Compiled by FRANK DILLON
How to Solve almost Any Problem
by Alan Barker
Barker, a communications skills trainer, has written this book to help those who are stuck, and it provides a useful road map for those suffering from indecision.
It’s not just a question of how much attention we pay to a problem, it’s the kind of attention that matters, he says. Human beings differ from other animals because we can change the way we think about a problem and this is the premise of the book – how to think about problems in different ways.
Barker identifies four basic problem solving styles: analysts, explorer, engineer and designer. To become better problem solvers, we need to identify our core style and then try to move out of our comfort zone by adopting different styles.
Becoming more versatile problem solvers increases our effectiveness, gives us more control over the issues that affect us and increases our power to influence events. This allows us to take fuller ownership of the problems we encounter, he says.
He goes on to identify four problems. The first, puzzles, either are or can be seen as technical problems and can be solved by using the skills style of an analyst and engineer. Headaches, meanwhile, require an imaginative combination of thinking styles. Plans require analyst and engineer skill sets. Dreams, meanwhile, which could involve developing an innovative product, favour the explorer and the designer style.
by Guy Lawson
One World €16.99
Subtitled “The Secret Market and the World’s Wildest Con”, Lawson tells the story of the Bayou Hedge Fund, a $450million Ponzi scheme that imploded in 2005.
The story is as much about the colourful Samuel Israel III, Bayou’s CEO, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence for fraud with an additional two years for faking his suicide.
The author gained access to Israel in prison and says he spent hundreds of hours interviewing him as well as countless other people.
Charting the fraudster’s origins from his boyhood in New Orleans where he developed an early ambition to make it on Wall Street, Lawson appears to have developed something of a fondness for Israel and says he is convinced that he is sincerely remorseful for his actions.
Though he says he doubted some of the stories Israel told him, given his propensity to spin yarns, in virtually every instance where his accounts could be corroborated, the stories checked out.
He does qualify this with a health warning nonetheless, noting that there are twists and turns in this take that have to be taken on his word alone. Israel is, after all, a convicted conman.
The book is certainly exhaustively researched and has the pace and drama of a novel. However, readers not familiar with financial markets may find it heavy going on occasions.
by Alan Barnard and Chris Parker
Kogan Page €24.99
This is a book about how to achieve success in communications, written by two experienced campaigners. Barnard worked for the Labour Party in the UK, helping to modernise the party strategy in the run-up to the election of Tony Blair in 1997. Parker is a business consultant and trainer.
The book explains the principles of the model developed by leading professionals in communications and campaigning to create influence and change at the highest levels in business, politics and society.
The best campaigns create change through the telling of a compelling story that engages the audience emotionally as well as rationally, and that story needs be structured, sequenced and planned to create an emotional response, the authors note.
The book has a strong emphasis on understanding the psychology of decision-making, and understanding different personality types and how to influence them in different ways. It is important to realise, for example, that people can make the same decision, demonstrate the same behaviours, work to achieve the same outcome for very different reasons. It is wrong, however, to presume that people who are behaving the same way to achieve the same goal can automatically be motivated in the same way, say Barnard and Parker.
This is a useful book packed with a variety of models, methodologies and case studies.