A great resource for any of us who need to understand negotiation and the psychology of decision making (which you could argue is all of us). This is packed with interest, well researched examples of theories in practice and tips about how these can be put to work
I spotted this after Alain de Botton name checked it as a book that would explain how the modern world got the way it is. Levinson manages to tell the story of how the invention of the container lead, through a mixture of overwhelming economic advantage and pure chance, to the rise of countries like China as industrial super-powers, to the hollowing out of small scale manufacturing from our towns and to the death of ancient ports like London. This could all be a bit dry but Levinson has a gift for story telling and keeps his narrative cracking along by letting the key characters in the development of containerisation carry the story. So we get Malcom McLean developing his trucking business during the depression; sitting in a queue at the docks and wondering how the process of transfer could be speeded up. McLean goes on to develop containerisation on roads and then on sea through a mixture of innovation and attention to detail while great ports make massive gambles on outfitting themselves for the emerging technology before near neighbours can get in first. A dominoe effect of economic and geographical drivers then leads us to a world in which it's cheaper to make everything from paper plates to i-pods in China and then ship them half the way around the world than it is to manufacture them near to consumers and save on transport costs. If you're interested in how the world works; this book is a must.
Some readers seem to feel that Surowiecki stretches this idea further than it really deserves thus leading to some repetition or padding. It didn't feel that way to me. Using genuinely interesting examples the author makes a case for how and why the wisdom of crowds works before going on to clarify the conditions that differentiate this approach from a simple matter of asking a bunch of people what they think and averaging the results. In addition to being just long enough it's also well narrated although the production standards are poor; hence the dropped star. Ten minutes in I no longer noticed the slightly muffled delivery.