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by Alan Hargreaves

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Alan's Bookshelf


Like a Virgin

4.5 out of 5 stars.

by Richard Branson, Virgin Books, London, 2012, RRP$32.95

You have to admire Richard Branson. Here’s someone who just doesn’t fit the mould.

His early CV would hardly suggest him as “the most likely to succeed” – dyslexic, expelled from school and no clear direction.

You can also add to the mix attention deficit and the failure of his early start-ups.

Branson has never denied those things; rather, he has embraced them. He is a great example of the power of the easily distracted personality. Without those traits he would likely never have built such a diverse empire.

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Be Excellent at Anything

4.5 out of 5 stars.

by Tony Schwartz, with Jean Gomes and Catherine McCarthy, Simon & Schuster, London, 2010, 334pp, RRP$29.95

Here’s a nifty little book. You may have heard some of it before, but Schwartz and his collaborators have put the best management thinking – both old and new – into a very practical volume.

This is a manual rather than a book. Yes, there is theory, but it’s engagingly presented and always leads to a practical idea.

At first glance it looks like another one of those titles that gives you The Five Key Rules to Do Everything. There’s a bit of that. For them, it’s the Four Primary Needs. There’s alliteration as well. All those needs start with “S”.

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Sustainagility: How Innovation and Agility Will Save the World

3 out of 5 stars.

by Patrick Dixon and Johan Gorecki, Kogan Page, London, 2010, 212pp, RRP$29.95

If you want to get anything out of this book, you’ll need to get over two things: The dreadful title and the assumptions of the authors.

We can simply forgive the first. Perhaps it sounded like a good idea at the time. Everyone was probably pretty excited.

As to the second, just skip the predictions. This book starts by telling us what it will be like in forty years’ time.

The more certain people are about that, the less likely they’ll be right, be they Thomas Malthus or Paul Ehrlich. Scary stuff often lacks credibility.

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The Decisive Moment: How the brain makes up its mind

3 out of 5 stars.

by Jonah Lehrer, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2010, 294pp, RRP$29.99

Here’s a book that tells us what we already know: We often make decisions without thinking.

In The Decisive Moment, Jonah Lehrer also tells us that we are often right and explains why that can be the case.

A neuroscientist and a contributing editor to Wired magazine, Lehrer strings together an array of fascinating stories and experiments to unpack our decision-making processes.

Central to his thesis is that emotions play a key part. They should not to be consigned to the waste bin of irrational functions.

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4 out of 5 stars.

by Gregory Berns, Harvard Business Press, 2010, 250pp, RRP$29.99

According to author Gregory Berns, an iconoclast is a person who does something that others say can’t be done.

So you want to be an iconoclast? This book won’t tell you exactly how to become one, but it will point you in the right direction.

Berns is a professor of neuroeconomics, which is a sub-discipline at the leading edge of neuroscience.

In turn, neuroscience looks at the chemical crossfire behind our brain’s decision-making. It’s all about dopamine, neurons and the pre-frontal cortex.

It’s a field of study fruitful in providing new insights for behavioural analysis.

Despite all that, it’s a pretty readable book.

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