Business thinking between the covers, compiled by FRANK DILLON
by Scott Patterson
Random House €15.99
Patterson’s book is billed as the true story behind the best-selling novel The Fear Factor, Robert Harris’s tale of a man who builds a machine to think for him until the machine learns how to out-think and outmanoeuvre his own creator. In this case, the subject is the rise of artificial intelligence trading machines and their threat to world financial markets.
The Dark Pools of the title refers to trading exchanges where the high net worth players trade anonymously in large volume transactions. It reveals a work in which so called hunter algorithms swarm the pools like piranha.
Patterson suggests that soon so much of the trading process will be ceded to super intelligent computers that humans will cease to know exactly what is going on.
The book is written in a narrative form with a strong emphasis on a number of key characters. It would have benefited from a break from this format to provide a more basic explanation of some of the developments described. As a former financial reporter for the Wall Street Journal, the author clearly knows his stuff, but readers less familiar with the intricacies of financial markets may find it heavy going at times. The book does highlight a real threat, however, and its informative if somewhat over-dramatic overall message is one that we should take on board.
Heart, Smarts, Guts and Luck
by Anthony K Tjan, Richard J Harrington and Tsun-Yan Hsiesh
Harvard Business Review Press €24.99
This is a book about what it takes to be a great entrepreneur and the authors, who are entrepreneurs turned venture capitalists, suggest that the four factors in the title – HSGL for short – are the key ingredients. While there is no single archetype, by figuring out your HSGL profile you can develop an awareness of what traits you need to ‘dial up’ or ‘dial down’.
One interesting chapter deals with luck, which comes in three forms, the authors say: dumb, constitutional and circumstantial. Dumb luck is pure chance. Constitutional luck refers to the environment into which you were born. Circumstantial luck is about leveraging opportunities.
Two types of successful entrepreneurs benefit from a variant of circumstantial luck. The first become more creative when limitations are put on them. The second are blissfully oblivious to risk and have a very optimistic view of life. In a company’s early stages, blindness to external influences can stimulate creativity and innovation. For the same reasons, many strikingly bold insights come from younger people. Experience and wisdom may be necessary to sustain a company but naivety and disruptive thinking go a long way towards generating innovative new businesses, the authors conclude.
Getting to Yes
by Roger Fisher and William Ury
Random House €12.99
This is a revised edition of an international bestseller on negotiating that clocked up over two million in sales and it stands up well as a guide to the key principles of achieving an agreement where both sides win.
Everyone in life is a negotiator even if they don’t see it in those terms. Traditionally negotiation has been seen in terms of being either hard or soft but Fisher and Ury present what they describe as a third way, which is a blend of hard and soft.
They call this principled negotiation and it is based on looking at issues on their merits rather than on a haggling process focused on what each side says they will or will not do.
The idea here is that all parties look for mutual gains wherever possible and where interests collide, results should be based on fair standards independent of either side. This is a more efficient method of negotiating than the standard method of confrontational positional negotiating, which often produces a breakdown in relations or endangers a relationship.
The advice here is to separate the people from the problem, focus on interests not positions, invent multiple options looking for mutual gains before deciding what to do and insist that the result be based on some objective standard.