workings of a crack gang. The truth about real-estate agents. The myths of campaign finance. The telltale marks of a cheating schoolteacher. The secrets of the Klu Klux Klan.

What unites all these stories is a belief that the modern world, despite a great deal of complexity and downright deceit, is not impenetrable, is not unknowable, and—if the right questions are asked—is even more intriguing than we think. All it takes is a new way of looking.

Freakonomics establishes this unconventional premise: If morality represents how we would like the world to work, then economics represents how it actually does work. It is true that readers of this book will be armed with enough riddles and stories to last a thousand cocktail parties. But Freakonomics can provide more than that. It will literally redefine the way we view the modern world.  (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

This book is one of those reads that will continue to stay with you long after you finish it.  Over the last year I have gotten into the Freakonomics podcast and I realized that I never posted a review for the book.  In the “Freakonomics” book, we are given insights that challenge long-held assumptions, but then explains why they are incorrect.  Some of the valuable takeaways are around the way you might choose to react to a news story or a statistic that is quoted.

Although the factoids are extremely interesting, but learning a different way of looking at things is the lasting impact of the book.  Multiple times I have caught myself questioning the validity of the media and whether the whole story was being uncovered (intentional or not).  I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the invisible forces that influence day-to-day life and how you can work within them!

Rating: 5 stars!

Who should read it? This is one I think anyone would find interesting!

Want to read the whole series?

  • SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance
  • Think Like a Freak
  • When to Rob a Bank