What I’m reading: Faculty roundup

We asked our profs to share what they’re reading. Check out their recommendations below.

French cover“China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa” by Howard French

Journalist Howard French has covered both China (speaking Chinese fluently) and Africa. He uses that experience to roam around Africa, interviewing Chinese immigrants as to their motivations, cultural experiences, business ventures, etc. An emerging economic question has been what China is really doing there – proper global business or neo-colonialism? While he doesn’t answer the question by any means, he offers a fascinating on the ground perspective. I couldn’t put this one down.

Faber cover“The Book of Strange New Things: A Novel” by Michel Faber

In a well-crafted blend of traditional literature and science fiction, a missionary is sent (by space craft) to a faraway colony to proselytize to the local inhabitants. The inter-galactic journey he undertakes is a pleasure to witness – presented almost with the descriptive skill of a painter with brush. However, the reality of the devoted wife he leaves behind on a swiftly degenerating Earth is heart aching.

McPhee cover“Levels of the Game” by John McPhee

My passion is tennis. If I’m not in the classroom, doing research or on an airplane, I’m playing or watching tennis whenever possible. This book – recommended by a sparring partner who also happens to be a well-published writer – is a fascinating bit of sports journalism. The author takes one match between two well-known players in the 1960s – Arthur Ashe vs. Clark Graebner – and weaves social commentary, player narratives and the like in between commentary on the actual match. Two hundred pages later, the match concludes, but you have gone on a far broader journey.

Christian Lundblad - UNC Kenan-Flagler

Christian Lundblad, Edward M. O’Herron Distinguished Scholar and Professor of Finance

Ton cover“The Good Jobs Strategy: How the Smartest Companies Invest in Employees to Lower Costs and Boost Profits” by Zeynep Ton

The book that I read this summer is “The Good Jobs Strategy” by my friend (full disclosure) Zeynep Ton. The subject matter is close to my research on retail labor. Many retailers tend to treat high wages for their employees and profitability as substitutes. Zeynep uses examples of some well-known retailers to show that it is not always the case. She argues that when retailers take care of their workers, profits also follow. I would recommend this book to everyone – especially the future leaders (our students).

Seravanan Kesavan - UNC Kenan-Flagler

Saravanan Kesavan, Associate Professor of Operations

Gigerenzer cover“Risk Savvy: How to Make Good Decisions” by Gerd Gigerenzer

Gerd Gigerenzer is a bit of a provocateur within the world of decision making – which is exactly why I like to read his books. As a counter to the many books arguing we are irrational and our decision making is full of biases, Gigerenzer makes a strong counter-argument that our intuition is sometimes (perhaps often) spot on.

Gerd makes a distinction between risk-based decisions and decisions in the presence of uncertainty. In risk-based decisions, the probabilities can be quantitatively estimated – false positive rates of medical test, for example – and he argues that logic and statistical thinking is necessary here. Of course, he also argues that vast majority of us do a poor job of actually doing this!

In contrast to risk, uncertainty occurs in changing situations where there are unknowns. Here, Gigerenzer argues for simple rules of thumb and heuristics. Throughout, he provides both empirical data and anecdotal stores illustrating statistical thinking – or the lack thereof – as well as the effectiveness of simple rules. Highly recommend – five stars.

Dave Hofmann - UNC Kenan-Flagler

David Hofmann, Hugh L. McColl Distinguished Professor and Area Chair of Organizational Behavior

Gladwell coverDavid and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants” by Malcolm Gladwell

This book looks at personalities and attributes of an individual. It sheds light on how disadvantages and advantages in an individual or a situation are a matter of perspective. I loved the well thought out arguments and examples that help illustrate how the adversities faced by individuals can help them develop their strongest and uniquely differentiated capabilities.

Jay Swaminathan - UNC Kenan-Flagler

Jay Swaminathan, GlaxoSmithKline Distinguished Professor of Operations, Associate Dean of OneMBA and UNC-Tsinghua Dual-Degree EMBA Program, and Director of the Global Business Center