The Big Short and How to Hit A Curveball: Mini-Reviews

Scott Singer’s How to Hit A Curveball: Confront and Overcome the Unexpected in Business uses a baseball analogy and a nine-inning framework to discuss how to navigate obstacles in business and in life. He interviews an impressive array of people (Buzz Aldrin, Les Moonves, Jerry Levin, Alan Schwartz, Strauss Zelnick, and Michael J. Fox, among others) and has some interesting ideas for handling the unexpected. Especially useful were his suggestions for “out of the batter’s box thinking” using creativity tools such as brainstorming, Robert Eberle’s SCAMPER approach, Edward de Bonos’s concept fan idea, and Michael Morgan’s reframing matrix. It’s always nice to see the concepts we discuss in organizational development used in the real world.

Although much of the book is written for the individual — in fact, at many times, it reads more like a self-help book than a business book (not necessarily a criticism) — it does offer some good advice for creating a curveball-hitting culture within an organization. Singer emphasizes that “curveball hitters are made, not born” and many organization can help their people become more adept at handling unforseen problems and opportunities.

For anyone going through change (especially the unwelcome variety) this book makes for an interesting read.

*****

Michael Lewis’s fabulous The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, is not, on the surface, a book about a decision-making, but in many ways, it’s entirely about decision-making. According to Lewis, the near-collapse of the financial markets in 2008 was caused by a thousand small decisions: the decision of investment banking firms to go public in the 1980s, the decision to let bond desks run autonomously, the decision of rating agencies to issue ratings on instruments they clearly misunderstood, the the decision to permit investment dealers to enter into leveraged trades, the decision to allow home owners to enter into mortgages they could not afford to service, and the list goes on. But Lewis gets at the real problem: a problem that — since the government was forced to prop up these institutions deemed too big to fail — continues to go unaddressed: “What are the odds that people will make smart decisions about money if they don’t need to make smart decisions — if they can get rich making dumb decisions?” All business leaders know that behaviours tend to align themselves with the compensation system and the bailouts ensured that this compensation system remains out of whack. As Lewis wrote, “That was the problem with money: What people did with it had consequences, but they were so remote from the original action that the mind never connected one with the other.” The book does not leave one with warm and fuzzy feelings but is a fantastic read nonetheless.

{ 1 comment }

Fabio Buritica October 5, 2010 at 10:51 am

Hey Jen,

Great article! I manage the social media over at BOOM! I work closely with Nicole and we are excited to keep reading and sharing your stuff. We do a book review here at BOOM! once every few weeks called Book Banter and I will be using this as my next read! Great read as I am a business/ baseball fanatic and always looking for new insights.

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