Book Review: The Halo Effect

I agree wholeheartedly with the basic premise; maybe that is the problem. As I read The Halo Effect: . . . and the Eight Other Business Delusions That Deceive Managers, I moved from nodding vigorously in agreement during the introduction to nodding off to sleep by the second chapter.

The general themes of critical thinking, caution and recognising complexity rather than being taken in by simplistic, post hoc, naive, flawed logic reasons for high performance are important. Authors from Tom Peters to Jim Collins have made a fortune, and entertained thousands, with their books on how to improve organisational performance. However, from the admission that much of the data for “In Search of Excellence” was fabricated to small samples and failed long-term predictive ability out of “Good to Great” the answers are imperfect.

The world of behavioural economics has discovered much about exactly how badly we typically think, especially when we don’t realise we should be in “logical analytical mode”. So much so that the book is now old news.

I don’t know whether the author is so impressed with his own ideas that he imagines the need to spell them out in excruciating detail with multiples too much evidence to allow mere mortal readers to understand, or whether the typical reader is so unfamiliar with the requirements of critical thinking that a ten page pamphlet needed to be expanded to several hundred pages. Maybe the publishers paid per word?

If you need convincing that much of what we are taught about success and the few or single simple drivers of it are, the book might be worthwhile as a tome of evidence. If you require a simple memory aid, there is none better than the 1917 quote of Mencken, “There is always an easy solution to every human problem–neat,
plausible, and wrong.”

Published by David Kirk

The opinions expressed on this site are those of the author and other commenters and are not necessarily those of his employer or any other organisation. David Kirk runs Milliman’s actuarial consulting practice in Africa. He is an actuary and is the creator of New Business Margin on Revenue. He specialises in risk and capital management, regulatory change and insurance strategy . He also has extensive experience in embedded value reporting, insurance-related IFRS and share option valuation.

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