Worth Reading

Personal Research Program

Slate‘s Daniel Gross on why Conde Nast closed Gourmet:
Gross contends CN’s decision is a ‘capitulation’ indicator to leave a
market, and it needed a McKinsey’s report to cut costs.The New York
Times
has an interactive feature on CN’s shrinking portfolio of publications.

ACSPRI’s 2010 summer program on mixed methods research.

The New Yorker‘s George Packer on what Obama and the Generals are reading:
Packer has two excellent paragraphs on the limits of analogical
thinking, what history is useful for, and how it should guide
policymakers. Worth comparison with the National Defense University’s Professional Military Reading List notably the Joint Forces Staff College reading list.
Packer has a useful decision rule to deal with confirmation bias: “no
books that you already know will confirm the views you already hold.”

Vanity Fair‘s Next Establishment list: there’s a potential research program here for somebody to map Digital Hollywood’s deal flow using Pajek or other social network analysis software.

Worth Reading

Personal Research Program

McKinsey asks Conde Nast for an across-the-board 25% cut to its expenditure budgets.

US M&A deal flow is on the rise, such as the Xerox-ACS deal (CNBC video).

The New Yorker‘s John Cassidy on the ‘rational irrationality’ of financial markets.

How private equity targets the vulnerabilities of integrated supply chains in America’s automobile manufacturing industry.

Australian strategist Paul Monk on the rise of the market state.

Tweet Memes

New York Times and Slate obituaries on speechwriter and columnist William Safire.

TNR‘s Daniel Pauly poses a dystopian scenario: the ‘aquacalypse’ or end of fish.

Decision Sciences For The Masses

Malcolm Gladwell‘s new book Outliers: The Science of Success (New York: Little, Brown & Co., 2008) appears to be the publishing event of the week.

Gladwell (The Tipping Point, Blink) spearheads a group of writers who are masterful at using anecdotes about insights from statistics, system dynamics and the decision sciences that will interest a broad readership.  This group also in  Chris Anderson (The Long Tail), James Surowiecki (The Wisdom of Crowds), Nassim Nicholas Taleb (Fooled by Randomness, The Black Swan), Tim Harford (The Undercover Economist), Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner (Freakonomics), and Michael Lewis (Liar’s Poker, The New New ThingMoneyball) also belong to this group.  Apart from outliers and tipping points these books explore intuitive decisions, long tail distributions, the Law of the Many, chance, low probabilty high-impact events, martingales, and data-driven decisions.  Each author has a different background: Taleb is an epistemologist and former trader, Anderson is a technology pundit, and Lewis, Gladwell and Surowiecki are essayists and journalists.

For me, six observations emerge from these authors.  First, they have a writing style that appeals to a broad audience.  Second , they provide an introduction to quantitative elements of decision-making and judgments.  Third, their publishers have created a niche market in airport reading and popular science paperbacks.  Fourth, they differ in their approach to theory building: Anderson, Gladwell and Surowiecki take an insight, interview people, and promote it; Taleb, Harford and Lewis draw on their domain experience; and Levitt and Dunbar illustrate how a subject matter expert can collaborate with a journalist to reach a broader audience.  Fifth, their books have seeded a range of Web 2.0 strategies, which vary in rigour, validity, generalisability and applicability to real-world analysis.

Finally, their publishers have used their marketing appeal to build an audience during turnarounds and post-acquisition integrations: Gladwell and Surowiecki helped revive The New Yorker, Levitt and Dunbar’s blog gained The New York Times an Internet readership, and Anderson revamped Wired after Conde Nast‘s acquisition.